“A Recipe for a Simple Summer Berry Cake”

Food Features

Note: Do not attempt recipe without plentiful natural lighting and your DSLR handy.


  • Cold-pressed coconut oil, for greasing pans
  • 5 tablespoons organic coconut cream
  • 1 teaspoon matcha powder
  • 4 sticks (1 pound) grass-fed butter, softened
  • ½ cup muscovado sugar
  • ½ cup ghee (homemade, if possible)
  • 2 slightly speckled eggs from the Ameraucanas or Cream Legbars that roam happily and freely in your backyard
  • ½ cup raw agave nectar
  • 1-¼ cups Turkish yogurt (the real kind, not some Dannon knockoff)
  • 2 teaspoons Madagascar Bourbon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup organic quinoa flour, preferably hand-milled
  • ? cup non-alkalized (natural) cacao powder
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon humanely harvested sea salt
  • 4 ounces chopped Fair Trade-certified, single-origin 70% cacao chocolate (preferably Criollo, but Trinitario will do in a pinch)
  • 2 cups organic cloudberries, preferably sourced within one mile of your home or current Airbnb


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 9-inch cake pans with coconut oil and line the bottoms with rounds of unbleached parchment paper. In a medium hand-thrown pottery bowl, whisk coconut cream, matcha powder, and butter until a smooth frosting forms.

Next, drag a wooden table beside whichever window in your apartment receives the best natural light. The wood should look worn, but not dilapidated. Remember: the goal is “rustic,” not “impoverished.” If you don’t own a wooden table, bicycle to a hardware store and gather wood pallets from beside the dumpster. Ignore the man in the orange pocket apron who informs you the pallets are coated with chemicals. Remind yourself that his daily diet consists of Wonder Bread and processed meats. What does he know about chemicals? He is not to be trusted. As a parting gift, offer him the glass bottle of homemade rhubarb shrub you carry in your purse. Remind him about the health benefits of fermentation.

In a medium bowl, also hand-thrown and perhaps with a tiny yet charming chip on its rim, cream the sugar and ghee. Text your neighbor and fake an emergency. When she arrives, without causing a scene, position her beside the window and ask her to hold the bowl that contains the creamed sugar. Casually grab your DSLR camera. Include only her hands, her midsection and the mixing bowl in the frame, cropping out her face so as not to eternalize her judgmental eye rolls.

Add the eggs, agave, yogurt and vanilla to the sugar mixture. Arrange the cracked eggshells as well as some form of threadbare fabric, such as an overused vintage linen tea towel, across the table. Using your iPhone, snap an overhead photo of the eggshells. Upload to VSCO. Edit the contrast, exposure and saturation until the picture looks like a crinkled image salvaged from a smoky farmhouse sometime in 1974. Upload to Instagram along with a clever teaser about your soon-to-be-posted simple summer berry cake.

Ask neighbor to sift all dry ingredients into a new, even more photogenic mixing bowl. Ignore her huffs and puffs when you gently remind her that she actually needs to tap the sieve with the heel of her palm. How else does she expect you to photograph the quinoa flour as it artfully cascades into the bowl? Find comfort in the fact that this woman considers Vegenaise an “extravagance” and, therefore, is hopeless.

Add egg mixture and chocolate to the dry mixture. Divide batter between the two tropical, SPF-scented cake pans. Bake for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, position black poster board behind the table. Fill a mason jar with cloudberries. Snap photo. The lighting in this picture should appear dark and shadowed, as though a storm cloud hovers directly over your table. You want readers to know these berries bear a distinctly moody quality. Remember: they’ve never been masked with “protective” pesticides, meaning they’ve seen some shit in their day. These berries are essentially the fruit equivalent of a Poe narrative.

Allow cake to cool on the antique cooling rack you purchased at a recent estate sale Upstate. Transport cooling rack to the table along with rusted, second-hand kitchen tchotchkes. Arrange a ceramic cake stand among them. Choose a handmade stand crafted by a company that donates portions of sales to a country you never plan to visit and whose name you are not sure you know how to correctly pronounce.

On top of cake stand, create a nest of rosemary sprigs. When the cake is cool, set it on top of rosemary nest. Ignore your neighbor’s comment. You know there is no rosemary in the cake recipe.

Spoon a dollop of matcha frosting on top of cake and spread it across the sides and in between the layers, being sure that, as you work, you smear off the majority of the frosting so only a faint, antioxidant-packed remnant of what could have been actually remains. This is called a “naked cake” and it is guaranteed to increase your social media following.

Gather several miniature succulents from the terrariums on your windowsills and arrange them on top of the barely-frosted cake. Disregard your neighbor when she points out the flecks of dirt the succulents leave on your non-frosting. Tell her those flecks are not dirt, but chia seeds. It’s not like she knows any better. Scatter the cloudberries among the succulents and dirt.

Ask your neighbor to portion out the cake on your antique tea saucers. Stand on a sturdy chair to capture photos, making certain the bric-a-brac and depressed berries are tastefully highlighted. Crop neighbor’s arms and body out of the frame. You want to create the illusion that this cake is so special it can only be plated by a set of phantom hands. Send neighbor home with slices of the cake, even when she insists she will toss them and buy Entenmann’s donuts from the bodega instead.

Balance camera on countertop and set self-timer. Look longingly out the window as you indulge in your first bite. Fight past the fact that you hate matcha frosting. Consider the antioxidants and repins this bite offers and force yourself to smile through a second bite. Ignore any daydreams about Entenmann’s Rich Frosted Chocolate Donuts or glasses of refreshing antibiotic-laced skim milk. Remind yourself you are stronger than store-bought baked goods. Stronger than your neighbor.

Convince yourself you are even stronger than the matcha’s bitter flavor as your camera lens snaps.

Angela Brown is a freelance food and lifestyle writer. Her work has appeared in Budget Travel, Food 52, Kiwi, Modern Farmer, the New York Times, and Saveur, among other publications.

Photo by markus spiske CC BY

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