30 July 2009

The Marshmallow Test

In recent weeks I have seen the story of the Marshmallow Test burning up the internet. Do you know of this study conducted by one of the psychology professors at Stanford back in the '60's? The basic premise was a child left alone in a room with a plate of sweets in front of him/her to see how he/she would react. A researcher would tell the child he needed to leave the room for about 15 minutes but before he went, he instructed the child to pick a treat from the plate (which included marshmallows). The child was told that he could either eat the marshmallow right away OR if he could wait until the researcher came back, he would get two marshmallows. The study was developed to identify the mental processes that caused some people to delay gratification while others simply ceded.

Of course, the kids who participated in the study demonstrated all sorts of behavior. While some were able to wait and receive the promised two marshmallows, others dove into the plate straight away and ate everything on it, others ate small bites of the goodies and put them back on the plate hoping no one would notice, and so on and so on. The study gets really interesting though when the researchers started to look into what happened to these kids about 20 years later. What they found was that those children who were able to wait for the researcher to return - the delayed gratifiers - were more successful in their lives than those who were not able to delay their gratification. Those kids "seemed more likely to have behavioral problems, both in school and at home. They got lower S.A.T. scores. They struggled in stressful situations, often had trouble paying attention, and found it difficult to maintain friendships." For more on The Marshmallow Test, click here.

I'd like to think I would have been one of the kids who was able to wait and get the 2 marshmallows instead of one. But I have always had a bit of a sweet tooth, especially when it comes to marshmallows. And lo and behold was I thrilled when I learned of the Daring Bakers' Challenge for July cause I have always had a thing for Mallomars - a beloved childhood treat that I haven't seen anywhere on these shores!

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network. We were given the choice to make either recipe, or for the more daring (and those with time to kill), both.

Mallows(Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies)

Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website
Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies
Prep Time: 10 min
Inactive Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 10 min
Serves: about 2 dozen cookies (note: I thirded the recipe and ended up with about 30 cookies!)
• 3 cups (375grams/13.23oz) all purpose flour
• 1/2 cup (112.5grams/3.97oz) white sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
• 3/8 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter
• 3 eggs, whisked together
• Homemade marshmallows, recipe follows
• Chocolate glaze, recipe follows

1. In a mixer with the paddle attachment, blend the dry ingredients.
2. On low speed, add the butter and mix until sandy.
3. Add the eggs and mix until combine.
4. Form the dough into a disk, wrap with clingfilm or parchment and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
5. When ready to bake, grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper or a silicon mat.
6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
7. Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness, on a lightly floured surface. Use a 1 to 1 1/2 inches cookie cutter to cut out small rounds of dough.
8. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.
9. Pipe a “kiss” of marshmallow onto each cookie. Let set at room temperature for 2 hours.
10. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or silicon mat.
11. One at a time, gently drop the marshmallow-topped cookies into the hot chocolate glaze.
12. Lift out with a fork and let excess chocolate drip back into the bowl.
13. Place on the prepared pan and let set at room temperature until the coating is firm, about 1 to 2 hours.

Note: if you don’t want to make your own marshmallows, you can cut a large marshmallow in half and place on the cookie base. Heat in a preheated 350-degree oven to slump the marshmallow slightly, it will expand and brown a little. Let cool, then proceed with the chocolate dipping.

Homemade marshmallows:
• 1/4 cup water
• 1/4 cup light corn syrup
• 3/4 cup (168.76 grams/5.95oz) sugar
• 1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
• 2 tablespoons cold water
• 2 egg whites , room temperature
• 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. In a saucepan, combine the water, corn syrup, and sugar, bring to a boil until “soft-ball” stage, or 235 degrees on a candy thermometer.
2. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let dissolve.
3. Remove the syrup from the heat, add the gelatin, and mix.
4. Whip the whites until soft peaks form and pour the syrup into the whites.
5. Add the vanilla and continue whipping until stiff.
6. Transfer to a pastry bag.

