Best Ever Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Chocolate Zucchini Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

This Best Ever Chocolate Zucchini Cake post is from 2011, but the sentiment still stands, so I am not updating it. (8/19/18)

For the first time I understand why zucchinis are the butt of gardeners’ jokes. When I left town for my brother’s wedding in July, the zucchini plants were a spindly, weak vine with dozens of tender blossoms.  Two weeks later I returned home to find it had turned into a savage beast that took over precious real estate in the garden. My neighbor had kindly taken care of my urban farm while I was away and now my kitchen counter was also filled with zucchinis. The excitement of seeing the fruits of my labor laying there ripe and ready to eat, quickly turned to shock and concern.  I have never seen a vegetable, organic mind you, which grew to this size. It was larger than my children at birth; actually neither of the boys was this big until they were walking.  I opened the refrigerator and she had stuffed more in there. I panicked and did what every zucchini grower does; I tried to give them away. My neighbor explained that she had already taken all that she wanted for herself and I was not welcome near her home with even a single baby squash.

That is when I realized I had to disguise the vegetable and get rid of it in the form of tasty baked goods. This chocolate zucchini cake was inspired by one I ate while in college in Burlington, Vermont. I worked as a photo assistant, after classes at UVM and before my shifts at Ben & Jerry’s. One day we were shooting a spread for a magazine about using up the plethora of zucchinis from your garden. (The foreshadowing is not lost on me today.) A chocolate cake sat on pedestal and became the centerpiece of the shot. After our work was done we ate the spread of food and that cake blew my mind.  Not in a million years would you guess there was zucchini in it, and the result was moist, sweet, but not overly so, and intensely chocolate. I was a starving student and the generous baker wrapped the rest of the cake for me to take back to my dorm, along with the recipe. During one of my several moves that recipe was lost and this is the closest I have come to recreating it from distant memories.

You can watch me make and decorate this cake in my instagram video. Recipe below.

(more…)

Read More

Profiteroles

Choux Paste | Zoe Bakes(11 of 5)

Pâte à choux translates from French to mean “cabbage” in English. It is a far less romantic word, so we stick to the French. The truth is the puffs look just like little cabbages when piped and baked. Pâte à choux is the dough used for cream puffs (profiteroles) and eclairs. It is rich with butter and lots of eggs, but made light when those eggs expand in the oven and create hollow cavities, which are meant to be filled with anything from lobster to ice cream. I pretty much only think in terms of sweets, so I’ve gone with the latter. The ice cream is made with sour cream and lemon, so it is tangy and refreshing. I top it with glossy chocolate ganache and call it classically perfect.

The texture of your Pâte à choux will depend on what liquid you use. In culinary school we used whole milk, skim milk and water to compare what the fat and sugars of the milk would do to the dough. I prefer the taste of the whole milk, but the crisp texture of the water, so the skim milk is a good compromise. You can do the same experiment and determine which you prefer.

You can watch me make these profiteroles in the videos on my Instagram page(more…)

Read More

Birthday Cake

Chocolate birthday cake with cream cheese frosting | photo by Zoë François

Tomorrow is my son’s birthday and this is the cake he requested. My kids have always been opinionated about their birthday cakes, because I encouraged it. I like the challenge of creating something special for them. Chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting is a simple enough birthday cake, but he’s turning 17, so it needed to stand tall, just like him.

I LOVE my devil’s food cake and it will always be my go to, but in the name of research, I am always trying new recipes. I tried this one from Stella Parks, BRAVETART cookbook. She and I seem to have a similar philosophy about sweet. We want it to be there, because it’s a cake, but it shouldn’t hurt your teeth or be the dominant flavor. We also have a fondness for testing recipes and hers always work, which is something you’d think was a given in cookbooks, but sadly isn’t always the case. So far everything I’ve tried in this book has been spot on and delicious.

Her Devil’s Food cake is made in a saucepan. I was skeptical, but she nailed it. It’s dark, bitter (in a GREAT way) and moist. The milk chocolate whipped ganache is creamy and sweet, which pairs perfectly with the cake, just as she claims it will. Her cream cheese icing is made with pastry cream and has a rich, tangy taste and holds it’s shape WAY better than cream cheese icing made with powdered sugar. (more…)

Read More

Bûche de Noël ~ Christmas Yule Log

Bûche de Noël - Christmas Yule Log | Photo by Zoë François

This is a classic French dessert that is served at Christmas time. Bûche de Noël translates as the “Christmas Log” and is meant to look like the piece of wood you are about to toss into the fireplace. It is a rather odd tradition and yet I find myself making one every year. It always reminds me of the TV station that plays Christmas music and shows nothing but a burning log in a fireplace. I thought those were just memories of my long ago childhood, but I was amazed to see that the burning log still finds its place on YouTube even today.

Despite my unglamorous association there is something quite elegant and beautiful about the Bûche de Noël. According to Larousse Gastronomique the yule log cake tradition started in the 1870s when Parisian pastry chefs decided to replace the less elaborate brioche style fruit loaf with this more festive confection. Although I am quite partial to the Panettone style breads, I can see why pastry chefs created something a little more fussy to work on, that is just how we are!

If you came to this post through Instagram, you will see that this cake is slightly different than the one in my video, but the process is the same.

(more…)

Read More

Flourless Chocolate-Almond Torte for Passover

Flourless chocolate cake is a long-standing tradition on Passover. I have made several variations, but this one is far and away the most popular. It is made of several layers of a flourless chocolate-almond cake and bittersweet ganache. I make the whole thing without dairy, for those who keep to kosher laws, and you’ll never know the difference. It is one of the few times I use margarine and cream substitute and I promise it is absolutely divine.

The cake can be prepared in advance, wrapped well and refrigerator for a few days or frozen for a couple of weeks. This leaves you with less work to be done on Passover. Just decorate with some fresh berries and enjoy a slice of rich, chocolaty goodness after your dinner. (more…)

Read More

Pistachio Cake

pistachio cake | ZoeBakes (4 of 14)

Pistachio is my absolute favorite flavor of ice cream. When I traveled with my family to Italy, we did a whole lot of “research” on gelato. It was an informal, albeit thorough, study consisting of my sons trying every single flavor made in the country, while I stuck to a scoop of pistachio and one of espresso. Side by side, they are the perfect combination. I should know, because I ate it daily during our two weeks in Italy. This cake is based on that perfect marriage.

pistachio cake | ZoeBakes (2 of 14)

Pistachio cake, pistachio buttercream and a layer of espresso ganache.  (more…)

Read More