Valerie Gordon Will Revive An Iconic Dessert For LAist — And You Get To Help Decide Which One
Valerie Gordon, the mastermind behind Valerie Confections, is more than just a top-notch baker, she's also something of a food anthropologist with a passion for recreating famous desserts that have been lost over time.
This side hustle started in 2009, when she was asked by the Los Angeles Times to reverse engineer the famous coffee crunch cake from Blum's, a defunct restaurant chain that once boasted eight locations in California.
The chain had long since closed but patrons never stopped wanting that cake. They wanted it bad. With two layers of chiffon sponge joined by coffee whipped cream and covered in coffee honeycomb, it's a combo of fluff, cream and crunch that is, to lean on a terrible food cliché, a slice of heaven.
"This is a cake that I grew up with, and it was a cake that I missed very, very deeply and thought of frequently," Gordon, a San Francisco native, says. "I got very meticulous about resurrecting this cake. I researched every recipe that existed online. I had other people taste it. I was very fortunate that I remembered this cake and I remembered it very, very well."
When the story, about non-traditional wedding cakes, ran alongside an approximately 1.5-inch picture of the cake, "We received, I believe, 125 phone calls from people who were extremely emotional. They wanted to share. They wanted to talk about the dessert. They were relieved and excited at the prospect of eating it again," Gordon says.
Customers started pouring in, ordering the cake and Gordon realized it wasn't the only beloved dessert that had fallen out of production.
"I do have that sort of fairytale idea about dessert," Gordon says, "that having a great piece of cake can change the course of your day, and that the best memories are defined around food and specifically dessert."
In the past decade, Gordon has reversed engineered approximately 10 beloved historic desserts. They include the Brown Derby's grapefruit cake, Chasen's banana shortcake, the apple cake at Scandia and a pie from Ship's. You can try some of these at her bakeshop, Valerie Confections. She is currently working to resurrect the Dobos cake from Grace Pastries.
Now, Gordon is going to revive a dessert especially for LAist — and you get to choose which one.
"One of the barometers that I always look for with these desserts is that it was around for a while, that it wasn't a hot flash and that the dessert could have been eaten by thousands and thousands of people," Gordon says.
We want to know: What dessert do you want Valerie Gordon to revive for LAist?
Here's how it'll work.
Let us know what dessert you'd like her to work on by filling out the form below. It needs to be a dessert that was made by a public business — a restaurant, a bakery, a store, whatever but not grandma's home recipe — here in Southern California and it needs to have been made for at least a decade. We don't want some flash-in-the-pan item. Gordon will look through all the submissions and make her decision based on what intrigues her, what has a wide culinary footprint and what she can reasonably do.
We'll announce the dessert Gordon has selected and put out another call for anyone who wants to help Gordon with her research or possibly serve as a taster.
We'll reveal the final version of the dessert and how Gordon did it. Then, it's up to you to wallow in the decadence and Proustian escapism of eating it.