Best friends Malaka Wilson-Greene and Erica Freeman didn’t expect to land in the baking world. The two Los Angeles-born pals wanted to start their own business and had looked to Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso and other female entrepreneurs for inspiration, thinking they’d bust into the fashion world. But instead, the pair started baking, plying their coworkers with sweets before deciding to make the jump and launch their business, Two Chicks in the Mix.
Although neither Malaka nor Erica grew up stationed in the kitchen, whisk in hand, the two have fond memories of transforming boxed cake mix into full-fledged desserts. And so armed with a passion for food, Malaka and Erica set out to learn how to develop recipes, often reaching for the flavors and ingredients that were central to their childhoods.
“Some of the inspiration behind our recipes are things that we grew up eating, but we wanted to put a twist on it and add more unique flavor combinations to those desserts,” Erica explains.
Two Chicks in the Mix began as a destination for wedding cakes: soaring, tiered cakes, elegantly adorned with unfinished frosting, in flavors like dark chocolate cardamom and vegan lemon olive oil. Nowadays they’ve also expanded to small cakes (for any occasion), cupcakes, brownies, cookies, pies, and pound cake, but all of their desserts are often infused with cheeky and innovative flavors combinations (think pound cake shot through with lavender, and a strawberry tart boasting a layer of basil-flecked pastry cream).
The variety of flavors incorporated into the sweets are largely due to a confluence of California produce that’s been ethically sourced, as well as Black food culture, the latter of which Malaka and Erica hope will not only help diversify the food industry, but also showcase how Two Chicks in the Mix is rooted in the tradition of Black bakers. The most recent reckoning in the food industry fueled by the Black Lives Matter movement challenges the practice of “Columbusing”: proffering long-used techniques, flavors, and ingredients from other cultures as something “new” and “exotic” to a predominantly white audience. What’s introduced is rarely appropriately credited, and Malaka and Erica hope that this culture in food magazines and businesses will stop—and transform the industry for the better.
“Black people have cultural roots in America as bakers and food people because we cooked as enslaved people,” Malaka explains. “We formed a lot of those recipes. Black people [with] food businesses should be recognized in the same way and let that be a part of our culture and image.”
Although the California-based company is only shipping and offering delivery in the Los Angeles and Oakland areas, you can still replicate a taste of California at home, thanks to Two Chicks in the Mix sharing a recipe for a mixed berry pie.
This pie flaunts the bounty of the summer season and couldn’t be easier to throw together. Toss together a handful of your favorite berries—Malaka and Erica recommend a mix of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries—and cook them down with a bit of cornstarch and lemon zest. The finished product is poured into a par-baked pie crust, along with some melted butter for good measure, then crowned with a lattice crust. Bake it for two hours, then serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream—or both.
Makes: Makes enough filling for one 9-inch pie
- 7 cups mixed berries (We like to use a combination of raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries. Feel free to use whatever berries are at your market. Frozen is fine too. If using frozen berries, add an additional 2 tbsp cornstarch.)
- 1 cup of granulated sugar, more to taste
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 2 tbsp melted butter
- Zest of 1 lemon
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 par-baked crust
- Whisk together the sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Wash and add roughly half of your berries, reserving the raspberries if using, to a large saucepan with the sugar cornstarch mixture. Cook berries and sugar cornstarch mixture over medium heat until fruit releases some juices and the sugar is melted, about 7 minutes. Taste to add more sugar, if needed.
- While the fruit is cooking, melt the better in a small saucepan on medium low heat. Remove the butter from heat.
- Once the sugar berry mixture is done, remove from heat, add remaining berries, including raspberries, if using, lemon zest, salt, and melted butter.
- Stir mixture well and using a slotted spoon, add the berries to into a parbaked pie crust. Pour in remaining fruit juice to par-baked crust until reaching the brim of the crust. Cover with a lattice crust. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle generously with raw sugar. Bake on 350℉ for about 2 hours, rotating half way through the time. Let cool at least 4 hours before serving. Enjoy.