By Request: Projects to impress Mom, even for tiny fingers

Betty Shimabukuro, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser
·4 min read

May 5—EDITOR'S NOTE This is a wrap.

I inherited this column, "By Request, " 23 years ago. Yikes. That's a long time to do one thing, so I guess I'll stop.

"By Request " has passed through the hands of many writers, going back at least to the 1980s. We've bothered all kinds of people, looking for recipes on behalf of readers. It was a concept vital to home cooks before the Internet gave us the worldwide recipe box ; not so much now.

So "By Request " is retiring, as am I. With today's edition of Crave, I go off into the sunset, where I plan (in case you care ), to lose 10 pounds, clean my house and plant a garden, not necessarily in that order.

It's kismet that this final column falls just before Mother's Day, since it was my mother who first taught me to cook. I'd like to take this final paragraph of my newspaper career to say thanks, Mom. Thanks to all of you for reading, and a big, fat mahalo to everyone who's ever shared a recipe with me.

Cristina Nishioka is one of a growing number of pastry chefs who've gone solo over the last year. But in her case it wasn't the pandemic that kick-started her independent business, Beyond Pastry Studio.

She was back at work at 3660 on the Rise after a month's furlough last year when she decided to cut the cord and make good on a vision she'd had for three years. "I've been daydreaming about it. I have so many ideas."

More info on Beyond Pastry follows. For now, Nishioka has offered to help with this week's project : easy ways to impress Mom on her special day, Sunday. We decided on cupcakes, because these can be made as simple or as fancy as dexterity allows. Bake them from scratch, use a box mix or buy them ready-made. Make a basic buttercream frosting, buy it by the tub or the tube, get the cupcakes already frosted.

Shop around for special cupcake wrappers in festive colors, patterns or shapes (the ones used in the photo are called tulip cups ). You can also find very fancy sprinkles in very basic stores—I found gold, silver and pearl-like sprinkles at the supermarket.

A little shopping around will yield all kinds of options. Supermarket baking aisles, kitchen specialty shops, discount stores like Walmart and Target, craft stores like Ben Franklin Crafts all have shelves full of cake-decorating supplies, including frosting preloaded into tubes that can be attached to all kinds of decorating tips.

Nishioka's easiest idea is to frost a cupcake, swirl the frosting using a small spoon, then add some real flowers. She suggests marigolds for their bright colors and small size—plus they're edible.

Also impressive is a cupcake with a chocolate-dipped strawberry on top. Look for candy-making chips like Candy Melts that can be melted in the microwave, no other ingredients needed. Dip a berry, add some colored sprinkles and plop it on the cupcake. You're a star.

The more ambitious can follow Nishioka's instructions for making rose blossoms out of frosting. It's really doable with a minimal amount of special equipment. I made my first one under her direction and it was ... not embarrasing.

You've got til Sunday to master your own technique.

THE CHEF Cristina Nishioka studied pastry arts in her native Philippines, then went off to see the world. She worked in the Middle East in Qatar, then in Singapore, before moving to Hawaii in 2015.

Her Beyond Pastry Studio specializes in artisan breads, babkas and elegant, layered cheesecakes. Like many pastry chefs, Nishioka found her customer base on Instagram, via photos of her very photogenic creations. At first she'd make just 10 cakes at a time—"whatever fit in my mixer "—and sell them all.

Business has picked up dramatically, but she still sells mainly by preorder through her website, with pickup Fridays and Saturdays at Fish Cake in Kakaako. She's planning to open a storefront bakery soon on Alakea Street.

Last month Nishioka helped organize fellow pastry chefs to sell a Stop AAPI Hate Pastry Box. A dozen bakers assembled 26 boxes that sold out in 58 seconds when presales opened online. More than 2, 400 people tried to order, she said. Proceeds went to the nonprofit group Hate Is a Virus, which battles hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

To order Nishioka's pastries, go to or follow her on Instagram at @beyondpastrystudio. Prices run from $8.25 for a loaf of bread to $27 for a 6-inch cheesecake.------Write By Request, Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, Honolulu 96813 ; or email requests to bshimabukuro