Both times I visited Caketown Garden, it was in the early morning when the lone person in the shop was busy packing individual pastries. She quickly left what she was doing as soon as she saw I had picked out my purchases and was ready to pay. The service is definitely better than at Paris Baguette a few blocks north. And, yes, compared to the kids manning PB, she greeted me much more politely when I came in.
The choices though are a bit paltry in comparison with other bakeshops in the area. Perhaps that’s because it was early morning. I had heard about this bakery’s sweet-potato cake and pumpkin rolls, but I’m single-minded when I go into a pastry shop in Koreatown — I am only interested in their kastera (castella or kasutera, an Iberian-Japanese sponge cake).
They had a Japanese-looking large, rectangular block of castella that the sign said was a “honey” flavor — it looked like it could be green tea or spinach. Price: $2.75. Beside it were $1.50 pastries labeled corn castella and herb castella, although they looked like ordinary sponge cakes — four layers with thin white cream in between — and definitely not genuine castella. I’m starting to think that kastera is a generic term that Koreans use to refer to sponge cake, not specifically Japanese kasutera.
I looked at the ingredients list of the herb castella. It said flour, butter, milk, salt, sugar, yeast, beans, water, egg and beans. Huh? Beans? Then I looked at the corn castella. Same ingredients! Aha, they use the same plastic package for all their pastries, regardless of whether they contain beans or not. OVEN FRESH BAKERY was printed on the packet.
At the register, there was a hand-written sign saying that no credit card would be accepted for purchases less than $10. That of course is against the rules of credit-card companies. I paid with cash and was not given a receipt. That too is against the law, but I can’t be bothered to report them.
The place is small but looks spacious because of one wall that is entirely a mirror. There is one large empty table. To one side are two large coffee makers. I don’t think the table is intended for customers to hang out at. I’m guessing Koreans just drop by to pick up cakes or bulk purchases.
If you’re in the neighborhood, might as well drop by and try the $1.50 corn castella for novelty’s sake — it’s a variant I haven’t seen anywhere else. The taste is reminiscent of corn bread.
Caketown Garden Bakery is inside the strip mall on the corner of Sixth Street and Western Avenue. Address for Google: 551 S Western Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90020. Three and a half stars out of five.
*Update: This bakery closed in the fall of 2009.