University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa alumna Karen Krasne is taking the dessert world by storm. Forbes Magazine recognizes her as one of the top 10 pastry chefs in the nation. And the proof is certainly in the pudding. Krasne’s signature treats like Valrhona dark chocolate mousse topped cake intricately bedecked with macarons, and passionfruit-filled buttery pastries sell like hotcakes at Extraordinary Desserts, her popular confectionery chain in San Diego.

Karen Krasne holding cake
Gourmet Magazine dubbed Krasne the “Queen of Cakes”

The Southern California native’s award-winning skills were honed after her days at UH Mānoa. But she said much of her inspiration was first ignited in classes that had nothing to do with pastry. “I was in modern dance, I studied architecture, I got a minor in French. So a lot of these things culminated in making the desire for me to want to go bigger globally,” Krasne said.

After she earned a food science and human nutrition degree, Krasne jetted off to Paris. That’s where her baking talents blossomed. She trained with French masters at Le Cordon Bleu and LeNotre.

Her love for Hawaiʻi, however, never left her. “The ocean and the beauty and the culture and the food and the flowers. It goes on and on and on. To have that every morning when you wake up, it’s just heavenly. It’s such a beautiful place to awaken,” Krasne explained.

white cake with flowers
Princess Kaʻiulani cake (Photo credit: Rebecca Antuña, Pixels Collide)

It’s an essence that’s baked into many of her show-stopping delicacies. One of Krasne’s cakes, infused with caramelized pineapple and creamy coconut, is even named “Princess Kaʻiulani.” She also features jams and jellies made on Maui.

Whipping up mouthwatering treats is just part of Krasne’s mastery. For many customers, her creations are a feast for the eyes and palate. She considers herself a pastry artist. A number of showstopping desserts are adorned with everything from a spray of roses, orchids to gold-leaf flakes.

It’s a winning recipe that keeps patrons lining up for more. And success continues to be sweet for Krasne outside of the kitchen. Her best-selling cookbook, Extraordinary Cakes: Recipes for Bold and Sophisticated Desserts is now in its third print.

chocolate, meringue and cream puff pies
Buttery pies stuffed with baked fruits, custards and creams (Photo credit: Rebecca Antuña, Pixels Collide)