Chocolate glaze:
• 12 ounces semisweet chocolate
• 2 ounces cocoa butter or vegetable oil

1. Melt the 2 ingredients together in the top of a double boiler or a bowl set over barely simmering water.

I decided to make 4 varieties of Mallomars (or Mallows as they are called in the Daring Bakers' Challenge). The Classic, The Elvis (with a blob of peanut butter sandwiched between the marshmallow and chocolate glaze), The Obama (with a square of white chocolate hidden under the chocolate glaze) and The Cherry Kookoo a/k/a The Courtney Love (which sports a maraschino cherry at its center). They completely lived up to my childhood memories of these delectable cookies; who knew they were so easy to make at home yourself?

Speaking of Courtney Love, I doubt she would have been one of the kids who deferred gratification. But that's just my humble opinion of the gal - lord knows she's had a rough life. She looks like she could use a Mallomar or 20 these days. And hey, no need to wait, I've got a plate baked up fresh......

Just a reminder: Iron Cupcake Earth Herbs Challenge is now open for voting. Why don't you skidaddle on over there and vote for my luscious Lavender Loves Lemon Celebration cupcakes?

23 July 2009

Come Join Our Party, See How We Play

1969. The year when peace, love and music ruled at Woodstock. The year when Charles Manson would gain infamy. The year when the NY Mets won their first World Series, “Midnight Cowboy” ruled at the box office, The Beatles’ “Come Together” rocked the charts, Sesame Street debuted on TV and Penthouse on the newsstands, the Concorde took its first flight and another Kennedy in the news: this time, young Teddy who drove his car off a bridge in Chappaquiddick.

1969. The year when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin captured the attention of millions of TV viewers the world over as they walked on the moon. “That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." It was also the year that yours came truly came into the world.

My mother’s due date was in fact 20 July 1969. I was to be born the day the lunar landing module touched down on the moon’s surface. Thankfully I had hunkered down in the uterus and came out 3 days late...barely escaping a fate that would have had me going by the name of “Luna.” No kidding. It’s the name my mom had picked out. Over the years, I have imagined hundreds of times my walk through the school hallways to the shouts of “Hey, here comes looney Luna!” You know how cruel kids can be.

Thankfully, in the days between the moon walk and my actual delivery, my mother happened to watch a film that starred Catherine Deneuve, and in seeing this beautiful actress grace the screen, she decided that would be a fitting first name. Or at least that’s the story as I have heard it.

What have I learned from this story? That try as you might, life will not always go as planned and you need to be flexible and take it all with a grain of salt. That if you are open to it, inspiration will come from the unlikeliest places. And that “One and one and one is three. Got to be good-looking ‘cause he’s so hard to see.”

I’ve also learned a few other things in the 40 years I have lived and loved and dreamed and done on this planet. And in honor of my 40th birthday, I thought I would share them with you, accompanied by some cupcakes I created specially for the occasion: Snickers Cupcakes – Peanut Butter Cupcakes with a Salted Caramel Center, Caramel/Milk Chocolate Ganache and Chopped Peanuts, & Lavender Loves Lemon Celebration Cupcakes for the IC:E July challenge, Herbs(recipe below). These are Lemon Verbena Poppyseed Cupcakes with a Lavender Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting. And they are delicious! Light, creamy and lemony sweet with a fragrant lavender under-current.

40 Things I Have Learned in My 40 Trips Around the Sun, and Then Some…

1. Childbirth hurts…a lot! Though thankfully the body has a wonderful capacity for forgetting pain. Once they put that bundle of joy down on your chest for the very first time, you’ll be ready to do it all over again.

2. It does get easier the second time around.

3. You can never change a man.

4. Use sunscreen liberally and get that suspicious freckle checked out. It could save your life; it saved mine.

5. Fresh marker can be easily removed from a fabric couch with plain old milk dabbed on the stain with a washcloth.

6. Time really does heal all wounds.

7. Keep xeroxed copies of your (and your family members’) birth certificate, driver’s license, social security card, etc. somewhere safe; it will come in handy one day.

8. If you are renting a property in a remote corner of Italy and you have cat allergies, always make sure to ask if a cat has been living inside the house before reserving and traveling all the way to said location.

9. Nothing brings a smile to someone’s face faster than the gift of cupcakes!

10. It’s true that you can’t pick your family but you can choose your friends. The true ones will be at your side through thick and thin, and when you need them the most. Ditch the others and fast!

