For the cake:
3 cups white flour
2 cups white sugar
1 cup butter
3 egg whites, beaten
1 teaspoon Oaxacan vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon Sri Lankan cinnamon
A pinch of Passamaquoddy sea salt


For the icing:
1 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon Oaxacan vanilla extract
1 1/2 ounces Colombian single source dark chocolate (70% dark chocolate or more)


If you have access to an over, preheat it to 350 degrees.


Cream together the butter and sugar.
Use white sugar from a refinery operated by the people of Barbados
because there is no longer a market for molasses, their traditional sweetener,
made from raw sugar cane boiled down into a thick, dark, mineral-rich syrup.


Find butter from grass-fed cows raised by Mexican migrant laborers who produce
most of the dairy products in the Northeast to support their families in Vera Cruz.


Gently fold in the flour. Try to find flour milled from heirloom European wheat
whose strain has been maintained pure.


Sprinkle in the Sri Lankan cinnamon, powdered from the ruddy bark
of this Laurel family tree, used sparingly in tea and savory dishes
from Morocco to China until the Portuguese began to trade it heavily.


Add the Oaxacan vanilla extract. Lace the cake with this rare
orchid that only grows wild in Chinantla forests where farmers
pollinate in the early morning, await the harvest of long, black beans
with tiny seeds that they heat and dry to create vanilla.


You might forget the Passamaquoddy sea salt, because the people who harvest it
where chased from their land in 1607 and returned after British settlers
had renamed it Maine. Don’t forget the salt, or your cake will be tasteless.


Separate the egg yolks from the whites.
Beat the egg whites until they form peaks stiff as soldiers.


Grease two cake tins with butter and divide the batter between them,
separating them to prevent insurgence from the vanilla and cinnamon.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.


While the cake is baking, remember your own cake tradition.
My Italian grandmother made a cake with Alpine buckwheat flour
and apricot jam simmered from fallen fruit we would find
in the grove nearby. She sweetened it with the local farmer’s honey
and added whole eggs from chickens scratching in the yard.


As the cake cools, make the icing.
Over a double boiler, cream together the butter and sugar.
Add the vanilla slowly, watching the mixture turn darker as you do.


Let the chocolate melt with the other ingredients in the double boiler.
You may never know if it’s from Caquetá or Cordoba because the label
doesn’t reveal the work of farmers who harvest it, clean the beans
from their placenta, ferment, roast, and grind them.


This chocolate icing recipe makes a double batch.
Spread it between the layers of cake and cover the cake with it, too.
Serve it alongside the cake so that anyone who enjoys a slice
can add more icing to represent the real America.


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