So what have you been up to this summer? As you know, up until this past weekend, I had not fulfilled my summer quota of fun sunshiney activities — no beach, no pool, no picnic. With school looming ahead of me (teacher meetings start tomorrow), something had to be done. Quickly.
My friend Vada saved the day (er, the season?). We Jazzercise together and she invited me to join her and a group of her fun friends for a road trip. It was her friend Lori’s birthday and they were headed to Raffaldini Vineyards in Ronda, NC.
When she first suggested it, I wasn’t sure. I don’t drink, so what would I do at a vineyard? Would I end up counting grapes in the corner as everyone else played wine pong (that’s what they do at vineyards, right)? As it turns out, though, Vada doesn’t drink either, and she was certain it would still be fun. I’m up for fun! I told her to count me in.
Vada and Luca
I’m so glad I went, because it was fun. Turns out, vineyards are beautiful — or at least Raffaldini Vineyards certainly were! We drove about an hour out of Charlotte and suddenly it felt like we were in Italy. Vada’s friend Luca, our resident Italian, agreed that it reminded him of home — a nice stamp of authenticity. As promised, fun ensued.
First, we ate a lovely picnic on an outdoor patio overlooking the vineyards and mountains in the distance. The vineyards offered a whole menu of food you could purchase on-site, but I brought a little packed lunch to save money. I also brought this bright, summery Lemon Loaf Cake, which was moist and traveled so well. Vada, who is an absolutely extraordinary cake decorator, brought cupcakes along. We had quite a feast!
After our picnic, we took a brief tour of the vineyard, learning about the soil, growing practices, and types of grapes grown. While others enjoyed a wine tasting, Vada and I took a walk around the grounds and had a photo shoot. Finally, we took a tour of the winery and learned how the wines were made. It was so informative — not being a drinker, I tend to think of grapes as the basis of jelly and “tannin” as something you do at the beach. I learned a lot! The best part? The entire day only cost me $8 — and that included buying a bottled water on-site.
Vada’s gorgeous cupcakes and the quick Lemon Loaf Cake packed for traveling!
This one little day trip kind of made my summer! It was filled with sweet people, good food, beautiful surroundings. How about you? Does one event or activity this summer stand out as your favorite?
You can relive part of my end of summer fun by making this quick, simple loaf cake for yourself. It has a tangy, drenched lemon flavor that will help you kiss the summer days farewell.
Lemon Loaf Cake
Recipe by: Adapted from Ina Garten, using ideas from Two Peas and Their Pod
Yields: one 8-inch loaf
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt or sour cream
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest or 2 teaspoons lemon extract
1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/4 x 2 1/2-inch loaf pan (I use Wilton’s Cake Release). Line the bottom with parchment paper and butter and flour the entire pan.
Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together into a medium bowl. In a large bowl, whisk together yogurt, 1 cup of the sugar, eggs, lemon zest or extract, and vanilla. Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet, whisking to combine (I did this in 2-3 additions). Use a rubber spatula to fold the vegetable oil into the batter until it’s fully incorporated. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester stuck in the center of the loaf comes out clean.
While the cake is baking, combine the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.
When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing it and placing it on a baking rack over a sheet pan. Use a cake tester, wooden skewer, or toothpick to carefully pierce holes throughout the cake (I used a toothpick so the holes wouldn’t be too obvious, but a skewer might have made deeper holes in the cake, allowing more syrup to get through). While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool completely.
In a small bowl, combine the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice, whisking to form a smooth glaze. Pour over the cake. Slice and serve with fresh berries, whipped cream, or ice cream.
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