Not long after moving to Phoenix in 1993, Nenita Linton started searching the Valley for the tropical flavors she'd grown up with in her home of Hilo, Hawaii. Much to her chagrin, she found none. So she started asking her family to bring her Hawaiian cakes when they came to visit.
"The cake was in rough shape by the time I'd sit down to eat it," Linto says, "but it still tasted really good."
Linton decided she couldn't keep asking her loved ones to carry cakes onto extended plane rides. So she started scouring the internet to learn how to make her own guava cakes — the tropical flavor she craved most. Her hobby has since grown into an online bakery, Aloha Cakes AZ, which Linton runs in addition to working as an Alaskan Airlines customer service agent.
Through Aloha Cakes, Linton sells birthday cakes, cupcakes, and most recently, guava cookies. (Tropical macarons are on the horizon.) Flavors include guava, guava strawberry, lilikoi (passion fruit), mango, haupia (coconut), and Kona coffee.
Inspiration comes from everywhere. Linton's macadamia nut cake is inspired by an ice cream swirl dipped in macadamia nuts she used to have at Dairy Queen in Hawaii. The majority of her cakes are chiffon cakes, which have a light and airy texture. Try her guava cupcake even if you're lactose intolerant: The delicate chiffon sponge holds space for a beautiful interplay between guava's sweet and tart qualities.
For now, Linton bakes in the kitchen at Scottsdale's Scoop and Joy, but her goal is to open her own brick-and-mortar bakery. In the meantime, she's carrying on the traditions of her mom, who used to bake bread at home, and her aunt, who had a bakery in Hawaii.
"Baked goods represent comfort for me,” says Linton.
To try Linton's made-to-order treats, order online here. She requires 72 hours for regular cakes and two weeks for custom birthday cakes. You can choose pick-up (free) or delivery (fees start at $40). Pick up is at Scoop and Joy, 9397 East Shea Boulevard, Scottsdale.