When my kids see a certain glint in my eye they know they’re in for a food adventure. This look means that there’s a high likelihood that we’ll be jumping in to car to trek off to some obscure corner of the Bay Area to find some (hopefully) tasty bite. Thank goodness they’re both good sports about it and humor this eccentricity. Our latest quest was happily close to home, in San Francisco’s Japantown as we went in search of the famous coffee crunch cake. I’m not sure if coffee crunch cake is “a thing” elsewhere, but it has a history here in San Francisco. Most old-school SFers will remember Blum’s coffee crunch cake with a special fondness: pillowy whipped cream sandwiched between light layers of chiffon cake, the whole thing encrusted in crunched up pieces of coffee-flavored honeycomb toffee. This was the signature item at Blum’s (sadly gone) which was in the also now defunct ritzy department store I. Magnin’s. If I could travel back in time, some shoe shopping at Magnin’s followed by a stop at Blum’s for cake would most definitely be on my to do list.
The happy news to report is that while Blum’s is no longer, coffee crunch crunch cake lives on in San Francisco! And the place to seek out this tasty confection is in such an unexpected place…. a side counter in small, nondescript looking corner market near Japantown. Entering the shop you might not even see Yasukochi’s Bakery Stop at first glance, but a quick look to the right and you’ll see a tidy looking bakery case with rows of pebbly looking cakes in several shades (dark brown, tan and light yellow), whole cakes on the top rows and slices down below. Crunch cakes are not the prettiest desserts I’ve ever seen, but the proof of their popularity is how fast they fly off the shelves. We actually struck out the first time we stopped by because they often run out by 11am or so (if you’re looking for a whole cake, definitely pre-order).
This bakery is a small and friendly family operation, another reason why this place is cool, and the market that houses it turns out to be a great find too. Super Mira Market stocks a good selection of fresh and packaged Japanese foods which should cover your needs for Japanese cooking projects at home AND there’s a lunch counter on the other side of the market that serves ready-to-eat and made-to-order items which you can enjoy in the small eat-in area. This was a food adventure after all so we couldn’t stop at a few slices of cake, we stocked up on soba noodles, snacks and matcha and nabbed some vegetarian maki and a “vegetable croquette burger” to take home for lunch.
… but back to the cake. It was indeed amazing. That crunch stuff is dangerously good, and the light, not-too-sweet cake and cream are just the right match. We felt compelled to try both the chocolate and the coffee versions. While the chocolate was good, both the kids and I agreed that the coffee was even more over the top yummy. Luca compared the flavor of the crunchy coffee topping to roasted marshmallows which I think is a pretty good description too. I did feel a little bad that my hubby missed out on the deliciousness as he was away on some business travel. But I have a remedy for that, which is to request this as my birthday cake from now on. I promise to share :)
There are some recipes floating around for this cake (Serious Eats, Martha Stewart) which I may get around to trying someday, but for now we’re content to visit Yasukochi’s for all our coffee crunch needs.