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Lara Stuckey: Queen of cakes

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Entertainment,Food and Drink,Alexandra Greeley

Dreaming up wildly elegant cakes, outrageously delicious cupcakes and other luscious baked goods defines baker extraordinaire and McLean native Lara Stuckey. After all, who else would name her bakery Fluffy Thoughts Cakes?

Located in a corner store in McLean, Fluffy Thoughts commands attention, if for no other reason than the store's name. When asked to explain its origins, Stuckey tells this tale: It's a childhood thing, she says, and an insider's joke. "When I was growing up, when my sister and I said silly things, we would call them 'fluffy thoughts.' My sister says the name reminds us of our childhood," she says.

But as customers have discovered, there is nothing fluffy or trivial about Stuckey's work. Indeed, her baked goods have garnered so much attention that the business now has its own kiosk at the Washington Nationals ballpark, where baseball fans can pick up Stuckey's cupcakes, sugar cookies, chocolate brownies and rice crispy treats. Add to that the other tributes Stuckey has received: She is the wedding cake-maker of choice for top tier hotels in the area, including the Mayflower Renaissance and the W Washington D.C. Stuckey also has been featured on the "Food Network Challenge" episode "Best in Show Cakes" in February 2011. Fluffy Thoughts Cakes has been named Bride's Choice by WeddingWire.com, 2010 to 2013. It was a Top Vote Getter in 2013 and Editors Pick for 2010 and 2011 in Washingtonian Bride & Groom and featured in the Knot's Best of Weddings 2013.

Not bad for a young woman who turned to baking after a short career as a psychologist. Growing up in a household with a mother who loved to bake, Stuckey was exposed to the joys of baking. So it followed that as an adult and after a long workday, Stuckey would unwind at night by baking. Deciding to get professional pastry training after one of her wedding cakes collapsed at a friend's event, Stuckey attended Gaithersburg's L'Academie de Cuisine's pastry arts class, worked for D.C.'s Warren Brown, owner of Cakelove, and polished baking skills by working under cake designer Colette Peters in New York City. For Stuckey, the rest is cake history.

If you go
Fluffy Thoughts Cakes
» Where: 1320 Old Chain Bridge Road, McLean
» Info: 703-942-5538; fluffythoughts.com
» Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Friday to Saturday, closed Sunday

Now three years later, Stuckey's business has expanded so much that she is adding 1,500 feet of neighboring space, which means that the kitchen itself can expand. This will allow Fluffy Thoughts to produce even more indulgences -- besides the cupcakes, cakes, cake pops, macaroons, lemon bars and mini cupcakes -- which is good news for all who appreciate her quality work. Everything is baked from scratch -- imagine walking into a bakery and sniffing smoky bacon frying, a key ingredient in her astonishing apple-bacon cupcakes -- with top-tier ingredients.

This will also allow her, she says, to add something else very special to her weekly routine: Stuckey and her staff will be teaching cake decorating classes and hosting children's birthday parties in the new space. Lucky patrons will be able to pick up sweets to satisfy their sugar dreams in an expanded store, and possibly from an expanded line. But from a long-time fan: More apple-bacon cupcakes please!

Q&A

What is your comfort food?
My comfort food is soup dumplings at the House of Fortune restaurant in McLean! Also Fluffy Thought's blondies!

What has been the greatest influence on your cooking?

My mom has always been the greatest influence. Ever since I was young I always loved watching her cook in the kitchen and tried to help in every way I could.

What is your favorite ingredient?

Garlic. I love to use garlic in everything I make, except cakes.

Which is your favorite restaurant?

Miyagi sushi in McLean.

What's in your fridge at home?

Yellow and orange tomatoes, kale and spinach from the farmers' market, mangoes and avocados, I'm on a diet.

Recipe

Lara Stuckey's Yellow Cake

1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups sugar

4 large eggs

3 cups cake flour, sifted

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract

Bring all ingredients to room temperature.

Preheat convection oven to 325. Grease two 9-inch cake pans.

Beat sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Combine milk and vanilla. Add flour mixture to the egg mixture alternating with the milk mixture, starting with the flour and ending with the flour. Pour batters evenly into the 2 pans.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cakes cool completely. Flip out of pans and fill and frost with your favorite butter cream recipe.

*Variation: Caramel Cake: substitute 1? 3/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar instead of granulated sugar and cream lightly with the butter.

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