by David Fisco
29 November 2014
Word count: 515
Dessert | Baking

Juniper berries are used to flavor sauerkraut, meat, stew and gin. Here I use them as the sole flavoring for a traditional white cake. The juniper berries give the cake an unexpected pine and citrus flavor. Note that dried juniper berries are difficult to grind; this recipe requires strong hands to grind the juniper berries in a mortar and pestle.

Topped with a little powdered sugar, the juniper berry white cake offers an unexpected flavor.
  • 3 cups (360 grams) bleached all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup whole milk at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon table salt)
  • 15 dried juniper berries
  • 2 cups (384 grams) white sugar, divided
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature

Heat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease or spray two 9”x3” round baking pans and set them aside.

Combine the sifted flour and baking powder in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Turn the mixer on at its lowest setting and allow the ingredients to mix for 2 or 3 minutes.

Add the canola oil and allow it to combine with the flour on the mixer’s lowest setting. Continue until all of the flour is coated with the oil.

Add the salt to the milk. Stir until the salt is dissolved and set aside. Have your 2 cups of sugar ready and accessible.

Using a mortar and pestle, grind the juniper berries one at a time. Juniper berries can be difficult to grind and the ground berries have a tendency to clump. So, after grinding each berry place a spoonful of the sugar into the mortar and continue grinding until the berry grounds are evenly distributed in the granulated sugar. Then dump the berry-and-sugar mixture into the mixing bowl and continue this process with each berry.

When all of the berries are in the mixing bowl, it’s time to “wash” the mortar and pestle with the milk. This will flush any berry grounds and sugar clinging to your mortar and pestle into the mixing bowl. Fill the mortar about 2/3 full with the salted milk and grind the sides of the mortar with the pestle. Dump this milk into your mixing bowl and continue this process until all of the milk is in the bowl.

Add the remaining sugar to the mixing bowl. Mix on a lower speed until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape the bottom of the bowl to ensure mixing is complete.

Add the eggs one at a time, combining throughly after each addition. Turn the mixer up to medium speed and allow the batter to beat for three minutes.

Divide the batter evenly between the pans. Rap the pans on a flat surface a few times to eliminate any bubbles.

Begin checking your cake after 25 minutes. It is done when firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing from the pans and allowing to cool to room temperature on wire racks.