Ultimate Carrot Cake!

carrot cake (12 of 10)

My Ultimate Carrot Cake first made an appearance on ZoëBakes in 2008, and it has remained one of my most popular posts. I have made this carrot cake many, many times since then and tweaked the recipe, as I am apt to do, every time I make it. After all the experiments, this is the recipe I have come to like the best. The changes are subtle, because the original was pretty spot on, but this version wins.

You can watch me make, bake and decorate this carrot cake in my Instagram video.
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Homemade Yogurt (Plain and Fruit)

How to make homemade yogurt, plain or with fruit | photo by Zoë François

I find myself digging into the past recently and finding recipes. My grandmother’s rugelach, cheese blintzes from the Kiev restaurant (a childhood favorite) and fresh homemade yogurt my mom used to make. We lived on a commune in VT, where we grew our own vegetables and raised a cow for dairy. Everything was local and organic, because if we didn’t produce it, we couldn’t afford it. My mom was the one to milk the cow, which she then made into homemade yogurt, butter and cheese. The flavor of that homemade yogurt, made from fresh milk, was divine. 48 years later, in Minneapolis we are allowed to keep chickens, but the city hasn’t approved urban dairy cows, so I just buy milk for making yogurt. Not as romantic, but still tasty.

How to make homemade yogurt, plain or with fruit | photo by Zoë François

Now that I have started making my own, I may never buy yogurt again. Homemade yogurt is so easy and has such an incredible flavor. Even my boys like it better. I happen to love it plain and tangy, but I’ll also put a layer of preserves on the bottom when I am in the mood for something a bit sweeter.

All you need is milk (you choose the fat content), a bit of heavy cream (if you’re feeling decadent) and some plain yogurt to get started.  (more…)

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Rhubarb and Brown Butter Tart

Rhubarb and Brown Butter Tart | photo by Zoë François

After an epic winter, rhubarb is what gives us hope and the will to live. It is the first delicious sign that we have survived another test of winter. I would love it for that reason alone, but I also love the tart flavor. I am aware that there are people who are not big fans of rhubarb. If you find yourself in this camp of thought, I dare to suggest that you will love this rhubarb and brown butter tart from the newest volume of Bake from Scratch. The tartness of the rhubarb is perfect balanced by the rich, sweet, slightly nutty browned butter filling and it is all held together by a perfectly tender crust. I made the tart and as soon as I was done photographing it, my family swooped in and devoured it within minutes. This is such high praise. My family members are no strangers to dessert and it takes some effort to impress them. This one did just that.

In the book they make individual tartlets, but I don’t have enough tartlet pans to pull that off so I made one large rectangular tart. You can watch me make my version of this Rhubarb and Brown Butter Tart in my instagram videos. (more…)

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Tres Leches

Tres Leches Cake | Photo by Zoë François

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 tres leches cake, check out my instagram video. Recipe is below.

Tres Leches Cake and The Perfect Cake cookbook | Photo by Zoë François

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.

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Butterscotch Pot de Crème (and Pumpkin Version for Fall)

Butterscotch Pot de Crème | Photo by Zoë François

I developed this butterscotch pot de crème recipe for Tilia‘s dessert menu. Steven Brown, the chef/owner wanted a turbo charged version of the butterscotch pudding from his childhood. We went with a Pot de crème, which is essentially as decadent as creme brulee, without the crack of caramel resting on top. The texture is like silk and the taste is lightly sweet, with just a slight bitter edge from the burnt sugar in the butterscotch. Cooking the butter and brown sugar together until it is smokin’ hot (and I do mean smoking) is the key to the flavor. If you don’t bring them to the brink of burning the pudding will be way too sweet for my taste. The crème fraîche (young sour cream) is unsweetened and the perfect balance for the pudding. If you don’t happen to live near Linden Hills (a small village of a neighborhood in Minneapolis), where you can order this at Tilia, you can now make it at home.

You can watch me make this Buttercotch Pot de Crème on my instagram stories.
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Flan

flan (12 of 6)

Flan is one of my youngest son’s favorite desserts. He orders it whenever it is available and often requests it for his birthday. I haven’t made a flan is a long time, and promised him it would be my next post, so here it is. Now that I’ve made it, I can’t believe I don’t do it more often. So easy and delicious. Flan is a creamy custard that is bound by lots of whole eggs and can be silky smooth if baked just right. The trick is to bake it in a water bath until it is just set like jello, then take it out before the proteins in the eggs cook too tight and get rubbery. It is super simple, but takes knowing what to look for. You can watch me make it in my instagram video, so you’ll know the signs of a perfect flan.

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