Bacon and wasabi can be accompaniments to any meal. But at McLean's Fluffy Thoughts Cakes, they're for dessert.
Thought-provoking: a corner store in McLean called Fluffy Thoughts Cakes. Owner and chief baker Lara Stuckey explained that the name's origin reflects a sisterly inside joke during her childhood.
"When my sister and I said silly things, we would call them 'fluffy thoughts,'" Stuckey said.
But there is nothing fluffy or inconsequential about this newcomer.
Imagine a bakery redolent with the savory aromas of smoky bacon cooking up in the kitchen. That's for the apple-bacon cupcakes, explained Stuckey, apologizing that these were still hours away from being baked, cooled, and frosted with a thick maple cream. As Stuckey explains, the sweet and salty combination, especially with bacon, has become really popular recently in desserts, and the smokiness of the bacon balances out with the sweetness--it's a little like eating a breakfast treat in the middle of the day.
Other flavors are just as beguiling, if not as offbeat, and include red velvet with a cream cheese frosting, carrot cake with a ton of fresh carrots and walnuts in the batter, and the "hummingbird," a Southern favorite of crushed pineapple, bananas and pecans. On the drawing boards -- or rather in the mixing bowl -- are trials for a chocolate-chili cupcake with a cinnamon and cream cheese icing and a ginger cupcake with a wasabi-based butter cream. Stuckey notes that she and her staff love sushi, and because they offer a delicious ginger cake, they wanted to create a ginger cupcake with a frosting that was a bit offbeat. She admits they haven't quite mastered the flavor balance yet.
"I am thinking of a pear cupcake with a salted caramel frosting," she said. "What works in cupcakes also works in big cakes."
It's those big cakes -- the wedding and birthday cakes -- that have drew this one-time psychologist away from her career to follow a her passion for baking.
While still working as a psychologist, Stuckey would bake at night, gradually easing into the baking profession full time. That turning point came when she baked a friend's wedding cake, and even though it collapsed -- she hadn't yet learned how to stack layers properly, she admitted-- her friends loved the cake, a plain yellow cake with a dark ganache and orange butter cream, and people began urging her to bake full-time.
To polish her skills, Stuckey attended a L'Academie de Cuisine's pastry arts class in Gaithersburg, Md. She then went to work for one-and-a-half years with Warren Brown, owner of CakeLove and operator of seven locations in the metro area, plus a café in Washington, D.C., called Love Café.
While baking, Stuckey has discovered her inner creative spirit.
"I love the art part of cakes," she said. "I love the painting and making the flowers. I use old-fashioned techniques."
Also old-fashioned is her dedication to from-scratch baking, from the various cake batters to the salted caramel she uses to spread or drizzle on cakes.
"We even make our own fruit curds," she said, describing a white cake filled with passion fruit curd and topped with blackberry buttercream frosting.
Although her cupcakes warrant raves, Stuckey, working closely with couples, is still best known for her wedding cakes and groom's cakes.
"I will design the cakes in the 'Ace of Cakes' style," she said, referring to the Food Network's baking star, Chef Duff of Charm City Cakes in Baltimore.
A McLean native, Stuckey remembers complaining to her mom during her childhood that McLean offered no local bakeries. Since April, she has rectified that deficit, baking a thousand cupcakes, four to five wedding cakes, and dozens of regular cakes and French macaroons weekly.
"I am happy to give back to the community," she said. "May was Breast Cancer Awareness month, and we donated 75 percent of the proceeds to research. June is lymphoma month. My dad passed away from it,"
she said. To honor him, she is offering a Black Forest cupcake filled with cherries and topped with cherries and dark chocolate ganache.
For more information, visit the website, www.fluffythoughts.com.
Better yet, stop by 1320 Old Chain Bridge Road, McLean, and grab a bacon-apple cupcake.