Chocolate Birthday Cake

chocolate cake(10 of 9)

When the Sunday New York Times Magazine opened to Dorie Greenspan’s chocolate cake, I said out loud, “I guess I know what I’m baking next!” To say I am a fan of Dorie’s is such a gross understatement. I am generally not one to worship celebrities, but Dorie is an exception. I have been a fan of hers since she wrote the Baking with Julia book with Julia Child. That book came out around the same time I had gone off to the CIA and it was the first book I baked my way through. Well, I’d gotten pretty far through Lee Bailey’s Country Desserts several years earlier, but with mixed results. Dorie was writing books with other chefs at the time and I came across her again in a lecture hall at the CIA, when Pierre Hermes was there doing a demo from his pastry book, Desserts by Pierre Herme, also written by Dorie. She may not have been in the front of house, to use a restaurant metaphor, but I noticed that she was writing all the books I wanted to read. Later she stepped into the spotlight with her own books and, well, I need not explain what an impact she has had on the baking community ever since.

The article that accompanied her chocolate cake was about baking it for her son’s birthday. My son’s birthday is also in May and we were just about to celebrate it belatedly, so it just felt like a no brainer. You can watch me bake Dorie’s Cake in my Instagram videos and below is the link to the recipe. I added a layer of dulce de leche cream to my cake, since I had some laying about and it seemed a nice pairing with the chocolate cake. (more…)

Read More

Tres Leches

Tres Leches(10 of 10)

Tres Leches Cake is a light sponge cake that is soaked with three kinds of milk: sweetened condensed, evaporated and heavy cream (milk-ish enough to count), hence the name. Today is Cinco de Mayo and this cake seemed just the thing to celebrate with. It’s a rather simple cake, both in it’s presentation and in the making of it. Just bake a sheet cake, soak it and cover in whipped cream. I added a layer of cinnamon for the intensity of flavor and because I like how it looks. The recipe is from the newest cookbook by the America’s Test Kitchen folks, The Perfect Cake. As is suggested in their name, they test the living day lights out of every recipe they print, so I always trust they will work. The book is filled with the how’s and why’s of baking cakes, so you understand what you are up to while baking. You know how I love a good tutorial on baking, so this is right up my alley. It’s a great book and covers all the basics of cake baking.

The only place I went off script was in the whipped cream topping. I had a little bit of homemade creme fraiche left over from my Pot de Creme, so I added it to the whipping cream and made a slightly more decadent topping. I also wanted a slightly thicker layer of the cream, so the creme fraiche stretched it for me. Then I dusted with cinnamon, which is not required, but it’s delicious.

To watch me make the cake, check out my instagram video. Recipe is below.

Tres Leches(8 of 1)

GIVEAWAY: The America’s Test Kitchen said I could give away a copy of their wonderful book to my readers, so I am going to do just that. Leave me a comment below about your favorite cake and you will be entered to win. The giveaway is limited to the USA only.

(more…)

Read More

Cinnamon & Cajeta Cake

cajeta cake (10 of 3)

This week I finished the second round of edits on my new book. That’s about half way through the process, but it still felt like a reason to celebrate. I like to celebrate, even the small stuff. Why wait? Celebrate along the way, since the process is the whole reason I do this. Cake seemed the right way to mark the moment. A slightly-over-the-top cake at that. Piping icing into flowers is a zen moment for me, it’s how I relax and the results are so satisfying.

The inside of the cake is a collection of things I had stocked up in my freezer, because I always feel a little more secure knowing there is a cake just a thaw away. I typically bake extra cake layers and make more buttercream than I need for a single cake, then I freeze them. This may be a result of years in the catering world, when a rush order would come in and we’d have to create something in minutes, not hours. Cake and buttercream freeze like a dream.

cajeta cake slice (9 of 2)

The cake is chocolate, the buttercream I flavored with cinnamon and for the filling I made cajeta flavored mascarpone cream. Cajeta is often called “Mexican Caramel,” even though it’s not really caramel at all, but a reduction of goat milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and baking soda. You cook it low and slow for a couple of hours until it is both the color and consistency of caramel. The baking soda (an alkaline) reacts with the milk (slightly acidic) and it quickly darkens. Without the addition of baking soda the milk/sugar would have to actually caramelize (burn) to darken and that’s not what we want. You can watch me make the cajeta and this entire cake in my instagram stories.

