What's 'Car Cake'? A Los Angeles Chinatown Bakery Has Invented It

a cake in a car
We Test 'Car Cake.' Because It's Our JobElana Scherr - Car and Driver

"Elana," you're saying, or maybe my supervising editor is saying, "Is this whole story an excuse to eat cake on company time and the company dime?" Well, yes. But not just that. When I read an LA Times food review about a local bakery that offered a dessert called "car cake," I felt it was my duty as a dedicated reporter on all things automotive to do some investigation.

Flouring LA is a small pastry shop in the heart of LA's Chinatown. It started in 2020 as a pandemic pop-up by pastry chef Heather Wong and is now housed in a cute pink and gray building that looks a bit like a cake itself. Outside are peach-hued café tables, and inside are lavender-painted walls and a glass display case lined with individually wrapped slices of layered desserts topped in pastel icing and edible flowers —the famed "car cake."

graphical user interface
It was too hard to choose a flavor so I bought one of each. Elana Scherr - Car and Driver

Chef Wong came out of the kitchen to greet me and asked if I wanted cake before or after our interview. Showing great self-control, I said I could wait, and we settled down at the back table to talk business.

Heather Wong has been professionally crafting desserts since 2007, working at several of LA's top restaurants as a pastry chef, and doing a stint on the Food Network Spring Baking Championship in 2018 (she finished fourth, but the criteria did not include "baked goods that can be eaten while driving," or she surely would have won).

Wong's bakery makes all kinds of desserts, but her specialty combines a classic American butter cake with influences from Europe, Asia, and Latin America for flavors like lavender-lemon, ube-coconut, black sesame, and passion fruit. "It's very Los Angeles," she says. "It's a mix of everything."

The cake slices are simple in structure, the better for mobile eating, but they still pack a visual punch with beautifully tinted frosting that Wong paints with a spatula in contrasting colors and floral toppings. "I love using real flowers," she says. "Nature's sprinkles."

a cake with frosting and sprinkles on it
A slice of Ube-Coconut topped by edible pansy blossoms. Elana Scherr - Car and Driver

Eager to get to the sampling part, we dove right into the interview.

Car and Driver: I saw the words "Car," and "Cake," and those are pretty much my two interests. Is "Car Cake" an official product name?

Heather Wong [laughs]: Unofficial. (It's just "cake bars" on the Flouring menu.)

You should trademark it. Did you start out thinking of the cake bars as something to be eaten in the car?

We created the cake bar during the pandemic. I wanted to make a box of desserts that could be easily picked up. Because that's what was happening during that time, Everyone was getting their things to go, and since my specialty has always been cake, I wanted to make cake to go. Usually a large slice of cake, you need a fork. It's not really conducive to eating and driving. I thought, why don't we make slices of cake that you can hold, no utensils necessary. I would just hand it to people through their window.

Did you have to experiment at all with your recipe or with the sizes? I mean, the big concern people have while eating is making a mess in their car, right? Is this cake less messy than normal cake?

It's my signature cake recipe that I've been making for many years, just in a different format. I’m lucky because my signature cake was kinda born to be car cake; it's a firm butter cake with a buttercream frosting. A mousse or whipped cream wouldn't stand up so well to a room (or car) temperature environment. So I didn't really have to change much, I just knew that I wanted it to be large enough to hold in your hand, but not so big that you couldn't finish it in one sitting. Then we just wrap it in parchment so you don't get your hands dirty, and that's it.

Are you interested in cars outside of how much cake can be eaten in them?

I just got a new car! It's an Audi e-tron. I thought moving to an electric would be a big life change but it's really not. I love it. My son is into cars. He's 10. He likes McLarens.

Why do you think people have responded so well to cake you can eat in the car?

We live in our cars here in LA, so we've grown accustomed to multitasking in them. Eating in cars is normal here, and as for cake, well, if you can do it safely, you should eat cake in the car.

The Cake Test

a person eating cake in a car
Despite the dangerous angle, not even a sesame seed hit the Mercedes upholstery. Miriam Coleman - Car and Driver

With that advice, I filled up two of Flouring's pretty purple boxes with various slices of car cake and climbed into my test car to start the real work. For many car enthusiasts, the idea of eating anything in the car is sinful, and cake downright criminal. The frosting! The crumbs! All the little crevices in the leather and the delicate nap of the Alcantara! This is how you get car ants! I'm personally not that strict. Sometimes you're hungry and in traffic, and if there are caramel Bugles at the gas station, well, I'm not immune to temptation. I will say though, that while I've spent lots of time thinking about cake while driving, I don't recall ever eating any while behind the wheel. That was about to change.

The laboratory for this experiment was a 2024 AMG GLB35, a vehicle that is easy enough to drive with one hand but has an interior that doesn't deserve to be marred by crumbs of Superfetti. You could eat any kind of cake in a wipe-clean Subaru interior, but I wanted to give Wong's constructions a proper test in a car that would have consequences should I make a mess of it. I was nervous, but I had faith in Flouring.

I started with Black Sesame, while my assistant, Miriam (it was surprisingly easy to find willing help for this story—my friends are so generous), chose a Lavender-Lemon slice. Each Flouring cake bar is neatly cradled by a sheet of wax paper, folded at just the right angles to protect your fingers while still leaving room to take a bite. And what a bite: rich, buttery, an energy spike of sugar—but not so much that it overwhelms the nutty tang of the sesame.

This is good cake. The lemon cake is floral and bright, the ube plummy, the chocolate dark and rich. More important, at least for this story, the cakes are all firm enough to hold together even when tilted at awkward angles during a steering-wheel correction. Although the Mercedes has an eight-speed automatic dual-clutch transmission that made one-handed driving easy, research suggests the car cakes are sturdy enough be eaten in a manual, just maybe not during a 4-2 downshift. The frosting doesn't melt and run down your fingers, and there's just the right amount to flavor every bite without getting it all over your face or touchscreens.

Miriam and I made it through two pieces without leaving a single crumb on the Mercedes suede.

the interior of a car
Clever of Mercedes to include a cake tray in the design of the AMG GLB35.Elana Scherr - Car and Driver

You may still have a no-eating rule in your personal automobile, but car cake might be a good reason to break it.

LA locals and visitors can try Flouring's cake bars Wednesday through Sunday on Hill Street in Chinatown. Everyone else is going to have to make their own.

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