In June, Ottocake cheesecake shop opened in Chinatown and sold eight cakes. By July the count was more than 200. “I know, because of the number of sandwich bags I’ve used to pat the crust,” says owner-baker Otto, who’s also an artist, Gucci window dresser, and frontman of The 86List.
The Honolulu Academy of Arts’ loss (Otto was a longtime server at the lovely Pavilion Cafe) is cheesecake lovers’ gain. His Smith Street storefront has the vaguely Peewee’s Playhouse feel you’d expect from an artist who sports porkpie hats, Leave It to Beaver button-down shirts and crepe-soled brothel creepers. He emblazoned the analog cash register he scored off Craig’s List with a lightning bolt and hung as backdrop a harlequin-patterned velvet curtain he salvaged from the Big Mele Music Festivals at Kualoa Ranch he helped organize as a Goldenvoice staffer from 1993 to 1999.
Otto’s version of the classic cheesecake is a two-layer affair, the yellowy, cheesy body topped with what he calls “icing”—a thick white strata flavored with hints of citrus and almond. Flavors change daily and there are a lot of them—blueberry, kahlua, maple, rocky road, amaretto and chocolate-banana are just a few. What’s his crust made of? That’s top secret.
Ottocake is the anti-Cheesecake Factory. It’s a neighborhood bakery where on a Saturday a male registered nurse comes in slap-slap-slapping his slippahs on his way back to his apartment after grocery shopping. “It’s so nice to have someone so classy in the neighborhood,” he says to Otto, in a wifebeater and tats. A middle-aged woman picks up an order, saying she’s a Cheesecake Factory fan but is giving Ottocake a try after reading about it. She bought three cakes, one for home, two for the office.
This bakery isn’t Otto’s first. He started making cheesecakes back in the 1980s, trying to replicate for his mother a cheesecake that she had loved in Denver. He figured out how to simplify the process, and in 1995 he opened a bakery near the airport. He held punk rock shows in the parking lot. “One show covered a month’s rent,” explained Otto.
In July, Otto’s output was 14 cakes a day, “more than I ever imagined,” he said in a wondrous tone. “I’m getting more pans, trying different ones.” And he does it all with a normal residential electric oven. Otto says the recipes are in his head and he’s “trying things I’ve never had the chance to. It’s been really artistic for me.” For example, his PBJ cake has him mixing strawberry preserves in one batch of batter and peanut butter in the other, and in the center he pours more strawberry preserves. Check in to find out what the monthly special is—August featured a Statehood special of pineapple, mac nuts and coconut cream, and the world’s smallest cheesecake slices in September.
Otto may be the only person on the island serving toddies—cold-brewed coffee. Cold-brewing coffee yields full coffee flavor without any of the bitterness. You can get a cup for $3.
1160 Smith St between Beretania and Pauahi streets, 808-834-OTTO
Open daily, call for orders and daily flavors
$30 10-inch, $26 8-inch, $15 6-inch, $5 slice