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Lake Merritt Gardens leads to Lavender Donuts

To experience pleasure through our senses is critical to health and well being.  I know that I often take my five senses for granted.  I try to focus on small pleasures in the form of sight, sound, taste, touch and smell; it is an exercise in slowing down.  I move so fast on a daily basis, to take just 5 minutes can rejuvenate and reenergize me.  Since I have been trying to focus on slowing down recently, lavender has been on my mind.  It has always been one of my favorite scents; its ability to help with relaxation and sleep is why I use drops of its essential oil at bedtime.  A recent trip to The Gardens At Lake Merritt with the kids was an opportunity to visit the lavender varieties in the sensory garden, and to allow all my senses the opportunity to find pleasure.  While lavender’s scent induces calm and its little purple flowers add pops of color in perennial form, its flavor is a quality I hadn’t considered.  Honey, tea and herbes de Provence are ways in which lavender can make its way to our palete, but I was curious about how to use it in baking.  During my recent visit to Oaktown Spice Shop I saw bags of the little dried flowers and decided to try my hand at baked donuts.

The Gardens At Lake Merritt are a seven acre oasis in the heart of Oakland, tucked inside Lakeside Park.  Created over fifty years ago, the gardens are actually a collection of eleven different themed gardens that are maintained by a combination of volunteers and City of Oakland gardening staff.  Focused on leading by example through demonstration, the projects in process throughout the spaces teach the community about the value of garden habitat in our city, and beyond.  Each garden offers opportunity to enlighten your senses.  From the color palettes, to the scents, to the sounds of bees, fountains, and hummingbirds, The Gardens At Lake Merritt are a perfect spot to take time to seek pleasure.

LM Garden 20

LM Garden 1

LM Garden 8

LM Garden 3

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LM Garden 2

LM Garden 4

LM Garden 5

The kids and I meandered our way through.  We looked for bees in the bee hotel, checked out the vegetables in the raised beds of the edible garden, and watched the turtles putter around the pond.  As we made our way through the circular path of the sensory garden I was able to enjoy the varieties of lavender in bloom.

LM Garden 10

LM Garden 9

LM Garden 7

LM Garden 11

LM Garden 17

LM Garden 18

LM Garden 16

LM Garden 19

LM Garden 15

LM Garden 14

LM Garden 12

LM Garden 13

The next day I pulled out my new donut pan and got to work mixing up a batch of lavender donuts, enhanced with lemon and a sprinkling of vanilla sea salt, also from Oaktown Spice Shop.  The full recipe is at the bottom of the post, along with a few tips based on my learnings.

Lavender 1

Lavender 2

Lavender 3

Lavender 4

Lavender 5

Lavender 6

Lavender 8

Overall, I was pleased with the results.  The donuts were quite moist compared to a standard cake donut, even a day later.  It is worth noting that you really do need to be OK with the flavor of lavender to enjoy these.  I adjusted the amount of lavender down from the recipe I adapted, yet they were still too strong for my husband’s taste.  I may try more adaptations in the future, possibly a simple vanilla bean donut, or a coconut version.

Lavender Lemon Donuts with Lemon Glaze and Vanilla Sea Salt
(adapted from ever clever mom recipe)
Yield is approximately 6 donuts, I had a bit of the batter leftover

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon zest
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup whole milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
2 TB of dried lavender

1 cup of powdered sugar, sifted
3-4 TB of lemon juice

Vanilla sea salt for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Grease your donut pan lightly with coconut oil, or spray
Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt
Whisk together sour cream, coconut oil, milk, lemon zest, egg, vanilla, and dried lavender
Stir wet ingredients into dry until combined
Spoon mixture into a piping bag or a large ziplock bag (cut corner off after filled)
Pipe mixture into each cavity of donut pan, fill about 2/3-3/4 of the way (they will rise)
Bake approximately 10-12 minutes (mine took 12 minutes)
Cool slightly in pan, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely
While they are cooling, whisk together your powdered sugar and lemon juice for glaze
Once the donuts are completely cool, dip one side in the glaze and then set on a rack (they will drip)
Sprinkle with vanilla sea salt, if desired


I hope you are able to take time to focus on the simple pleasures you senses can bring you.  Taking just a moment to taste, listen, smell, see, and touch the world around you brings connection, calm, and pleasure; good things for health and well being.

The Gardens At Lake Merritt are located at 666 Bellevue Avenue Oakland, CA 94610
Open daily from 9:00am-5:30pm.  Entry is FREE.
More information about the gardens can be found here.


PS: Tomorrow, June 3rd, is NATIONAL DONUT DAY!  More local donut fun to come tomorrow…


All photos by Adrienne Schell




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