11. If a guy can’t be bothered to return your phone calls within a reasonable amount of time, thank you for something nice you’ve done or regularly breaks/”forgets” dates to hang out with his friends, play video games, etc., he’s giving you a hint. Move on!

12. Despite all the tears, time, anguish and nights gone without sleep stressing over your wedding planning, your wedding day will probably be just one long happy blur in the end. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

13. No matter what your age, you can reinvent yourself. If you have a passion, go for it! Realize it on a small scale if a larger scale just isn’t possible. If you apply yourself, you can be anything you dream of being.

14. 20 ounces tomato juice, 6 ounces (pepper) vodka, 2 dashes Tabasco, 1 dash Worcestershire sauce, a pinch celery salt, 2 twists fresh cracked pepper, and juice of 1 lemon. Combine all together with ice and shake. Perfect kick-ass Bloody Mary every time.

15. You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes you just might find you get what you need.

16. Never wake a sleeping baby.

17. Those grates you see in the sidewalk all over Paris? The ones where the exhaust from the subway escapes? Don’t walk over those wearing a skirt unless you want to re-enact that famous Marilyn Monroe moment.

18. No matter how much you are drooling over those Manolo Blahniks, Jimmy Choos, (insert your fetish shoe brand here) that you’ve seen all the stars wear in the celebrity pages this season…the ones you have just found on sale for half price….if they don’t fit properly in the store, they never will. Do your feet (and your wallet) a favor and keep walking.

19. In the US, when you receive a negative response like “No, we can’t do that” or “I’m very sorry but it’s just not possible” it’s usually the end of a conversation. In France, it’s the opening salvo in a negotiation where it‘s more than likely you will ultimately get your way.

20. A lot of it boils down to being in the right place at the right time….and who you know. So get out there as often as you can, and schmooze!

21. The book is usually better than the movie. Though the movie better than the Broadway show.

22. When you are wrong, admit it. And learn from your mistakes! There is nothing more annoying than someone who always tries to put the blame on others, or who keeps doing the same stupid things over and over.

23. Learn how to take a compliment graciously.

24. No one will respect you unless you respect yourself. The same goes for believing in yourself.

25. You can’t cram a semester’s worth of lessons into one night of studying. No matter how much NoDoz you ingest or what your roommates may tell you.

26. 20 (hell even 5!) years after the fact, no one will really care what your major was in college. They in fact might not even care where you went to college. A study published a few years back in Fortune demonstrated the only thing that does matter is that you have a college degree, not where it came from.

27. Always remember, there is no reset button in life.

28. There’s nothing like a good night of sleep to give you a fresh perspective on a dilemma.

29. If you are going to lie, maintain eye contact. A sure give-away is looking up and to the right which indicates you are accessing the creative side of your brain.

30. Always have one great perfect dress at the ready. You never know when you may be invited to a last minute party or when that cute guy from the creative department is going to ask you out.

31. A tattoo is forever; choose your design wisely. If you are going to get inked with your significant other’s name or your favorite motto, for god’s sake, check the spelling on the outline before it’s permanently etched on your body.

32. While the occasional shopping spree may be good mental therapy, don’t live beyond your means. I’ve seen too many friends declare personal bankruptcy (some before the ripe old age of 30) to erase their debt. It’s tragic.

33. It’s never too early to teach your kids proper manners, the value of hard work, the difference between right and wrong, to be altruistic, how to practice good personal hygiene, and a love of baking.

34. Learn how to make one good dish and make it well. I happen to like this one. The same goes for a knock-out cocktail. See #14.

35. Liquor before beer, never fear. Beer before liquor, never sicker!

36. Never show up for a party empty-handed. See #9.

37. Love and be loved. Live and let live!

38. Be grateful for what you have instead of looking with envy at that which others possess. Be generous to those who are less fortunate than you -- remember, what you sow, you reap. I’ve always been a firm believer in what goes around comes around.

39. There is only so much you can blame on your parents, or your dysfunctional home life, or the manner in which you were raised, or that “trauma” that affected you as a teenager. (Like your sister stealing your 9th grade boyfriend, I’m not talking about abuse and other sick, serious crimes people commit against children here). Take responsibility for the person you are today; if you’re not happy with the way you look or a certain behavior you have, etc., stop sniveling, get off the couch and change it! TODAY! You are the master of your own destiny.

40. Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow, don’t stop, it’ll soon be here. It’ll be better than before. Yesterday’s gone. Yesterday’s gone.

41. If you have the chance to participate in a study abroad program while in college, do it! If you hate it, you’ll be home when the semester is over but at least you have given yourself the chance to see the world, experience a new culture, learn new customs and flirt in a foreign language!

42. When making baked goods, always use the best quality ingredients you can afford. You really can taste the difference.

43. Strive to learn one new thing every day. Okay, at least once a week if you are lazy like me.

44. Know how to throw a party: invite all your close friends and cool people you want to know better, buy several bottles of bubbly, bake up some cupcakes (or have someone bake them for you!), slip into something sexy and fun, break out your favorite I-pod Playlist and party all night long!

I'm still working on the "learn to age gracefully" bit. My brain is having a hard time processing the fact that I am actually 40 years old today. In my heart and mind, I am still that wild, free-spirited 25 year-old I used to know. Though I guess it is all relative; as my mother-in-law told me yesterday, "Wait until you are 50, 60 or 65 years-old! I would do anything to be 40 again!"

Lavender Loves Lemon Celebration Cupcakes
Makes about 1 Dozen

4 ozs. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 pinch salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup hot water
1 teabag verbena
2 tsps. poppy seeds

1. Place verbena in the 1/4 cup hot water and allow to steep while you prepare the batter.
2. Cream sugar and butter until light and moussey. Add egg and mix.
3. Add baking soda, salt and vanilla and mix again.
4. Add 1/3 flour and mix. Add 1/2 buttermilk and mix. Alternate adding flour and buttermilk and mixing after each, ending on a flour addition.
5. Discard teabag, add verbena infused water and mix.
6. Mix in lemon zest, juice and poppy seeds.
7. Fill cupcake liners 2/3rds full and place in a 350 degree oven for about 18 minutes. Cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
8. Remove from oven and let cupcakes cool on a grill.

Lavender Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 stick butter
1 8oz package of cream cheese
1/2 vanilla bean
2-3 cups confectioner's sugar
3-4 drops of purple food coloring
1 tbsp. lavender flowers
1/2 cup heavy cream

1. Heat cream over medium heat, add lavender and allow to sit undisturbed for a few minutes while flowers steep. Remove from heat and let cool 30 minutes, strain cream, discard flowers, set aside.
2. Combine softened butter and cream cheese and mix well.
3. Add about half of the confectioner's sugar and lavender-infused cream to the butter/cream cheese mixture and beat to combine.
4. Using the point of a sharp knife, remove vanilla beans from pod and mix in well.
5. Add remaining confectioner's sugar in stages until desired consistency and sweetness is achieved.
6. Add purple food coloring (I like Wilton's gel) and mix until consistent color is reached.

Last but not least, I am competing for the June ETSY PRIZE-PACK:

* A sweet cupcake ID bracelet by INSANEJELLYFISH
* A delicious treat from CIRCLEMONKEY
* a sweet surprise from Sweet Cuppin' Cakes Cupcakery
* PLUS, IronCupcake:Earth can not forget our good friend, CAKESPY who is now going to be doing a piece for our winner each month until further notice - sweet!

Last and certainly not least, don’t forget our corporate prize providers: HEAD CHEFS by FIESTA PRODUCTS, HELLO CUPCAKE by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson, JESSIE STEELE APRONS, TASTE OF HOME books, and a t-shirt from UPWITHCUPCAKES.COM. Iron Cupcake:Earth is sponsored in part by 1-800-Flowers.

17 July 2009

The Sweet Escape

I’ve been coming to La Baule for 7 years now. It’s a beautiful seaside resort on the West Coast of France, also known as the Cote d’Amour or Love Coast. I first visited the summer that my husband’s grandfather died. He had lived long enough to learn of our pregnancy but sadly not to meet his great grandson who carries his name, Jacques, as a middle name. It was a bittersweet trip as it was Jacques who originally came to La Baule in the ’60’s and made it into a summertime tradition for the family.

