All it takes is a glance at Instagram to find local bakers working Willy Wonka wonders. This batch of Dallas-area pastry whisperers employ French technique on Asian desserts they love. Fluffy, decadent, and utterly eye-catching, they’re as good as they look. During the pandemic, the trend toward ever-more-perfected treats hit hard. We’re lucky to have such pinnacle-seekers here. Order online or through social media to enter their kingdom of sweets.
Maiko Hagiuda grew up in Tokyo and trained through online cake-making courses in Japan. She brings high-quality ingredients to ultra-creamy burnt Basque cheesecakes, which are ultra-trendy there and elsewhere, and which she makes in flavors like toasty, nutty hojicha (traditional roasted green tea), astringent matcha, and bright yuzu. Dark mahogany coloring on the outside yields to a jiggly, super-creamy inside, the result of high-temperature baking that creates the iconic dark top.
When she began baking here, Hagiuda had to account for the differences in ingredients, like eggs (larger yolks and with slightly waterier whites than in Japan, she found). There is no leavening in the light Japanese sponge cake that undergirds many of her creations, only the lofting of voluminous folds to make a fluffy base. So the simple physics of it all matters.
Finesse goes into creations like her perfect strawberry mousse cakes, with both yogurt an strawberry mousse layers, or the spiraled dome of a chestnut cream-based Mont Blanc, popular in the fall. For simpler fare, try matcha butter cakes or yuzu pound cake; she works the combination of matcha and white chocolate beautifully, her geometric, rectangular terrine dusted with matcha powder. In addition to online ordering, you’ll find a brick-and-mortar “presence” at Mitsuwa Marketplace, where she drops off treats on weekends.
Sisters Serena and Josephine Chiu, a freshman and junior in college, respectively, dream up finely ornate novelties: choux au craquelin (cream puffs with a crunchy biscuit top) filled with fluffy centers of whipped cream in options like raspberry, matcha, or salted caramel; mini burnt Basque cheesecakes in flavors like crème brûlée or Oreo cookie; and outrageously cute macarons, like these winking pink bunnies or mauve kittens with Biscoff ‘smores and matcha and red bean buttercream snuggled inside.
They’re of the moment. The duo’s Instagram posts include sayings such as “Pikachu is to Raichu as cream puff is to choux au craquelin. Ifkyk,” with a wink. As they sketch out their plans, they draw inspiration from trendy Korean cafes in Seoul and some of the sweets coming out of spots near Los Angeles and elsewhere.
“We’re stronger as a duo than we would be as individual bakers,” Josephine says. A tiny juggernaut, they both spearhead the recipes and baking. Josephine executes the finer decorating work and photography; Serena oversees finances. Baking has brought them closer.
Their followers know to look out for specials, like the beautiful, ornate, mold-pressed mooncakes with skins of glutinous rice flour stamped in watercolor whorls, which they made for the mid-autumn festival.
Mai Nguyen, moonlighting from a corporate job, named her passion project Nub-It as a derivative of “love it.” Her crispy cream puffs, different from any I’ve seen, get toasted almond for texture to contrast their custard fillings. With their shaggy look and bumpy topping, they’re all coffee or matcha or custard cream bliss.
Her Japanese “soufflé” cheesecakes, fluffier and moussier than New York-style versions, are covered in pinwheels of fresh fruit that change according to her inspiration. They hover between fluffiness and density, with a slight tang from cream cheese.
For those who love its potent flavor, durian makes its way into the pastries shown here, as well as in multilayered millicrepe cakes. (The millicrepe cakes are where it all started, from a request by her husband.) She’s also debuted lacy ice cream sandwiches, in which home-churned durian ice cream is held between two perfectly crispy wafer cookies.
Nguyen maintains her day job as a project manager. But the art of baking soothes her longing for creativity. “Here, I feel liberated,” she says.