About a month ago, I had volunteered to bake a cake for the farewell party for a colleague. Yesterday, I was reminded that we’re giving Imke a surprise and that I was going to bring some cake. As I’ve been sick since last week and wasn’t sure if I’d be up for some baking, I suggested bringing some fruits instead. But when I was at the supermarket looking at the boxes of mélange fruits des bois (literally: mix of fruits of the woods; i.e. blueberry, blackberry, raspberry and strawberry), I decided that Imke deserved something better and with a personal touch, so I decided to make a cake after all. So began my night of baking… starting with searching for a “recipe + blackberry blueberry raspberry” on Google, which quickly turned up various takes on Starbucks’ apparently delicious “Very Berry Coffee Cake“. I’ve never had it but it sounded good, plus I have all the ingredients that the Seattle Times recipe called for. I have a 9×5 inch loaf pan instead of a 9-inch square pan which the recipe called for, so I halved the volume of ingredients. Instead of trying to reduce the butter or sugar to make the cake lighter, I followed the recipe to the dot for once. I was congratulating myself as I smoothed the top of the batter before I put it into the oven when it suddenly occurred to me that I had used baking soda instead of baking powder!! Bummer. I pushed the loaf pan into the oven anyway. It’d have been a shame to waste those berries. I had a second go at this Very Berry Coffee Cake recipe because if I was going to make the effort to bake a cake for Imke, I should at least do it right. While the loaf pan was in the oven, I greased some silicon cups and mixed a second batch of batter, this time making sure that I used baking powder. Using the same amount of ingredients as earlier, I filled seven medium cups. I had used up the brown sugar to make the crumble topping on the cake, so I added a small piece of dark chocolate into the centre of each serving instead. Actually, the cake turned out alright. While it didn’t rise and remained rather dense and flat, it tasted good and the cinnamon-brown sugar crumble was delicious. The Very Berry Coffee Cupcakes came out exactly as expected. The texture was light with bits of berry fruits peeking through the top. As I looked through the photos that I took of the cake and cupcakes, I was reminded of a sunny afternoon at a fruit farm in Hokkaido last summer where my family and I ate more blueberries in an hour than we ever did in a year! We were in the western part of Hokkaido, travelling from Iwanai, a small fishing town which predates the Meiji Restoration to Noboribetsu which is famous for its many hot spring resorts. As the drive was relatively short, I suggested that we stop at Sobetsu Fruit Village near Lake Toya for some fruit-picking. I had read about it when researching for the trip but had not looked up the Mapcode. We cruised past several orchards, all with a cherry apple cartoon figure welcoming visitors to enter the grounds, but had no idea which one to stop at. I searched on my phone and found the phone number for Kudamonomura ホームページへ, which I then typed into the GPS system in the car and we soon found our way to the orchard. When we arrived, we were greeted by a kindly lady who first asked if we like blueberries and grapes as these were the only fruits that were ripe for the picking at the farm when we were there. “Yes! Okay!” I believe that Kudamonomura was the pioneer amongst the 20-odd tourist fruit farms in Sobetsu to open up its orchards to visitors to come and pick fruits. We paid a few hundred yen per person to pick and eat all the fruit that we want while we were there (you’re not supposed to leave with fruit that you’ve plucked). She gave each of us a pair of scissors and a plastic bag (for seeds and trash) and showed us to the areas where the blueberries and grapes were growing. Along the way, we passed apple, pear and cherry trees. Apparently we had just missed the cherry season and all that’s left were a few sad-looking cherries. The farmer showed us how to harvest the grapes before leaving us to enjoy the fruits of her labour.We had so much fun picking the blueberries and eating them as we went along. Given how expensive imported blueberries are in Singapore, we happily ate handfuls of them as we strolled around in the sun. Our tongues and teeth soon became blue from all the blueberries! We also cut a few brunches of grapes to share amongst ourselves as we sat in a shaded area, eating our fill of blueberries and grapes and licking clean our sticky sweet fingers before walking back to the entrance of the farm. Mmm.