Contest Winning Coconut Cookies

Contest Winning Coconut Cookies | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

These Contest Winning Coconut Cookies are from the Great Minnesota Cookie Book by Rick Nelson and Lee Svitak Dean. I often bake from books written by other bakers I admire, but sometimes inspiration comes, not from the professionals, but from our neighbors.  The recipes they grew up baking, from their family traditions, have been time tested and in this case, have won first prize in the Star Tribune Holiday Cookie Contest. That is what this book is all about; real people, baking their hearts out and winning prizes. I love Mounds Bar candies (one of my favorite Halloween candy), which this cookie was inspired by, so this one grabbed my attention. I have a coconut macaroon recipe that is in constant rotation at the holidays, but I am always looking for something new to add to my repertoire. This recipe is super simple and full of coconut goodness. Rick Nelson graciously gave me permission to share the recipe from the book (Snowball Clippers recipe submitted by Becky Varone) with you and you can watch me make them in my instagram video.

I’ve had lots of requests for vegan recipes and I thought this one would be a perfect and easy one to make both gluten-free and vegan, so I have added my notes on how to do that.  (more…)

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Coconut Panna Cotta with Tropical Sorbet

Coconut Panna Cotta with Tropical Sorbet | ZoeBakes photos by Zoë François

Inspiration can come from the craziest of places, including a nail salon. My friend and I were having our nails done when a man carrying stacks and stacks of baskets filled with Rambutan (see the pictures of the fruit and my sassy pedicure on instagram), a tropical fruit related to Lychee, walked in to sell them. Apparently he drives in from Florida with a truck full of fruit on a monthly basis and we just happened to hit it right this time. So, we walked out with sassy toes and 10 pounds of Rambutan. What was I to do with 10 pounds of this unusual fruit? I headed straight to Instagram and asked my community there what they would do. Sorbet and panna cotta came up several times, so, here you go, my interpretation of those suggestions, Coconut Panna Cotta with Tropical Sorbet.

I added the caramel spiral to the top when I heard that Aretha Franklin passed away. During my very first job in catering, back in the 1990s, we catered a charity event at the Viking’s Stadium for 3000 people and Aretha Franklin was performing. It was the one and only time I saw her and I will never, ever, ever forget it. I have no idea what the dessert was, likely an opera torte or something equally regal to serve such a legend, but I do remember with painful clarity that we had to make 3000 sugar spirals to balance on top. They are not hard to make (you can watch me do it in the instagram video), but they are a tricky dance of timing and they’re as delicate as paper thin crystal. And, don’t get me started on sugar decor and humidity. It was a level of stress that only the craziest of people thrive on. After we put down the last plate of dessert we ran to watch Aretha in her fur coat sing to the angels and all the stress of that event melted away!

To watch me put this all together head over to my instagram videos. (more…)

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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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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.

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Coconut Cream Cake with Toasted Meringue Frosting

Coconut Cream Cake with Toasted Meringue Frosting

I first posted this Coconut Cream Cake recipe 6 years ago and have made it several times since. It is always a crowd pleaser, partly because of the meringue topping, all done up like curls that remind me of Phyllis Diller and because it is just delicious. Decadent pastry cream full of coconut layered between coconut cream cake. It just seems to have the right balance of whimsy and sophistication. Liz Banfield is a photographer I have long admired on Instagram and she came over to capture the making and baking of the coconut cream cake. I have the honor of using Liz’s gorgeous photos for this post. I first became familiar with her work when I did a wedding cake she photographed for Martha Stewart. Her work is stunning and she is a delight.  (more…)

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Chocolate Caramel Matzo for Passover (Updated!)

Chocolate Caramel Matzo with a Variety of Toppings | Photo by Zoë François

This year I added a little extra flavor power to classic chocolate caramel matzo. I made a triple batch to make sure I could send gift bags home after the seder. All the toppings were a hit, but the toasted sesame seeds with the milk or dark chocolate is my new favorite.

Every Passover I make this chocolate caramel matzo recipe from Marcy Goldman’s classic book A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking. When I was growing up I loved matzo with butter or my mother’s matzo brei, but as a dessert it never inspired me. Until my friend and co-author Jeff introduced me to Marcy Goldman’s recipe she calls: “My Trademark, most requested, absolutely magnificent caramel matzoh crunch!” Despite the main ingredient being matzo it satisfied my craving for a decadent dessert at Passover. The candy was met with rave reviews and is now part of our tradition along with the fruit pâtes. It really is magnificent and a bit addictive, which is why I save it for Passover! (more…)

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