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Sep 24, 2001 02:05 AM

Stella Pastry's Copyrighted Cake

  • g

At the Helmand Chowhound dinner we were talking about desserts over dessert and I was surprised and delighted to discover that several folks did not know about one of SF's most amazing cakes. Stella Pastry on 446 Columbus Ave. is famous for its sacripantina cake - lighter than air layers of sponge that are moistened with marsala and alternating with the zabaglione filling - covered with whipped cream? It's light but rich at the same time.
The cake is actually copyrighted. I know of several folks who have had this cake for their wedding cake. This is a long time SF favorite not to be missed.

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  1. You are indeed a gentleman, Gordon.

    Sacripantina means "holy smoke" and is a Ligurian specialty, although I'm told that Stella's is much different than the torta in Italy. You can just buy a slice to eat on the spot and don't have to wait for a wedding to enjoy it. (g)

    Auntie Ruby usually stops here on her North Beach culinary tour and talks about serving this cake at her wedding. Her daughter's wedding featured Sacripantina too and Cantonese suckling roast pig. Two San Francisco wedding traditions.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong
      Mr. Bluetooth

      ...and I thought I was one of a select few to know about the cake! I am truly impressed by the breadth of knowledge you guys exhibit. BTW, it's also reputedly one of Pavarotti's favorite desserts when he's in town. My only lament is that prices have crept up steadily over the years (but what hasn't?).

      Sacripantina and the Bostini cream pie at Scala's are my favorite desserts in SF - complemented by tea or coffee, of course.

      I'm no tiramisu expert, but I also think Stella's version is very good. Haven't tried Stella's other pastries or cakes, so maybe other folks can add to this.

      1. re: Mr. Bluetooth

        Richard, and what other secrets might you be withholding from us?

        1. re: Melanie Wong
          Mr. Bluetooth

          Hehehe...well, I wasn't willingly withholding such "secrets". It wasn't on my mind until the post was brought up.

          Trust me, I'm in the bush leagues compared to the pedigreed chowhounds here. In fact, as a na(t)ive Angeleno (OK, apologies accepted for those apologizing), it wasn't until 5 years ago when I moved up here that I became seriously interested in food, embarking on near-weekly forays into the City during those childless days.

          But, enough rambling. I shall dutifully continue contributing wherever I can.

          1. re: Mr. Bluetooth

            No shame in being a novice chowhound bluetooth! Most homegrown gourmets, in the tradition of Alice Waters, catch the bug at some point in their lives. That's what makes the local food scene so interesting, the fresh eye, new angle and curiosity.

            There is, however, a downside too, the scene tends to be too fadish ('sundried tomatoes are so 1995') but that's only a small caveat in the big (yummy) picture of bay area food!

            PS- does your monicker refer to the scandinavian wireless protocol?

            1. re: garçon
              Mr. Bluetooth

              You are correct, garcon, the handle does refer to the wireless protocol. I am in the industry.

        2. re: Mr. Bluetooth

          I've tried a few of Stella's other offerings, and the Sacripantina is by far the best. I think, however, that the round Sacripantina (like a cone with the top lopped off) is better than the rectangular one, or the one that they sell by the slice. I'm sure the cake and filling are identical, regardless of shape, but the thicker round cakes seem moister and more decadent (ergo, better).

          They used to have something called "zuppa inglese", many years ago, which was as about good as the sacripantina: a layer of sponge cake covered with a rich, liquor-laced custard, and if memory serves, a dusting of cocoa. Unfortunately, I think they stopped making it when the father of the present owners retired.

          For the pignoli cookies, the ones similar to soft amaretti, I think Emporio Rulli in Larkspur makes excellent ones--at par with the best I've had in Italy. Actually, many things at Rulli are as good as you can get in Italy: they have (or is it out of season now?) an apricot tart made with freshly ground almonds and with a crisp, buttery crust that the best French pastisserie would have been proud of.

          1. re: Pia R

            Have you noticed that zuppa inglese has just about disappeared from everywhere as tiramisu (a ZI variant) has become ubiquitous?

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              You're right, Melanie! Trouble is, most of the tiramisu around isn't worth bothering with. I'd love to find an unctuous zuppa inglese like Stella used to make.

              By the way, I'd love more info on your Aunt Ruby's food tours! The sacripantina would be the ideal wedding cake, it was a wise choice for your cousin.

              1. re: Pia R

                You are the sweet tooth (and sweetheart) of this board, Pia! Here's what I think you need to do: reserve a Cantonese seafood banquet in SF Chinatown, special order the Zuppa Inglese from Stella, then invite our chowfriends to eat them both. If they like it, you can start a movement. Most of the restaurants don't mind outside desserts, as long as you arrange in advance for a "cakage" charge.

                I don't want to promote Auntie's business, here's link to an earlier thread.


              2. re: Melanie Wong

                Love reading your comments about fabulous world class desserts that you hardly see anymore. Madelaine Kamman, recently of Beringers, now in Vermont, had a school I went to and she made those desserts!!!

                Simply fabulous and to make very good I think is a rare talent for most.

                Best to you!


        3. r
          Rochelle McCune

          Stella's is a treasure! Whenever I am in North Beach, I make a point of stopping in. But I've only had their cake once. My husband is a cannoli freak and he says theirs is excellent (Second only to some place he wandered into years ago in Boston). I always get their pinenut cookies which are perfect - chewy & cruncy, small, not too sweet, luscious almond taste with pinenuts embedded on the top.

          1. If you like this, you will also like the St. Honore cake from Victoria Pastry, 1362 Stockton at Vallejo.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Food Dog Man

              We're blessed that Victoria and Stella are still around. The younger generation decided to carry on.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Making a Zab in an Italian cooking school is really something. You stir and stir in this funny little pot (copper) AND you stir in one direction only! Sore shoulder the next day. Same kitchen, a silky loose polenta, also stirred and stirred...On a beautiful white plate, in the middle, a dollop of sweet mascarpone, over this you pour the hot polenta. The Mascapone comes up to the top and films the polenta...WEnt to heaven right away!