Chocolate Cherry Cake with Marsala Cream and a Book Giveaway

Chocolate Cherry Cake | zoebakes 09

There has been lots of conversation about grains recently. Many opinions and theories and personal stories about whether or not they should be eaten, and if so, which ones, and by whom. One of the voices I trust the most on the topic is Maria Speck. She is endlessly thoughtful and has meticulously researched the subject. You will see both a passionate and intellectual pursuit of delicious grain filled recipes in her latest book “simply ancient grains.” A few years ago I would have warned you that some of these grains are a bit challenging to find, but thanks to folks like Maria, these grains can be found in most grocery stores and easily had online.

Instead of summarizing Maria’s words on the subject of grains, I invite you not only to take a look at her beautiful book, but also to read the words she recently wrote in the Washington Post on the importance of grains.

simply ancient grains | Maria Speck

As I flipped through Maria’s book I was struck by this photograph by Erin Kunkel. I just knew this was the recipe I’d start with. The chocolate cake looked absolutely perfect baked in a loaf pan, but I wanted a slightly more festive presentation, so I took Maria’s exact recipe, but just baked it in cake pans instead. Your friends and family will never know that this cake is made with whole grain Kamut flour (more about that in a minute), they’ll just know it is chocolatey and delicious.

Maria has generously offered to give a copy of her book, simply ancient grains, to a randomly chosen winner. Just leave a note in the comments for a chance to win.

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Canelés de Bordeaux

caneles | zoebakes 17

These fluted confections are the official dessert of the Bordeaux region of France. I’ve tried several recipes for canelé and this one from Edd Kimber’s new book Patisserie Made Simple is the closest I have found to the real deal. The interior texture isn’t quite as dense, but the flavor is like a lovely, creamy custard that is rich with both vanilla and rum. The trick to success with making canelé is using copper molds lined with beeswax and butter. The less expensive silicone molds unfortunately don’t achieve the same crisp outer shell, which in my opinion is the whole reason to eat them.

The crêpe-like batter is simple to make, but the process is a touch fussy and requires a few days of planning. I don’t mean to scare you off, since the outcome is delicious and sometimes the best things in life are worth waiting for. But, to do canelé de Bordeaux justice, you must have patience and the right tools. (more…)

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Perfect Lemon Bundt Cake from Sarabeth’s

Lemon Pound Cake | ZoeBakes 04

There are a few basic recipes you can try in a cookbook to get a sense of the quality of the book. I always go for the banana bread, pound cakes or a classic Bundt. I know they sound too simple to give any indication of a chef’s worth, but the simple recipes are the hardest. They can’t hide behind icing or sauces. If they don’t stand perfect as they are, then chances are the rest of the recipes won’t either.

I recently got a copy of Sarabeth Levine’s newest book, Sarabeth’s Good Morning Cookbook. For those of you who don’t know Sarabeth, she is a pastry chef who has had an acclaimed restaurant in NYC for decades. I first visited Sarabeth’s when I was in high school in the 1980s. My aunt, Melissa, lived in Manhattan and I’d go into the city from Connecticut to visit her. Brunch at Sarabeth’s became our tradition. I remember having a popover and marmalade for the first time and I was in love. Both the popovers and a Mandarin Orange spread are in her cookbook, but I haven’t gotten to them yet.

The lemon Bundt cake is perfect. It is the most delicate texture and rich flavor. I had rather small lemons and wanted it to be an intense flavor, so I added more zest. I also had a chunk of ginger on hand, so I added it to the lemon soaking syrup, but otherwise the recipe is all Sarabeth.  (more…)

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Rainbow Chip Cake!

Rainbow Chip Cake 08

It just takes a tweet to get a company like General Mills to realize they’ve made a big mistake. Ok, the tweet has to come from Katy Perry and then be backed up by the frosting evangelist, Benjamin Johnson, who started a change.org campaign and got 7,000 Rainbow Chip Frosting fans to petition its return. Betty Crocker heard the call and is bringing back the well missed confection, after removing it from the shelves 2 years ago. I got to be a part of this historic frosting moment. I was invited to a surprise party for Benjamin at the Betty Crocker test kitchen to celebrate his victory.

I didn’t grow up with this frosting, but Katy Perry and Benjamin did. (My folks were trying to pass off raisins as candy during those formative years.) However, based on the outcry for the frosting’s return, (people were actually paying hundreds of dollars for cans of it on ebay), I suspect many of you remember it too. Well, you’re in luck, (more…)

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Coffee Caramel Tres Leches

coffee caramel tres leches | ZoeBakes 11

This is a mashup of a classic Mexican cake and the Vietnamese ice coffee I am so addicted to. The connection is the sweetened condensed milk that is the foundation for both. Tres Leches (three milks) is a cake soaked with cream, evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk. Vietnamese ice coffee is made with the strongest coffee on earth mixed with sweetened condensed milk and poured over ice.

I made a coffee caramel milk syrup to soak the cake with and then topped it with a coffee whipped cream. Tres Leches by nature can be a bit sweet, but the coffee cream toned down the sugar and added a slight bitterness, which I found to be perfection. My family ate half the cake while I was at pottery class and then polished it off for breakfast the next morning, which just happened to me Cinco de Mayo.

coffee caramel tres leches | ZoeBakes 13 (more…)

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“Outrageous Brownies”

Brownies ZB 12

30 years ago my dear friend, Sally, gave me a copy of Lee Bailey’s Country Desserts. At the moment neither of us realized how significant that gift would be in my life. It was way before Pinterest and the endless blogs filled with impossibly gorgeous recipes. Who am I kidding, it was before the internet. I had that one cookbook and a shitty student apartment kitchen to bake in. I made almost every recipe in the book and as a result learned how to make everything from cookies, cakes, pudding and even candy, but these brownies were the best thing in the whole book. I would splurge on really good chocolate, which meant something beyond Hershey’s. God only knows what brand it was back then, but I remember spending my entire food budget on chocolate, nuts and butter just to make them. I must have survived on rice cakes and peanut butter for the rest of the week.

30 years later it is still the only brownie recipe I make. I’m pretty good about not eating a bowl of cake batter or cookie dough, but these brownies are a different story. I’m powerless to their seduction, so I can’t make them often.  (more…)

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