Lemon Chia Cupcakes with Blackberries at the Native American Health Center (Youth Services Program, San Francisco)

ON THE MENU: Lemon Chia Cupcakes with Blackberries

For the first Native American Health Center (NAHC) – Youth Services cooking class this summer, our theme focused on Food, Family and Ethnicity where we highlight family recipes as ancestral knowledge, as well as our familial relationship to the land.  This recipe originally came from the American Indian Child Resource Center’s Feast of Nations 2015 Recipe Book, but slightly modified for cupcakes. Feast of Nations is a paid internship program through the PONY program (Preparing Oakland Native Youth) where they offer life-skills workshops, such as a cooking class series to promote the success, health, and safety of Native young people during their transition into adulthood.  

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Native California Ingredients

Native California ingredients highlighted in this dish are Chia seeds and blackberries. The original inhabitants of the California Central Coast are the Ohlone peoples who gathered berries, as wells as infused grass seeds in their diet.

Chia or salvia columbariae is “an annual plant of the Lamiaceae (Mint) family. It grows in California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Sonora, and Baja California. In California it is found in the Coast Ranges and southern Sierras but is most most common in the southern part of the state from the coast into the desert” (California Native Plant Society).

Native California blackberries or the “Pacific Blackberry is a species in the Rosaceae (Rose) family that is native to a large part of western North America from Baja to Canada and from the coast to the Rocky Mountains. This is a wide, spreading shrub or vine-bearing bush with prickly branches, white flowers and edible fruits. This species is one of the original parents of the hybrids Loganberry and Boysenberry” (California Native Plant Society).

Recipe (yields about 24 cupcakes, 1 hour prep time)

  • 1.5 cup All-Purpose Flour (can substitute for half all-purpose flour and half acorn flour)
  • ½ tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tbs lemon juice
  • 1 tbs lemon zest
  • 2 tbs Chia seeds
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 small carton Pacific Blackberries
  • ¼ cup confectioners sugar (powdered sugar) to sprinkle on top


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease cupcake pans or use cupcake liners.
  2. In a medium bowl , whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. In a larger bowl, use hand mixer to cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add lemon zest and lemon juice to the egg mixture. Add yogurt and chia seeds next. Stir in the flour mixture; do this just until no streaks of dry ingredients remain and seeds are well distributed through the cake mix.
  4. Pour batter into cupcake tray and fill up ½ of each cupcake mold. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until you see the center a bit gooey, but the sides of the cupcake are hardening. Gently place 1-2 Pacific Blackberries in the center of each cupcake. Place the cupcakes back into the oven for another 10-12 minutes or until you see the sides brown a bit, or use a toothpick to poke the middle to see if it comes out clean.  Cake should spring back when lightly pressed.
  5. Let cake cool for about 10 minutes, then take out of cupcake tray.  Set cupcakes on a tray and put a bit of confectioners sugar in small strainer to lightly dust cupcakes.

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