Blum's Coffee Crunch Cake ~ in Memory of Mom


Happy Birthday to me!

I celebrated my birthday the other day, and of course I always think of my dear mom on my birthday.

My mother's and my birthdays were about 2 weeks apart and this was my Mom's favorite birthday cake, so in her memory I made the cake for my celebration. It's as good as I remember.


Served at Blum's Restaurant & Bakery in San Francisco, Ernest Weil was the original baker who created the famous Crunch Cake while working at Blum's back in the mid 1940's. He left Blum's in 1948 to open his dream bakery, Fantasia Confections. We didn't actually begin buying the cake until the early 1960's.


It was a very lightly lemon flavored layer cake, covered with coffee flavored whipped cream and coated with the crisp and airy crunchy shards of coffee crunch candy.

After Blum's closed their Stanford Shopping Center location in Palo Alto, CA. we were able to purchase the cake from the old Stickney's restaurants in town.

Some years I would also make it for mom, as it's really not difficult at all.

I have always taken a few liberties with the original cake, and use an angel food cake base (which I actually prefer for this recipe, as it's lighter and not so sweet.)

I also make the melt in your mouth candy shards quite a bit larger than the original.


If you would like to make it you can find the original cake recipe online, but what makes this cake is the coffee whipped cream frosting and the coffee crunch topping:

The cake of your choice.

Coffee Crunch Topping
If made ahead, store in an airtight container until ready to use.

Unflavored vegetable oil
1 tablespoon baking soda, sifted
1/4 cup strong brewed coffee
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup

Generously oil a large baking sheet. Sift the baking soda onto a small sheet of wax paper, set nearby. Combine the coffee, sugar and corn syrup in a deep, heavy 4-quart saucepan. Place over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. When the mixture is clear and it begins to boil, increase the heat to medium-high and cook until the mixture reaches 290 degrees on candy thermometer. Toward the end of cooking, around 270 to 280 degrees, stir occasionally to prevent the mixture from scorching and becoming too foamy.

Remove from heat and stir in baking soda. The mixture will foam up vigorously. While mixture is still foaming, pour it out onto the oiled baking sheet. Do not spread, just let it cool undisturbed for about 1 hour.

Break or crush into very small pieces by placing between 2 sheets of wax paper and tapping or rolling with rolling pin. Store in airtight container.

Coffee Whipped Cream Frosting

1 1/2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
3 Tablespoons superfine sugar
1/4 cup very strong brewed coffee, cooled

Whip cream until fuffy, add sugar and coffee and continue beating until medium soft peaks form.

To assemble the cake (best done just a short time before serving):

Frost cake generously with the whipped cream, place the coffee crunch pieces on top and sides of cake. If using a layer cake, place whipped cream between layers, along with some smaller coffee crunch pieces.

Refrigerate until serving time.

Postcards from Home ~ Late November














Thanksgiving ~ With Power Issues! (The electrical kind.)


I hope everyone who celebrated yesterday had a wonderful day.

Due to intermittant power blips during the past few days, I was forced to make some changes in my menu. Just one of those things you come to expect if you live out in the country around here.


I went with traditional Fall colors, and a casual theme with mixed china; some Spode, some Lenox, and some No-Name brand things mixed in.

I served the salads on favorite leaf-shaped plates given to me by a very special friend.


Each year I try to add some new pieces to add to the holiday tables. Last year it I bought these little covered pumpkin soup bowls. I think a number of my gardening friends have them, too. :)


As you can see, they are not an exact match to the Lenox soup tureen, but I always have been drawn to more of an eclectic mix on the table so it all works out.


Since there were only four of us, I didn't actually serve the soup from the large tureen, I just thought it would make a nice centerpiece.

I wrapped some live English Ivy around the tureen platter, and draped long tendrils of the ivy between each place setting to add a little whimsey and color.


I found this version of the recipe for the Cream of Almond Soup on-line published by a couple of sources.

I believe it originates from Spain. It was another first time recipe. 

I highly recommend this ~ everybody loved it!


Keeper! When you want an elegant, and not-too-filling soup, do try this one. The cilantro garnish adds a very subtle flavor nuance, and I will serve it that way again. However, if you don't care for cilantro you can just top with a few toasted, slivered almonds.

As you probably have noticed, if you've read my blog for a while, I favor composed salads. If I'm serving salad for a dinner party, nine times out of ten it will be a composed salad; for as long back as I've been cooking.

This one is right near the top of the list of my favorites.


The baby greens are a Spring Mix grown by a local Organic farm, they are so tender and delicately flavored and provide a perfect background for anything else you might want to include in your salad.


I had intended to include some local Oregon Dungeness Crab, but there was none in the market, so I bought some Snow Crab legs and claws instead. A sliced avocado, and Grapefruit Supreme (carefully sectioned grapefruit with no membrane) were the other ingredients.


