When ordering a cake from Jen Anderson, there’s no order form to fill out. No selection of sponges or list of buttercreams to choose from. Maybe you’ve ordered precisely a Red Velvet cake with cream cheese frosting from a bakery before and maybe you left with exactly that, but it wasn’t from Jen Anderson. Jen’s cakes, while made to order, can’t be ordered to exacting specs. Her process is far more niche. One of Jen’s cakes, on her Instagram, bears this description: “Bartlett pear, pomegranate, candied Meyer lemon peel, sage, marigold petals, and matcha powder.” It’s not likely that the average non-professional baker would walk up to a bakery with those specifications. But you’d eat it, wouldn’t you? In a heartbeat.

“Grocery stores are my happy place,” the young baker says, “I go at least three or four times a week.” She’s always scoping out the weird fruit, buying it up to freeze or turn into jam, ultimately to fill or adorn some confection. Weird fruit is kind of a hallmark of a Jen cake. Her creations are jeweled, artful things. They’d just as easily suit a gallery exhibit as they do a festive spread. It’s not all conceptual, though. “I’m always willing to work with somebody . . . I want to deliver the best product I can,” she says. If someone reaches out to her with a peanut allergy, or a severe distaste for strawberry, she’s going to steer the cake in the direction of their tastes. “My vision with these cakes is to give people a slice of something they haven’t tried before, something that feels personal and intentional.”

It’s probable you’ve already eaten something made by Jen. She helmed the kitchen at the former Bar Mars and has crafted the get-’em-while-you-can doughnuts (among other things) at GB&D for years. In early 2020, the 26-year-old was ready to take her skills to Chicago in a career-boosting move. “I had been in the city for a week when things started to get serious with the virus . . .  I had three separate chefs cancel interviews with me,” she reveals. Jen found her plans derailed, like so many others, by the global COVID-19 pandemic. She moved back to Greenville, hunkering down with a friend. “Three days after I got back, I broke my collarbone and got a concussion.” While she recovered, out of cooking commission and out of work, Jen was left to sit on the couch and scroll social media. There she found a slew of out-of-work chefs, just like her, shifting their focus to smaller projects. Jen felt a kinship. “Food is one of the most basic ways [we] can take care of each other.” During her own personal struggle, in a world where everyone was struggling, Jen says, “I just wanted to make people feel good.”

If Jen was a cake, she would be an ice-cream cake. “One that’s cake and ice cream, layered. There would be citrus notes, something crunchy, something herbal.” It’s classic Jen—to embrace her own complexities and to see creative possibilities. “Cake has this nostalgia. We, as a society, eat cake on these big, celebratory days when we are all together,” she says. And when we can’t be? Jen’s cakes offer something to be remembered, something singular and lovely to make any day better.

To order one of Jen Anderson’s custom cakes: send a direct message to her on Instagram at @jn.rae; then tell her your likes and dislikes and let her take it from there.