It was early July and my husband and I should have been toiling away in our respective cubicles caught up in the rat race that was our lives in New York. Instead, in the days following Jacques’ funeral, we found ourselves spending leisurely afternoons strolling the beach, daydreaming about the summers to come and the child we would soon be bringing into this world. When we travel, my husband and I tend to spend a lot of time posing various “what if?”questions that have been the jumping-off point for many life-altering decisions.

It was on one of those lazy days of summer that we first discussed the idea of moving to France; after 10 years in the US, my husband was itching for a change of pace. Shortly after we returned to NY from this trip, we (on a lark) ran a “for sale” ad about our apartment in the Sunday NY Times and the rest is history. But I digress.

Guerande is one of the neighboring towns to La Baule. It is world-famous for its salt mines, and many local specialties, savory and sweet, are made with “fleur de sel” including the caramel au beurre salé which flavors a multitude of desserts like crepes, gauffres (Belgian waffles), bonbons and ice cream. The most well-known pastry of this region is the Brittany Kouign Aman which means literally “butter cake. “ There is no way to describe a Kouign Aman and do it justice; you simply must try one for yourself. It’s a mixture of hard and chewy pastry; salty, sweet and caramel glazed, buttery goodness. It’s one of the main reasons that we come back to La Baule every summer…seriously!

So, where to get the best Kouign Aman and other luscious caramel treats in La Baule? Lucky for you I have done my research. It’s been a tough job but I am happy to share the fruits of my labor. Without further ado, I present to you: The Best of La Baule-Escoublac – an itinerary in caramel…..

I’ve shopped around and can honestly say the best Kouign Aman I’ve eaten is at the Boulangerie Clérault on the Place du Marché. It’s buttery without being overly greasy, and they have the perfect ratio of caramel to pastry – I hate when bakeries skimp on the caramel! The Maison Larnicol on Avenue de Gaulle is a new contender this summer for Kouign Aman. We’ve only tried a few of their varieties, but were pleasantly surprised by their kouignettes (mini kouign amans) that come in such exotic flavors as pistachio, apricot, raspberry and nature.

Bar none, the baguettes Retro at Le Grenier a Pain on avenue Marechal de Lattre de Tassigny are the best in town (they also do a fantastic olive fougasse). When there, I always pick up a sachet of their mini beignets – small, sugar-dusted donuts filled with either raspberry jelly, melted chocolate or caramel au beurre sale (obviously my personal favorite!).

Belgian waffles, called gauffres, are a dessert that the French have appropriated at many of their seaside resorts and La Baule is no exception. For a mind-blowing caramel experience, stop in for a gauffre au caramel at L’Igloo on de Gaulle (they also boast over 110+ flavors of ice cream including Whiskey and Coke, Tomato, Rhubarb and Smurf). Don’t like caramel (what’s wrong with you???)? Never fear, you can also ask for your gauffre with white, milk or dark chocolate chips, Nutella, crème Chantilly, lemon curd, strawberry jam and a variety of other tasty toppings. Be sure to check out their gauffre iron – a rotating waffle maker that cooks 12 gauffres at a time (pictured above)!

Of course a trip to the beach would not be complete without a stop for ice cream. La Baule got its first gelateria, Gelateria Verdi on Blvd. Hennecart a few summers back. Bypass their Crème Caramel gelato and go straight for the Caramel au Beurre Sale instead. I literally need to cross the street away from this place when I walk by to avoid going in…it’s that good! A special mention goes to La Fraisiere on de Gaulle which serves traditional ice cream and soft serve. Their swirled Caramel au Beurre Salé/Fraise-Framboise soft serve is tart, milky, soul-satisfying and delicious!

Brittany is known for its crepes – the savory variety is really called a galette and the sweet is a crepe; we usually don’t differentiate between the two in the US. Ar Poul Gwen (which refers to the neighboring town Le Pouligen, in Brittanese) on de Gaulle is IMHO the best creperie in town. Their open kitchen affords customers a view of the art of crepe-making in action and it really is a beautiful sight. Their crepe au caramel is a warm, drippy, gooey affair that will leave you licking your fingers and looking for more.

Macarons are a French dessert staple. You’ll find several exotic varieties at Phillipe Rousell, a chocolatier on Allee des Camelias, or at Chatellier or Maison Larnicol on de Gaulle. Caramel au beurre salé macarons are an obligatory standard here in La Baule.

