It was almost midnight when Sandra found her son Aaron bustling around the kitchen, looking to satisfy a late-night sweet craving. Cooking had been one of the family's shared passions for decades, so it was only a matter of moments before Sandra joined Aaron in digging through old cupcake recipes and experimenting with flavors and frosting. With the counters covered in sweets, the snack craving thoroughly satisfied, and the Sandman growing impatient, the two went to bed, only to awaken the next day and share their midnight creations with family and friends. The reaction was overwhelming. The mother-son team quickly found themselves baking for so many birthday parties and special events that they decided to start a business, eventually earning a spot on Baltimore magazine's list of Our Favorite Cupcakes.
At Midnite Confection?s Cupcakery, Sandra and Aaron continue to channel the enthusiasm and inventiveness they felt that first night. Their selection of more than 40 sweet treats includes signature flavors, such as birthday cake and a carrot-cake cupcake with organic carrots and a bit of pineapple, but also changes to include seasonal favorites. They also top their creations with decadent spreads such as whipped-pistachio or Grand Marnier?tinged icing. Although these handheld snacks are available at the store, Midnite Confection's food truck also travels the streets, spreading cupcakes to working folks.
Armed with just a single, generations-old cookie recipe, Great American Cookies opened its first store in 1977, and the rest is history. Today, the franchise boasts locations in malls across the country and nabbed a coveted spot on Entrepreneur magazine?s 2012 Top 500 Franchises in the baked-goods category. As the shop?s reputation grew, so did its menu as chefs churned out a mouthwatering roster of gourmet-cookie recipes, each created and carefully tested in Atlanta. The tempting options now include snickerdoodle, peanut butter with M&Ms, and chewy pecan supreme, as well as freshly baked fudge and cheesecake brownies, and cookie sandwiches stuffed with frosting. The real show-stoppers, however, are the giant chocolate-chip cookie cakes, which can be customized with sweet, celebratory messages or shopping lists penned in colorful icing.
When Forever Yogurt claims that it has ?literally trillions of possibilities? for combining frozen-yogurt flavors and toppings, it is literally not kidding. At each location, some 16 flavors and 40 toppings challenge self-serve artists to twirl, sprinkle, and festoon cups of fro-yo to their own taste buds' content. Frozen masterpieces can accommodate preferences for low-fat, nonfat, nondairy, and no-sugar-added diets, as well as daily food-pyramid requirements for fresh blueberries, kiwi, and caramel-turtle cups.
Gifford's claim to deliciousness is in the production of rich and delicious ice cream and sorbets. The company's overlarge butterfly net catches ingredients from across the world, such as Swiss chocolate and vanilla extract from Madagascar, which are then mixed at local Gifford's locations for fresh ice cream. Choose from a dizzying array of flavors, including pistachio, chocolate marshmallow, roasted coconut, and caramel toffee swirl, to name just a few. Traditional cups and cones stack up at $3.75 for a single scoop, $4.75 for a double, and $5.65 for a triple. Gifford's seasonal ice cream flavors shift with the tide of time, and include such tasty oddities as banana Bailey's & cream, blueberry pomegranate, and cantaloupe. Savor delightfully traditional sundaes in waffle shells ($5.50) and classic banana splits ($6.95), far preferable to other ice creameries' ultrafuturistic sundaes made out of spools of film and wool overcoats.
The pastry chefs at Gone Cupcaking Across America share a wealth of gourmet cupcake experience with aspiring dessert artisans, in flavors that include whisked buttercream atop classic vanilla, chocolate, and red-velvet cake bases, and more exotic choices such as Grand Marnier or peaches 'n' cream. At lessons, students learn piping techniques, how to make frosting, and how to make iced flowers without the hassle of fertilizing regular flowers with milk and butter.
A coffee shop is a great place to get work done without being actively social but still feeling completely social. Use today's Groupon to be productive in the comfort of the crowd instead of alone at home. For $10, you get $20 toward anything edible and drinkable (does not include intangibly consumable events) at Peace & A Cup of Joe. You can snag up to three Groupons, which will be converted into gift cards the first time you head into the quaint, independent shop. These will act just as regular gift cards act, with composure and class. Groupons are also good toward daily specials.