The Pie That Binds


Arnold Magbual

Four Sisters baker
The cap Arnold proudly wears is from Stanford University, where son Noah headed after graduating from Baldwin High School as a valedictorian and class president in 2017.

TITLE Co-owner and Chief Baker, Four Sisters Bakery

THE SON ALSO RISES When Stanley and Rufina Magbual opened a bakery on Vineyard Street in Wailuku in 1983, they named it Four Sisters, after their daughters Elizabeth, Mila, Melen and Bobby. But it was son Arnold, of all their twelve children, who took over the business when Stanley and Rufina retired. “No one else in our family wanted it,” he recalls. “If I didn’t take over, the bakery would be gone forever. So me and my wife, Marjorie, bought the bakery from them thirteen years ago.”

Owning a food company was a logical move for Arnold, who graduated in 1988 from Maui Culinary Academy (now University of Hawai‘i–Maui College’s Culinary Arts Program). Then he and Marjorie took the business up a notch by deciding to give back to the community.

RAISING DOUGH “We’ve been making pies for Maui and Lāna‘i nonprofits during Thanksgiving week for about thirteen years,” says Arnold. Organizations that raise funds by selling Four Sisters pies include ‘Īao School’s wrestling team; UH-MC’s Kabatak Club, which promotes Filipino culture; and Relay for Life, which supports cancer research. “We sell to them for $5 a pie, and the groups can mark up the price to their needs,” Arnold says. “In the three days leading up to Thanksgiving, I work seventy-two hours straight through.” And that’s while simultaneously filling orders for 2,500-dozen butter rolls. “I know it’s crazy, but that’s what I do!”

BIG BOX STORE Marjorie Magbual is a registered nurse at Kula Hospital, but for two-thirds of the year, she’s also Four Sisters’ chief box folder. “Starting in April, I fold 6,000 boxes over eight months,” she says. “My son and daughter used to help me [fold boxes], but I made a pact with them: If they excelled in school they wouldn’t be obligated. I am now the sole box folder.”

She shares a story about the time a vandal tried to jimmy the bakery-door lock for two hours. (His unsuccessful efforts were caught on video.) “He would have been very disappointed to find 6,000 empty pie boxes upstairs, and no money!” Marjory laughs.

KITCHEN TESTED Arnold’s sister Melen Agcolicol says that, every year, the hardworking couple threatens to stop the November madness, but every year “They give in because they want to give back to the community.” Evidently, giving back runs in the family; during that marathon pie bake, many family members provide hands-on support, some working in the tiny, hot kitchen, others manning the pickup station outside. Arnold’s face lights in a huge smile as Marjorie says, “It’s also our family bonding time. We get to share this special season of giving thanks. Together. Our whole family. Every year.”

Haupia Pie Recipe
(Sweet Potato / Haupia-Layered Pie)

Recipe courtesy of Arnold Magbual, Four Sisters Bakery, Wailuku 

Yield: 5 9” pies

Prep Time: 2 hours


  • 5 ready-to-bake 9” piecrusts
  • For sweet-potato filling (bottom layer)
  • 5 lb. cooked, peeled and cooled Moloka‘i sweet potato, mashed till almost smooth
  • 8 oz. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 lb. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 12-oz. can evaporated milk
  • 4 c. fresh milk
  • 12 eggs, beaten well
  • 3 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla

For haupia filling (top layer):

  • 2 12-oz. cans coconut milk
  • 1/4 c. coconut syrup
  • 4 oz. sugar
  • 3 oz. cornstarch
  • 2 c. water
  • Whipped cream, to garnish

Method: Bake crusts in preheated 350° oven 10-15 minutes. (Pie will bake more with filling.)

Mix sweet potato with butter. Add sugar, salt and eggs, then add remaining ingredients for sweet-potato filling. Mix well. Fill prebaked piecrusts halfway and bake 20-30 min at 350°. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.

In a pot, mix coconut milk, coconut syrup, and sugar and bring to a boil. Combine cornstarch and water, pour into the coconut mixture, and return to a boil. Cook until thickened. Divide the haupia mix among the five pies.

Refrigerate at least 2 hours, or overnight. Slice and serve topped with whipped cream.


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