The Layer Cake's 'Mini-Me'

When you think of miniaturizing a dessert, it’s important to keep the product to scale — and that goes for the layers, as well. In Los Angeles, Lisa Olin, owner of Cake Monkey, wanted to create a single-serving signature item that went in a totally different direction from the cupcake craze. “I realized that no one was really doing mini versions of buttercream layer cakes,” says Olin, who developed the Mini Layer Cake, a three-tier, 3-in. single-serving cake. “It’s cake for everybody — their own flavor.”

Between the signature Mini Layer Cakes and the portable “Cakewich” (think of it as a gourmet take on the Hostess Ding Dong), Cake Monkey offers desserts that are portable, individual, customizable and comforting…in no more than three layers. Comfort food, customized

Olin — and her business partner, pastry chef Elizabeth Belkind — take inspiration (and a little bit of comfort) from their favorite childhood treats, such as Ding Dongs and S’mores. “We try to put unique twists on or create modern, gourmet versions of our old favorite treats,” Olin says. Just look at the Chocolate Caramel Mini Layer Cake: chocolate cake with house-made caramel, sea salt, dark Chocolate frosting and caramelized rice cereal.

The Mini Layer Cakes, which range in price from $6.50 to $7.50 apiece, are totally individualized and customizable, Olin says. So if comfort means one thing for one customer and something totally different for another, Cake Monkey can work with that. If a customer prefers the Apple Crumble Cake with maple buttercream, rather than the burnt sugar buttercream, all the bakery requires is 48 hours advance notice (the norm for all custom orders). “We’re all about the customer here,” Olin says. “We do individual cakes because we want everyone to have what they want.”

And that goes for wedding business, too. In fact, the Mini Layer Cakes lend themselves well to bridal business, because it offers the opportunity for everyone making the decision — bride, groom, mother-in-law, what have you — to get what they want. “A lot of times the mom wants a traditional wedding cake, so we’ll do a cutting cake or a display cake, and then do the rest as Mini Layer Cakes for each guest,” Olin says. Hand-held classics

Cakewiches, another gourmet spin on a classic favorite, bring back childhood memories of Hostess treats…and they might even bring more comfort than getting the real deal out of a vending machine, because Cakewiches are made from scratch, right down to the filling.

The Cakewich is a two-layer cake that is enrobed in chocolate and wrapped in foil for more portability and a slightly longer shelf life than the Mini Layer Cake. It also comes in more traditional flavor combinations, but of course, with a gourmet twist: The Black and White Cakewich comes with Valrhona chocolate pearls in the middle, for a little extra kick.

And going beyond the traditional, Cake Monkey also offers the Peanut Butter Marshmallow Cakewich for $3.50 apiece and the Raspberry Red Velvet Cakewich for $3.75. Keeping to the “cake for everybody” mantra, Cakewiches are also available in their own “mini” versions for dessert tables at parties, weddings and other events.

Recently, Cake Monkey partnered with Daily Candy, a daily hot sheet for all things trendy from fashion to food. Daily Candy offered LA subscribers a special deal on a S’mores Cakewich, a flavor exclusive to Daily Candy subscribers, that has a graham cracker cream center. Once the offer is over, customers can expect to see it as a regular on the Cake Monkey menu.

Cake Monkey currently retails products solely on a custom-order basis and also sells products at trendy Los Angeles outlets such as Umami Burger, the Curious Palate and more. Products are also available in various Orange County retailers, as well as at The Wynn Las Vegas. Plans for a retail location are currently underway.