When you walk into Cream Pan Bakery, your eyes are immediately drawn to rows of neatly shelved, oven-fresh bread loaves whose addictive scent bombard your senses. Baked daily with the simplest of ingredients, these loosely wrapped, pillow-soft squares of heaven bring new meaning to the term “sandwich bread.”
Their shelf life is deliberately short – no matter: they sell out every day. Sold in smaller loaves than you’d typically find at the grocery store, they offer a choice between Thin Slice (for the sandwich maker) or Thick Slice (about twice the thickness as thin) depending on how you like your toast.
The types of breads offered are an art form in itself; you can choose from Heavy Cream, Whole Wheat, Sesame, Raisin, to name a few, in addition to rolls, artisan loaves, baguettes and EPIs.
Once you’ve perused the bread aisle, make your way across the long, winding queue of eager patrons where you will find a refrigerated section of savory bento boxes which include sandwiches made from their freshly baked slices and rolls.
These are no ordinary sandwiches. They range from homemade katsu (cutlet) sandwiches, to egg salad, ham, tuna, turkey avocado and even a yakisoba (noodle) sandwich which will blow your taste buds away. The selection and variety are truly impressive; a colorful feast for the eyes packaged in the expected Japanese tradition.
On the other side of the display is a selection of what they deem their “Rice” section – see-through boxes filled with sesame chicken pieces, sets of sushi rolls and onigiri, chicken salad kits, and croquette rolls. As if that wasn’t complete enough, their menu includes some of the best homemade curry rice plates I’ve had in Orange County that can be ordered later in the morning, during lunchtime only.
The buck doesn’t stop there, folks. What Cream Pan is most known for is its legendary Pastry Section. Leading the way is their infamous Strawberry Croissant – a delicate, flakey, buttery, creamy triangular puff of deliciousness filled with a smooth custard that is not too sweet, and finished with a pair of thinly sliced fresh strawberries that gives it just the right amount of tartness.
They are so popular, they are pre-packaged in containers of six and 14 that sell out within hours of opening every day.
As you peer through the glass casing here, you discover a whole other world of variety. The pastries on display look like they came straight out of a Paris patisserie but as you read the labels or ask for a description, you realize that the uniqueness that Cream Pan is known for comes from infusing some of those traditional pastries with Japanese flavors and ingredients.
The Beef Curry Bun is hearty with just the right amount of heat, and the hot, flavorful Steam Pork Buns are a hit among adults and kids alike.
The result are items that not only taste amazing but leave an impression that cannot be replicated anywhere else.
Cream Pan is truly One-of-a-Kind.
They could’ve easily expanded and opened stores that would’ve dotted many parts of this vast county, but they decided to only renovate enough to enlarge the kitchen, and has kept it small and consistent since they first opened decades ago.
People trek from out-of-state just to try their Strawberry Croissant. If you come at the right time, you may miss the expected rush but those time are few and far between.
Visit this bakery on the weekend and you will be salivating as you wait in lines that could rival any amusement park. By retaining their original charm and keeping quality consistently high, Cream Pan is quintessentially Orange County’s “known unknown.
$ Bakeries, Japanese
602 El Camino Real, Tustin, CA 92780