By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
June Otake enjoys a slice of her own Surprise Li Hing Cake,
flavored with a juice made from li hing powder.

The latest development in
this taste trend is cake baked with the
distinctive flavor of
preserved plum

By Catherine Kekoa Enomoto

You've done the li-hing mango tango; so get set to take the li-hing cake walk.

June Otake -- president of Munchies, the stack shop that pioneered li-hing dried cranberries and li-hing dried mango four years ago -- has created five li-hing cakes using boxed mixes.

That subtly addictive sweet saltiness of li hing flavors easy-to-make desserts for springtime picnics, potlucks, barbecues and Mother's Day brunches.

Otake collaborated with partner Nancy Sato for two days last month. She added li-hing powder to water and strained the mixture through a coffee filter made of paper.

"I added the juice to the cake batter," Otake said. "Too much will cause the batter to become salty; so it was hard to get a nice balance."

She developed recipes for three cakes and two variations. Munchies Surprise Li Hing Cake is a showpiece layer cake with pretty-in-pink cake, filling and frosting. Otake called the cake "real pretty" and the frosting "perfect."

Strawberry Cranberry Li Hing Bundt Cake is a moist, rich confection studded with chewy strawberry and cranberry bits, and with a li-hing glaze drizzled over all.

For the Munchies Mango Li Hing Upside-Down Cake -- a finger lickin' piece de resistance -- wield a sharp knife to slice through the chunky fruit; then have a little cake with hearty mouthfuls of li-hing candied mango. Variations of the upside-down cake incorporate apricots or pineapple.

For those who don't want to bother with the mixing/straining routine, there's Valiente brand li-hing syrup, which premiered last July. Use the syrup full strength to marinate meats and fish, steep fruits and add some punch to drinks.

Star Pacific Trading Corp. President Derek Ching said his company contracts a Los Angeles firm to mash imported li-hing plums to make the syrup, which differs from li-hing shaved-ice syrup.

"Ours tends toward the saltier, for food preparation and drinks," Ching said.

Find Valiente li-hing syrup in wine-size bottles for about $8 at Longs Drugs Stores, 7-Eleven Convenience Stores, Sam's Club and Daiei Kaheka. Retailers can order Valiente li-hing syrup through Paradise Beverages.

Otake said she loves to experiment in her cooking and baking. Her Munchies firm, which has a Hilo branch, offers nearly 400 snack items, including li-hing dried Fuji apples, which she unveiled Saturday. "It's so ono," she said. "It's selling very well."

Photos by George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
The cakes, from top: Strawberry Cranberry Li Hing Bundt Cake,
a frosted Surprise Cake with real li hing mui in the center
and Apricot Li Hing Upside-Down Cake.
At the very top are variations on the upside-down cake
made with mango, left, and pineapple.


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