Our Perfect Day!

My sisters & I always seem to repeat the same day in different variations when we are together.  Fun, outdoor activities followed with a delightful treat of meal.  Our perfect day!

So, here are a couple of our typical days (and our favorites)….

Capital Crescent Trail and Lattes:  Connecting Bethesda and Georgetown, the Capital Crescent Trail is great whether you prefer walking, biking, or running.  The trail totals roughly 11 miles one way, but depending on where you pick it up, mileage varies.  Make sure to allocate enough time to break the trip and stop for a treat before heading back.  It can get really busy after work and on weekends so be prepared.  My sisters and I usually use it as a means for a delicious latte.  We bike from Bethesda down to Georgetown, get a latte at Baked & Wired or Patisserie Poupon, and then head back to Bethesda.  Definite recommendations at Baked & Wired – any of their quiche, the ginger biscotti, and their lattes of course (iced or hot)!  Definite recommendations at Patisserie Poupon – Latte Macchiato, the almond croissant, and the Crudité Salad…definitely get the Crudité Salad!

The Billy Goat and cupcakes:  Located in Potomac, MD off the C&O canal, the Billy Goat is a fun hike with a climb up a rock face and rock scrambling.  My sisters and I always just do section A which is 1.7 miles and has most of the climbing of the three sections.  We never have enough time to do the whole thing, because we  want to fit too much into one day.  The actual Billy Goat trail is accessed by the towpath of the C&O canal (mileage varies depending on at which point you enter the park).  I also think it is a fun trail to do some running on.  You just have to be careful because there are definitely a lot of rocks and potential for tripping.  After a quick hike/run, we like to swing by Fraiche Cupcakery in Bethesda, MD.  They really do have the best cupcakes in town (or at least that we have found and we do look).  Fraiche Cupcakery makes all their cupcakes with natural and local ingredients when possible.  They have an assortment of daily flavors, as well as a list of weekly specials, with a savory cupcake flavor offered on the weekends.  Definite recommendation – the strawberry cupcakes are probably the best strawberry cupcake I have ever had from a store or bakery.  It tastes like homemade, from scratch baking.  Honestly, it is hard to go wrong there with any of their flavors.

*Note that the park service does caution hikers that the Billy Goat trail can be dangerous and it is not suitable for all hikers.


Lavender and Lemon Cream Mini Cupcakes! UMMM…

Spring almost has a tantalizing pull to be outside.  The few months nestled in between the winter and summer months are soft and comforting.  The mild weather is soothing and inviting, calling one to enjoy the beauty of nature and its many delights.

I love food that truly highlights the ingredients used, that evokes the excitement of Spring and calls you to pick fresh from your garden.  As I sit and look out at the garden, the lavender buds are beginning to bloom beautifully and fill the air with their fragrance.  Recently, I have had the pleasure of discovering a wonderful combination for baking cakes…lavender and lemon.

I am always on the hunt for a delightful cake.  It is seemingly hard to find a good cake or cupcake on a menu, but when I do, it makes my day!  On a recent road trip, I stopped at Wild Flour Bakery Cafe in Abingdon, VA (a WONDERFUL stop while traveling on I-81).  To my delight, the dessert menu had a lavender and lemon cake.  I simply could not resist the wonderful sounding combination and was not disappointed!  They layered white cake with lemon cream and a whipped icing and then finished with lavender buds on top.  The flavor profile had such depth and was simply delightful.  I was convinced that I was going to go home and create my own interpretation of this cake.

However, before I could make my own cake back home in Tennessee, I went to try a new cupcake store that had just opened in Bethesda, MD called Fraiche Cupcakery.  (I have to try all the new ones to find the best in town.)  How excited I was to see that one of their specials for the day was a lavender and lemon cupcake.  Although the same in flavor profile, theirs differed by having a lemon cupcake with a buttercream icing and lavender buds on top.

I dreamt of making my own all the way home and came up with my own interpretation.  I ended up making mini cupcakes…

To make your own lavender and lemon cream mini cupcakes…

Start with a basic vanilla cake recipe.  (I used the Primo Birthday Cake recipe from Dad’s Own Cookbook substituting regular flour for the cake flour.  The recipe ended up making  6 dozen mini cupcakes.)  While they are baking, whip up a buttercream frosting and set aside.  I like this recipe from Epicurious because it is light and creamy and much less sweet than the classic buttercream.  The icing flavor combines well with all the other components without being too overpowering.  Allow the cupcakes to cool completely.  Next, whip 8 oz of heavy whipping cream and then fold in 1/2 c of Bella Cucina’s Preserved Lemon Cream until combined.  Using a Wilton #230 tip, fill a piping bag with the lemon whipped cream and pipe into the mini cupcakes.  When piping the cream into the cupcakes, insert the tip into the center of the cupcake and squeeze gently until you begin to see the cupcake rise ever so slightly.  You do not want to over fill the cupcakes or they will crack on top.  Some of the whipped cream will come up from the whole, but it will be sealed in by the buttercream icing.  You should have a little of the whipped cream left over even with 6 dozen cupcakes.  To finish them off, use a Wilton #1M tip and fill a second piping bag with the buttercream icing and pipe a small star on top.  Sprinkle with lavender buds and enjoy!…Virginia

Can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a couple of days at least.