Blum’s Coffee Crunch Cake

Blum's Coffee Crunch CakeIf you want a taste of old San Francisco you have to go to Blum’s. Unfortunately it closed sometime in the early 70′s. I remember going there a few times. My Grandmother would take me and always make sure she had her proper hat and gloves when she went there.

My family was not a rich family, but they did what they could and would set aside money for special things. My Grandmother tended to frequent places that wealthy women would go to shop and Blum’s was the place they ended their hard day of shopping at. It was a candy store and soda fountain that also served meals I don’t remember much other than the huge sundaes my Grandmother would buy me when we’d go there and she would sit and have her cup of coffee and delicately nibble on her Coffee Crunch Cake.

Blum’s Coffee Crunch Cake has been popping up for me recently enough that I had to find out more information about it. Some people refer to it as Blum’s coffee cake, but it’s not a coffee cafe it’s a coffee flavored cake that has some crunchy toffee bits on top. The story goes that Ernest Weil who managed Blum’s in San Francisco came up with the idea when a candy making friend made a mistake and over cooked some coffee flavored candy and it sort of turned into an aerated toffee. Not exactly the way it was supposed to look and it was a bit on the ugly looking side too. Ernest helped him out by smashing it up and putting it on top of a lemony cake with coffee frosting. It was a hit. Apparently it was a big hit that I was too young to realize.

As it turns out a year after making it for Blum’s Ernest Weil left and opened Fantasia Bakery in Laurel Heights. This is remembered because of their florentine cookies my Mom used to get when we’d visit her best friend who lived nearby. These weren’t like the florentines you get in any other store or bakery. They were so sinfully good that my Mother used to joke that she’d have to go to confession after eating one. Odd considering she had given up being a Catholic before I was born.

Today Blum’s and Fantasia are gone, but there is a place called the Yasukochi’s Sweet Stop located in Mira’s grocery store that makes it. They run out frequently I’ve been told so it’s best to call ahead first to see if they have any. If you’re not afraid of getting your hands dirty, I’ve managed to find the recipe for you:

Cake:

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • Zest of 1 lemon (2 teaspoons)
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, sift together flour, 3/4 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add 3/4 cup water, oil, egg yolks, zest, and vanilla; beat until smooth.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites on medium-high speed. With machine running, add remaining 3/4 cup sugar in a slow steady stream, beating until incorporated and stiff glossy peaks form.
  3. Remove bowl from mixer. Gently but thoroughly, fold beaten egg whites into batter, in two additions. Pour into a nonstick 10-inch tube pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Remove from oven, and invert onto a narrow necked bottle. Let stand until cool, about 1 hour, before removing pan.
  4. Place cake on a serving platter. Cover cake with an even layer of frosting. Just before serving, sprinkle top and sides of cake generously with coffee crunch.

Frosting:

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup strong brewed coffee
  • 3 tablespoons superfine sugar

Directions

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Add coffee and sugar, and beat to combine. Use immediately.

Coffee Crunch:

Ingredients

  • Vegetable oil, for baking sheet
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup strong brewed coffee
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda, sifted

Directions

  1. Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with oil; set aside.
  2. In a 4-quart saucepan, combine the sugar, coffee, and corn syrup. Bring to a boil. Cook over medium heat to just below the hard-crack stage (310 degrees on a candy thermometer).
  3. Remove from heat for 10 seconds. Sprinkle the baking soda evenly over sugar syrup. Whisk just until combined. Pour immediately onto the prepared baking sheet. Let stand until cool, about 30 minutes.
  4. When ready to use, tap the crunch lightly with a spoon or knife handle to crack. Break into irregular 1/4-to-1/2-inch pieces.

Comments: 1 Comment
  • http://baghdadbythebaysf.com Eric Kauschen

    The following is an email from Sandy Weil, daughter of Ernest Weil of Fantasia Bakery:

    My family owned Fantasia and my dad is the one who made the first Coffee Crunch, which you mention at your great site.

    I wanted to let you know about: lovetobakecookbook.com. There are 5 Fantasia recipes there and if people donate $25 to one of the kids groups listed at our site (via me) they can receive the password to download the cookbook – which has the Florentine recipe (great story about your mom, can’t wait to forward to my sisters) and many other recipes that people loved who grew up here.

    If you are open to letting your followers, friends, family know about the site that’d help us raise more $ for the kids organizations. 100% of the money goes to the groups and the checks are directly made out to the organization, just sent through me.

    If you have a chance please visit the site. So glad you have great memories of the bakery. I probably sold you and your mom cookies at some point over the years! Herb Caen was a regular and a great guy. He and my dad had many laughs together.