Finally, one of the oldest candy-makers on the beach, Manuel on Blvd. Hennecart offers a large assortment of hand-made candies and desserts; it’s a one-stop shopping temple for anything sweet. Our favorite there is a taffy lollipop called a niniche. It’s a wonder to see them make it with special machines used to stretch, drag, loop and cut the taffy. They offer about 18 varieties daily including the CaraManuel which is…you guessed it…made with caramel au beurre salé. A word of caution to those with expensive dental work – you may want to skip these and go directly to their ice cream bar!

I always come back from La Baule with caramel treats for friends and family. You can buy jars of spreadable caramel au beurre salé or chewy caramel candies at many of the local supermarkets and gift stores like Marché Plus and la Trinitaine in La Baule, Carrefour Market in Guerande, and the Biscuiterie des Marais in Guerande, Pornichet and Pornic.

La Baule-Escoublac is approximately 5 hours from Paris by car and 3 hours on the TGV.

05 July 2009

It's These Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

My final order before I skip off on vacation is complete. If you follow me here or on twitter (@lttlmisscupcake), you know that I have been kind of agonizing and kind of excited about the challenge of adapting one of my recipes for a kid who has allergies to dairy and eggs. This meant no butter or milk or any by-products in the cupcakes (buh-bye buttercream, fondant, etc.).

His mom did say he was okay with cooked eggs so I was able to get one into the batter. I made an old standby recipe for chocolate cupcakes that calls for oil instead of butter. And I 86ed the buttermilk in favor of homemade buttermilk made with goat's milk. I'm using some of the goat's milk now in my morning cereal and thinking it's probably an acquired taste.

The topping is simple sugar glaze, like you coat Christmas cookies with - made with goat's milk and icing sugar. The decorations proved to be the hardest part of the order. Marshmallows, which I use to make fondant, contain gelatin and since there was no way of knowing if that came for cows or pigs, were off-limits. I figured paper toppers would be cool, especially since the birthday boy loves planes and it was a requisite part of the order. Would you believe I visited every stationary store and magazine stand in my neighborhood and couldn't find plane stickers? Thankfully, the birthday boy's mom came to the rescue and supplied me with these that she had stashed away. It was a challenge to get these to come together, but I am quite pleased with the results and hope Finn is too!

I've been spouting off about my vacation for some time now. Well, the time has come; we ship out today. I wanted to take a minute to show off these other transport themed cupcakes I made last week for an order. These were for 2 boys, turning 3 & 4.

Their mom had bid on the Little Miss Cupcake party pack I had donated for a breast cancer research charity event. I was delighted when she called me the very next day to claim her prize.

These were lots of fun to make and I hope the boys liked them too.

I'll try to check in from the beach and show you some of the local specialties we enjoy in Brittany like salted caramel - yum! We're back in Paris at the end of July before our trip to NY so be sure to get in touch if you want to recommend any cupcake bakeries for me to check out in Manhattan and the Jersey shore. Just a reminder, I'll be taking limited orders for the 20-30 July period and will be closed for the entire month of August. Keep cool and enjoy your summer!

04 July 2009

These Colors Don't Run, but the Frosting Might!

The temperature has just hit a balmy 80 degrees here in Paris (in the shade). It's our coolest day on record this week!

We're getting ready to head out to the parc for some snacks and play with our fellow American, and Brit, and Aussie, and French friends! Everyone loves a holiday and I love to share traditions from my American culture.

Sadly, we won't have fireworks this evening but we will have lots of American goodies on-hand. Friends will be bringing potato salad, caramel corn, brownies, rice kripsies treats, watermelon, and other traditional picnic food. I'm bringing along some Red Velvets topped with a simple, unpretentious vanilla bean cream cheese frosting. It doesn't get any better than this!

Maybe they'll have the sprinkles turned on for the kids to run around in and we can pretend for just one minute that we are back home enjoying the patriotic vibe and getting ready to see the fireworks show. But maybe we'll just be a group of fun-loving Americans, Brits, Aussies, French and whoever else cares to join us, dressed up in red, white and blue, honoring the good ole USA on a fine summer day!

Happy 4th of July to you no matter where you may be! Be safe, have fun, and keep it sweet!

xx Little Miss Cupcake