Good to Give

Whether baked with love or bought with thought, we all have our favorite foods to share with friends and family.

Sweet, savory or a little bit of both—there’s little doubt that the holidays are a time to indulge. So, before you start worrying about physique-related resolutions, let’s explore some of the delicious ways people from around the world celebrate the season.

It’s no surprise that the French have some decidedly decadent ways to celebrate. Bûche de Noël, or Yule Log, is a French Christmas cake shaped like—what else?—a log. Shigeru Kobayashi, chef/owner at Café Miro (, continues this French tradition with a Christmastime Chef’s Dessert plate—a petite Bûche de Noël, crème brûlée, berries and pistachio ice cream—served during a special, six-course holiday menu December 24 and 25.

“We make coffee buttercream,” Kobayashi says, detailing the ingredients of Café Miro’s Christmas Bûche, which takes two to three days of labor, “chestnut crème (purée de marrons, like a Mont Blanc), chocolate sponge cake, les noix (nuts). The sponge [cake] we spray with coffee and liquor (to make coffee liqueur); we call it a ‘polish,’ so the sponge is moist with coffee, sugar, liqueur.” Miro’s Swiss-style cake is sliced one day prior to serving. Then, luscious coffee buttercream icing enters, lathered and rolled together, to set flavors during refrigeration.

Hailing from Germany comes Christmas Stollen, or Weihnachtsstollen. It is marzipan fruit bread that dates back to 14th-century Germany. For Jeremy Choo, executive pastry chef at The Kahala Hotel & Resort (, Kahala’s Christmas Stollen is “a labor of love” that tastes of rich, European tradition with a Pacific twist. “We use dark rum from Maui. Our marzipan is straight from Germany, but we add more spices and cinnamon to the marzipan itself,” Choo says. This Hawaii-influenced, European dessert has become one of Choo’s holiday favorites. “Stollen and a nice hot toddy—oh, it’s delicious! It’s one luxury that I do on Christmas day to celebrate.”

For the Portuguese, Christmas night was all about getting to Mass. One prize waiting for the family at dinner (either before or after Mass) was the Bolo Rei, or “King Cake.” This hearty fruitcake would often be baked with a trinket and a bean within its dough. Get the trinket and you get to keep it. If your slice has the bean, you have to pay for next year’s Bolo Rei!


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Christmas Cake from Kulu Kulu is a delicious way the Japanese celebrate Christmas.

According to Wanda Adams, food historian and writer, author of Hawaii Cooks A Portuguese Kitchen, Hawai‘i’s Portuguese population came from the Azores and Madeira islands, and had different traditions from mainland Portuguese. “Specifically for the holidays, it was vinha d’ahlos—anything from beef to fish pickled with vinegar, hot peppers and garlic and sometimes white wine … My godmother makes a killer turkey stuffing based on vinha d’ahlos beef; but we have to have our pickled meats, our big, green salty olives, or white Portuguese bread [pao blanco] or it’s not Christmas,” Adams recalls. “Today, pao blanco is impossible to find in local bakeries; you have to use French or make your own…”

In many Asian cultures, it’s not Christmas, but the New Year that’s cause to celebrate. For the Chinese, fruits are some of the treats to give and get. Preserved fruits such as kumquats, coconut and ginger, together with melon seeds make up the Tray of Togetherness, each of the eight snacks representing a different blessing. Gau, popular here in Hawai‘i, is a sweet glutinous cake that’s topped with sesame seeds (to represent abundance, according to Lyvonne Leu, the creator of the gao pictured here) and a red date to bring the recipient prosperity.

For the Japanese, New Year means wishing good things on friends and family. In Hawai‘i, many Japanese families pound their own mochi—a glutinous rice ‘cake’—to be used in New Year’s dishes, such as ozoni, a soup made of chicken broth containing symbolic vegetables such as lotus root, shiitake mushrooms and bamboo shoots and the aforementioned mochi. People will often gift this mochi to each other. Other gifts include sushi-making ingredients such as good-quality unagi and nori, according to food historian and author of From Kau Kau to Cuisine, Arnold Hiura.

“Christmas is gaining in popularity, but it’s still seen as a private affair between sweethearts or families with small children,” says Kevin Kaneshiro, assistant store manager at Shirokiya of the holiday in Japan. “The popular item in Japan at Christmas is a ‘Christmas Cake,’ (usually a sponge cake with whipped cream and strawberries) … to be eaten on Christmas Eve.” Kulu Kulu, with locations at Shirokiya and Eaton Square, has elevated Christmas Cake to an art form.

“Here in Hawai‘i, of course we love our snacks, and the Japanese gift sets are popular because they are individually wrapped portions, so it makes it easy to eat,” Kaneshiro adds. Examples include yokan (bean paste jellies), arare and senbei.

“Then of course there is Yoku Moku,” Kaneshiro says. “These are all-natural butter cookies that come in the collectable steel tins.” The 2014 collectible tins are available at Shirokiya.

Whether you want a taste of Asia or a European flair, it won’t be difficult to add some international flavors to your foodie gift-giving this year!

Shot on location at CookSpace Hawaii. Sign up for culinary classes, or create a custom experience— great for team building or creating fun memories with friends and family. Check out their schedule of classes online at, or call 695-2205. Located at Ward Warehouse, 1050 Ala Moana Blvd.

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