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Tuck some berries in your cake, says this Seattle baker

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KUOW Photo/Ruby de Luna
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Charlie Dunmire, baker and owner of the cake shop Deep Sea Sugar and Salt, at Columbia City farmer's market

Right now, the markets are brimming with berries. Charlie Dunmire is scoping out the berries at the stands, taking mental notes before deciding which ones she’ll buy.

“Blackberries and raspberries are perfect for cakes right now because you can just stuff them in between the layers,” she said. “You don’t have to cook them down or anything, it’s so nice."

Dunmire owns Deep Sea Sugar and Salt, a cake shop in Georgetown.  Not only is it peak season for berries, but for weddings, too. Dunmire has been working split shifts.

“I think I have about 5 weddings each month," she said. "So it’s crazy.”

It’s 4:30 in the afternoon, and already it’s almost her bed time.

But it’s all good. She’s been baking since she was 17 years old. She wanted to go to Ireland after high school, and her dad told her she had to get a job to pay for the ticket. She found work at Edmonds Bakery, initially serving sandwiches and making coffee.  But after a few months of being nosy about making donuts and danishes, she was moved to the back of the bakery.

She’s been baking ever since, which was not part of the plan.

“I was going to be a kindergarten teacher, she laughed. “But I got stuck on food.”

Food, she discovered, was the perfect creative outlet. There’s something about working with dough, fillings, and jams that clicked for her. Dunmire said it’s not just about baking’s creative process or the finished product that makes it satisfying. 

“You create a layer cake and you’re so excited,” she said. “But you really don’t get to feel all that excitement for the flavors and the scents and everything you made until you watch someone take a bite of it and they’re so stoked.”

Dunmire says she draws inspiration from nature, art and architecture for her creations. The results are often towering, multi-layered cakes with seductive swirls of frosting — maybe some fresh flowers for a special occasion.

We walk by a stand selling mead, or wine made from honey. Dunmire suggests we stop by to try some. Her first sample is a traditional mead. The next one is infused with rose and cardamom. Her eyes light up. She has a cake in mind to go with it — her cardamom cake.

“Maybe with a light raspberry cream and some rose whipped cream," she said. "And soak the cake a little bit in this. I think it’ll just be lovely.”

Dunmire buys a bottle of the special mead. She makes a few more stops, picking up blackberries and raspberries. Some to bake with, some for snacking on the way home.

Year started with KUOW: 1994