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:

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Bud’s Ice Cream

logo_budsWe went over to a friend’s house a few months ago [what we call Summer in San Francisco and others call Fall] and they offered us some ice cream. They pulled out a half gallon of Bud’s Vanilla Ice Cream and a light bulb went off in my head. It was only about a 4 watt light bulb so it faded away quickly. My wife brought up Bud’s the other day so I had to dip into the morgue and see why this stuck in my head at one time.

As it turns out, Bud’s Ice Cream was the first premium Ice Cream sold in the United States from an ice cream shop [there had been restaurants going back to the 1800’s that served elaborate ice cream desserts made on the premises that didn’t have any funny ingredients and it was pure cream thick and heavy in each scoop]. Bud Scheideman opened his store in Noe Valley at a date I couldn’t find, but he sold it to his cousin Al Edlin in 1952 for $8000. It was then that the premium aspect jumped out. They didn’t really have much competition back then because when I was a kid in the 70’s you had generic store brands that mixed milk in with their cream or simply replaced the cream altogether and sold it as Ice Milk. Ice Milk was nowhere near gelato [which is made with milk and not cream] and Bud’s was the cream of the crop for ice creams.

It was the only ice cream my Mom bought for awhile until Baskin-Robbins opened up 31 flavors. My Mom fell in love with their black walnut or the jamoca almond fudge which Bud’s never made, but when it came to chocolate or vanilla ice creams it was always Bud’s because it tasted better. My Mom would have run back to Bud’s for black walnut or jamoca almond fudge if they made them, but I guess Bud’s had a problem with using the term jamoca which refers to a person of mixed racial heritage.

As I was searching through the morgue [i.e. my addled brain and google] the hammer came down. Bud’s was sold to Berkeley Farms in the 80’s who outsourced the production of Bud’s Ice Cream to Bangkok, Thailand [Headquarters are in Ho Chi Minh City]. OUTSOURCED ICE CREAM?!?!?! Are they going to start milking cows as well? Maybe that’s why Berkeley Farms slogan is Farms? In Berkeley? That’s because their ice cream is made in Thailand, not Berkeley.

Now, while I’ve never been to Bangkok, Thailand I’ver heard many good things about it from friends who’ve visited [most of which I can’t print here and have very little to do with ice cream, but upon occasion…] This isn’t something that transports like say, plastic bottles. Ice cream needs to be transferred in a large freezer cargo ship. There must me some expense that adds to this. Couldn’t a place like say Canada or Mexico do the job or maybe Berkeley instead of shipping ice cream across the Pacific Ocean to the states?

It was a pretty good ice cream, but you don’t find it in too many places in San Francisco anymore. Our friends got it from a high end grocery store in San Bruno where it was $9 for a half gallon. While it’s good, it’s not three times the price as good. We have so many locals or much closer than Thailand who make good ice cream that I don’t need to pay $9 a half gallon for that I’m just as satisfied with.

P.S. I’m more of a gelato fan, gianduja to be specific and I can make it at home very easily.

Valentine’s Day: San Francisco

I am lucky that my wife never even looks at this site and couldn’t even tell me what color it is if her life depended on it, so I’ll share this with you instead.

I never liked Valentine’s Day very much because I always felt guys are on the short end of the stick. It’s all about what you’re buying for your girlfriend/wife. I suppose it’s slightly different in the gay community, but not being gay I don’t know for sure.

I never get even a card on Valentine’s day, but I’m usually expected to “put out” something along the lines of chocolate and sweets or jewelry. Well, I’m lucky. I didn’t marry that kind of girl. When we go out to dinner we don’t like to sit and languish for hours and hours. She’s a simple girl and that’s why she’s put up with me for over 14 years.

[mappress mapid=”33″]So I’m going to do something different today. Today I’m going to take my wife to a special place on Union Street called American Cupcake for lunch. This is a place that isn’t just a bakery shop, but more of a café that specializes in cupcakes. They’ve done so well that they’ve been featured on the Food Network or the Cooking Channel [I can’t keep the two straight anymore]. They have lots to offer outside of their sweet menu which is their cupcakes. They also offer a savory menu which is what you’ll want to get for lunch or dinner unless you like to eat cupcakes for those two meals.

They also have a PBJ assortment to offer as well as beer and wine based cocktails. All of their goodies are organic and sustainably farmed so the eco-geek in you will be kept very happy. I suggest you check them out and see what you think.