If 2016 was the Worst Year Ever, 2017 was the Year of Fresh Out of Fucks. As in, I’m going to do and say and eat whatever I want because it’s like we’re living in the worst possible episode of Tom and Jerry, except the characters are Humpty Trumpty and Rocket Man, and the only thing that’s standing in the way of our total annihilation is a poorly spelled 280-character taunt that takes things one step too far.
In that spirit, 2017’s Breakfast of the Year is Cake for Breakfast from Botanica in Los Angeles. Because when you’re undoubtedly going to be hit with a shitstorm of bad news in one form or another, why not start your day with an edible piece of sunshine?
This dessert is more urbane than your standard layered cake. It’s a slice of ridiculously moist almond cake made with nut flour, orange oil, and honey. You can barely even see the cake when it gets to your table, given that it’s practically enrobed in an obscene amount of freshly whipped organic cream and raw and cooked compotes of seasonal fruit that change fairly regularly. Most recently, it was persimmons the color of golden yolks.
And yes, it’s actually called Cake for Breakfast on the menu, the playful name a recommendation from a regular. While deceptively simple, the cake reflects the thoughtfulness that goes into every item on the menu at Botanica: While almond and orange may be a no-brainer, to get the orange flavor to shine, co-owner Emily Fiffer says they first tried zesting 48-plus oranges to make just six cakes—which, she assures me, could drive any person mad—then settled on that aforementioned orange oil, made by a company out of Michigan called LorAnn’s. The oil, free of sugar and additives, gives the cake an almost floral quality.
To give full disclosure, I’m friends with both of the owners, former colleagues of mine at DailyCandy (Fiffer) and Tasting Table (Heather Sperling). When they told me a couple years back that they were opening a restaurant, I thought they were crazy. And not just in a shrug-of-the-shoulder “oh, that’s cute” way, I mean more of the batshit variety—not because I didn’t think they were brilliant or talented or dialed-in enough, but because successfully running a restaurant in this day and age, especially in a city like Los Angeles, is so difficult.
Well, they got it right. Falling into today’s ever-present all-day cafe category of restaurants, Botanica may well be that category’s most thought-out version. It’s the sort of place where you feel prettier and smarter and chicer the second you walk in, because sunlight pours in from the back patio, illuminating the pearlescent pink walls. You walk back to said patio, past a beautifully curated, compact market, and beautiful people eating at a beautiful slate-colored banquette or a beautiful slim bar, to dine surrounded by potted plants in beautiful 80-degree weather in December.
Call it a bubble if you will, but it’s the type of place where you can happily disappear from the rest of the world for a few moments as you catch up with a friend over a coconut-milk latte. Where you can dip herb-sprinkled six-minute eggs and thick slices of buttery, fried Bub and Grandma’s bread into roasted squash hummus on a gorgeous Breakfast Mezze platter piled with olives and scattered with dukkah and fresh herbs. Where you can sop up every last yolk-y, tomato-y bite of Turkish Eggs with urfa butter.
And where you can eat Cake for Breakfast and, because it tastes and smells and feels pretty damn wholesome, leave feeling like a million bucks—at least until you open your Twitter feed.