Did you know that the tree peony (see below, with yellow center) doesn't require frost and therefore can be grown in Southern California?
Or that this might be the most charming fourteen year old boy that I know?
(That's a mini chocolate brownie in his hand.)
Some people are born with a talent for warmth and creativity. Thus, whenever I go to my friend Miss Andrea's house, I feel happy inside.
After all, how could you resist such a beautiful table on Memorial Day weekend?
Here she is, looking divine:
Even her dogs are my favorites:
This is Mabel with Minky.
But the pièce de résistance was, of all things (drum roll please), a cake. A cake. Probably the most delicious cake I have ever tasted in my entire life. I hesitate to say that it almost gives bløtkake a run for its money, although that would be difficult, and I feel awfully disloyal saying it.
The cake came in a box and alongside the box was a big bag of honeycomb bits (imagine Crunchie without the chocolate.) This honeycomb has to be affixed to the cake at the last minute:
"The cake features two layers of sponge cake in a delicate coffee whipped cream frosting, covered in delicious bits of crunch""You're going to want to blog about this cake" said Wendy.
"Just you wait till you try it" said Andrea.
"No, it's not really my thing, you know, cake" I said.
But then I put one small piece in my mouth.
It's called a Blum's Coffee Crunch Cake and is now being made by Valerie's Confections in Los Angeles. But the cake has fans everywhere. Martha Stewart has a recipe here. On the I Speak of Dreams blog, Sandy Weil tells the story of her father being the first baker of the cake at the original Blum's in San Francisico (first comment) and her father, Ernest Weil's cookbook is here. If you look it up, hundreds of people tell swooning stories about the cake. It is, quite honestly, the cake of legends.
legend cake in its splendor
When I first arrived in Los Angeles, twenty three years ago, we were invited to swim on summer weekends at a rather nice house on North Rodeo Drive, owned by a friend of the Maharishi's mother. Eunice was an archaeologist who spent months in Syria on digs, and was always swathed in elegant white linen and old gold rings from Damascus. I loved that this rather swanky house had a poolhouse on which was painted a huge psychedelic mural, designed by Eunice's son, a former hippie. I marvelled at parents who would allow their children to express their creativity around the house in this way, so un-English, so wonderful, so not the way I'd been raised. One day, when she was home from a dig with a basket-load of slides of old stone and tablets, she gave me a potted history of the difference between Northern and Southern California, one that I never forgot.
"San Francisco is where one would wear gloves and a hat to lunch when I grew up there" she said. "Los Angeles wasn't like that."
So, with regard to the cake, Blum's was where mothers took their daughters, in gloves and hats, for tiny sandwiches and iced tea, after shopping at I. Magnin's. If they were very good, they were given a slice of Coffee Crunch Cake.
Evan Kleiman, of Good Food on KCRW, interviews Valerie Gordon (of Valerie's Confections, the LA bakers of the cake) "who is making cakes reminiscent of a bygone era" here. She wants to bring people's childhoods back to them, one scrumptious bite of cake at a time.