I made a lightly flavored Creamy Lemon dressing to drizzle over, it complements all of the components really well.

Simply prepared fresh cranberry sauce is my favorite, just sugar, cinnamon and a little water then simmered for just a few minutes until the berries 'pop'. As the sauce cools the natural pectin in the cranberries thickens the sauce up nicely.


I'm looking forward to sliced turkey sandwiches on whole wheat with some cream cheese and cranberry sauce!

And if you're like me, there is just NO time for photos when your guests are waiting to dine ~ the soup and salad I was able to photograph before dinner.
But I made a mock-up of the dinner plate afterwards as I was tidying the kitchen:


Nothing out of the ordinary here.
Traditional Thanksgiving dinner, comforting and good!
I had to skip the Sweet Potatoes Dutchess because of the power issue I couldn't make them ahead; so I simply cooked and mashed them with some cream and butter.

Instead of making
Mom's marinated mushrooms, I simply sauteed sliced cremini mushrooms and tossed them with the lightly steamed green beans in a little bit of browned butter until heated through.


And my family's traditional San Francisco Sourdough dressing, with onions, celery, and heavy on the sage.

The recipe has been in my family for generations, one of those that is never written down, you learn by watching.

And it's my favorite, it's just not Thanksgiving without it.


The only dessert I was able to make was a pretty platter of these muffin-size Pumpkin Cheesecakes, with a walnut crust, topped with vanilla whipped cream, cinnamon and confectioner's sugar.
First time for this recipe as well. I tweaked it a little bit.

They were very good and I would definitely make them again.

In spite of the power challenges, we had a very nice Thanksgiving 2008.


I hope you and yours did, too!

Thank you for stopping by today. :)


Happy Thanksgiving Friends!


~ From my home to yours ~



Thanksgiving Menu


For Thanksgiving I usually adhere to a traditional menu, and this year is no exception.
The gathering will be small, so I've eliminated some of the extras but just switched a couple of items out.

Here are a couple of the new-to me recipes I'm making this year:

Cream of Almond Soup
6 servings

1 celery stalk; minced
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
2 tablespoons butter
3 cups chicken stock
2/3 cup ground almonds
1/8 teaspoon mace or nutmeg
1 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons toasted slivered almonds
cilantro sprigs; optional

In a medium saucepan, saute the celery and garlic in the butter until softened. Add the chicken stock, almonds and mace.

Cover and simmer 30-to-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from the heat and let stand at room temperature for one hour.
Puree in a blender or food processor. Return to the pot, stir in cream and heat 2-to-3 minutes. Do not let the soup come to a boil.
Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
Serve sprinkled with toasted almonds and a sprig of cilantro if desired.

Make Ahead Sweet Potato Dutchess
6 to 8 servings

1-1/2 cups cooked and mashed sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons light cream (half & half) or milk
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon cumin or allspice
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

In a large mixing bowl, combine cooked warm sweet potatoes, cream or milk, 2 tablespoons -butter or margarine, egg, cumin or allspice, salt and pepper.

Mash with a potato masher or beat with an electric mixer on low speed until smooth.

Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap or silicone mat.

With a pastry bag fitted with a star tip; pipe potato mixture into six or eight large star shapes onto baking sheet.

Freeze about 45 minutes or until firm. Remove potato mounds from baking sheet and transfer to a plastic zippered freezer bag, removing all air from bag as sealing close. Freeze.

To serve, place frozen potato mounds on a greased baking sheet. Brush with two tablespoons melted butter or margarine. Bake, uncovered in a 375-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until heated through.

There are always a few more things to do the night before, no matter if the guest list is long or short so I better get busy.
I wish all who are celebrating a very, very Happy Thanksgiving!


Pasta with Oven Roasted Butternut Squash and Brown Butter-Walnut Sauce


The essence of Autumn on the dinner plate.

While growing up my aunt and uncle had a huge ranch and commercial orchards in what was known as the Valley of the Heart's Delight in Santa Clara County, California. Located just south of San Jose they grew Apricots, Walnuts, and Italian Plums in the rich valley soil and hot sunshine.

Valley of the Heart's Delight kind of has a nicer "ring" to it than Silicon Valley, don't you think so?

How we kids loved going to the country to visit our aunt and uncle, to explore and get lost in imaginative adventure.

Each season brought it's own special fun. Spring, when the hundreds of acres of fruit trees were in fragrant bloom, what an undescribable treat for the senses! Hot summer days meant adventures in the creek, rafting, swimming, and learning to skip stones on the water.