Cajeta has an earthy flavor that I love, but it definitely tastes of goat milk. It is related to the dulce de leche and is made in the exact same way, so you can swap out the cajeta for the cow milk version if you’re not a fan of goat milk. Or, you can combine the two types of milk to mellow out the flavor a bit. You decide.

(more…)

Read More

Chocolate Bundt with White Chocolate-Raspberry Cream

Chocolate raspberry bundt (10 of 9)

This Brilliant Bundt Pan is my recent favorite piece of kitchen equipment. It is so elegant and fun. A simple cake baked in it really is worthy of standing alone on a pedestal. However, I decided to gild the lily and add white chocolate raspberry cream to the inside. It is a perfect party cake (Mother’s Day is coming up or just a Tuesday will do). To create this, you’ll want a cake that has a bit of body to it, so I picked a chocolate cake that was developed especially for the bundt pan from the trusted folks at Bake from Scratch. Then I wanted something creamy and bright in the middle. Adding white chocolate to whipped cream will stabilize it and allow it to keep it’s shape when cut into slices. To get the flavor of raspberries, without adding a ton of extra liquid to the cream was a challenge, but I think I found a pretty clever solution.

You can watch me make this cake in my Instagram stories. It really is a fun format for me to create instructional videos and I hope you’ll join instagram to see them, if you haven’t already. I’m not sure you can view the older videos, that live in my highlight archives from a computer, you may have to do that from your phone.  I am trying to figure out how to convert the videos to Youtube, but haven’t found a graceful way to do that yet. I will let you know as soon as I do. So much technology, so little time. (more…)

Read More

Carrot Cupcakes (from The Minimalist Kitchen)

Minimalist carrot cupcakes | Zoe Bakes(11 of 5)

If you’ve ever seen my kitchen tour on instagram, you’ll know that I am not a minimalist. The abundance  just sort of happened. I’ve lived a full life and gathered stuff along the way. Too much stuff, perhaps. I just got Melissa Coleman’s (thefauxmartha) beautiful new book and I am determined to declutter, downsize and minimalize my kitchen (and eventually my whole house). I vow to go through each cabinet and keep only what is essential. The rest I will donate or pass along to the next owner. The other thing that is wonderful about her book and philosophy is the way she approaches a recipe. Use as few utensils and equipment as possible. In my instagram video of this recipe, I did just that. I tried to stick to the two bowls she recommends and even chose one with a spout, so I could just pour the batter out, instead of using a spoon to scoop. It’s amazing to be so conscious of what is crucial and what is just extra. I normally live in the “extra” zone, but now I will be more mindful.

I adore carrot cake. It’s one of my favorite desserts. This recipe is delicate and less hippie than my go to, so it was fun to try Melissa’s sophisticated take on the classic. The mascarpone frosting is so good I had to keep my whole family from eating all before I could pipe it onto the cupcakes. Melissa has kindly given me permission to share her lovely recipe with you here. I also have a video of making them on my instagram page.

(more…)

Read More

Raspberry Custard Tart (Flan Parisien)

Raspberry Custard Tart | Zoe Francois(3 of 6)

This is a wonderful tart filled with vanilla custard. It’s one that you’ll find in every patisserie in Paris, but have likely never come across here in the states. Its rustic simplicity it exactly the kind of pastry I love. It’s really quite easy to create; a tart dough (this recipe uses a bit of potato flour, which makes it even more tender, because there is less gluten to get excited and tough) that goes up the sides of a ring mold baked with a pastry cream. I added raspberries to give it a bit more character, some tartness and they’re just pretty.  (more…)

Read More