Summer also brought harvest time for the Apricots and Plums, and the big noisy, scary wooden dehydrator barns down the dusty drive toward the foothills on the way to the creek. With sweaty palms I would run past them as quickly as I could; they were enormous and dark inside; the huge, grumbling fans were terribly frightening to a little girl.

Of course we could have all of the fruit and nuts we wanted, eating it freshly picked from the tree, still warm from the sun, and so juicy.

Autumn was walnut season. Whenever I see walnuts I can't help but think of the time we kids spent cracking and shelling the mountains of nuts my aunt and uncle sent home with us in large brown paper bags each year. And I remember sore hands!

How I appreciate store bought, shelled walnuts today. :)


Mom would use them in her baking, and my Dad would bake them into his Christmas specialty; Prune Cake made with the dried Italian Plums (prunes), also from the orchards.

Time marches on; the orchards and ranch were sold to a large winery many years ago. I went back to see it a couple of times, but the visits were painful. My aunt's ranch house seemed so much smaller than I remembered.

Though the orchards still extended as far as the eye could see, many of the trees were diseased or dying of old age and no longer producing like they once did. Grapevines had replaced hundreds of acres of the trees. The distant dry foothills stood out bare at the edge of the property, the view no longer shielded by the trees we used to climb and hide in, and whose fruit we would eat.

Eventually with the passage of more time, the land became too valuable to use for grape growing. It was sold. It is now a large housing subdivision.

We can't slow time down but...

This dish takes me back to autumn in those simpler times.

Tender oven roasted orange squash, crunchy toasted walnuts, and brown butter sauce ~ it doesn't get much better than this for comforting fall dish. It's a delicious vegetarian dish, and also makes a good side dish.


Pasta with Oven Roasted Butternut Squash and Brown Butter-Walnut Sauce

Make as little or as much as you'd like, just adjust the amount of ingredients.

Any bite-size Pasta you like (Farfalle, Penne, Ziti, etc.)

Butternut squash, cut into pieces, place in a shallow rimmed baking pan, rub and drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast in a hot oven until tender.

While the pasta is cooking melt a generous amount of butter in a large skillet over medium low heat; add walnuts. Stir gently so walnuts toast evenly while the butter becomes a rich medium brown color, remove from heat when desired color is achieved.

When pasta is al dente, remove it from the cooking water (retaining a little of the cooking water). Return the skillet over medium heat, add the drained pasta to the skillet and toss gently to coat thoroughly. If the coating seems too "tight" add a few spoonfuls of hot pasta cooking water if necessary to loosen, and mix again. Gently add the roasted squash, and toss to coat and warm thoroughly.

Serve in warm bowls, or on warmed plates; pass grated Parmesano Reggiano at the table, and offer additional freshly ground black pepper.

Sometimes I add fresh whole sage leaves to the butter as I am browning it and toasting the walnuts.


Grilled Chicken with Fresh Spinach Pesto

I like this Fresh Spinach Pesto for a number of reasons;
it's milder than Basil Pesto so you can use it where Basil might overpower. It is simple to make and the big bonus; it can be made affordably, year round.

Plus, it adds another vegetable to the dish, and the bright green color is so appealing. Unlike cooked spinach, raw spinach has a more mild flavor, so many times it is more readily accepted by little ones.

This time I served it with plainly grilled chicken. Sometimes grilled boneless, skinless chicken breasts can be a bit dry but the spinach pesto really helps balance that issue.


It's also wonderful with most fish, or simply prepared pork chops too.


It goes together quickly in the food processor while the meat/fish is cooking. It can also be made a day or so ahead.


This time I served it with pasta and roasted butternut squash with Brown-Butter Walnut sauce.


Fresh Spinach Pesto
4 generous portions
This is just a general guideline;
adust the amounts to suit your taste

6 ounce bag baby spinach leaves
Olive Oil
Fresh Lemon juice & a little finely grated zest if you want
Freshly grated Parmesano Reggiano; a generous 1/2 cup or more, to your taste.
Salt (go easy until you taste, the cheese is salty)
Freshly ground Black Pepper
1 or 2 cloves fresh garlic
Optional, but not necessary:
a couple of tablespoons of toasted nuts of your choice~
Pinenuts, Walnuts, Almonds, etc.

With motor running, drop the garlic cloves into the work bowl until finely minced. Add half the spinach; pulse to chop, then add other half (and nuts, if using) until finely chopped.
Add lemon juice. With machine running slowly add the olive oil until desired consistency is reached.
Add Salt & Pepper to taste.

If you like a lighter flavored version, add a bit of water and blend again.
Best made right after you make it, but can be stored up to two days covered and stored in refrigerator.

Also makes a good sandwich spread for a cheese, or sliced chicken or turkey sandwich when blended with an equal amount of good quality mayonnaise.

I hope you enjoy!

A Sampling of my food . . .


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