Cake Baker’s Apprentice (Chocolate Pretzel Crunch Cake and Pavlovas)

Chocolate Pretzel Cake (Matt Lien Photography) | ZoeBakes 10

It’s really not that unusual for someone to leave a panicked comment saying they have offered to make the cake for their best friend’s wedding. I salute them and hope their BFF knows exactly what a loving gesture it is. My friend Molly asked me to help her come up with a dessert for her best friend’s big day. Molly is a gifted writer, a brilliant adventurer and has the wit and wisdom to keep Andrew Zimmern in line on their shared podcast, Go Fork Yourself, but she is NOT a baker. So, this request was done in a tone of slight trepidation. Besides working with Andrew she also has a blog called Hey Eleanor, where she chronicles overcoming of her greatest fears. She’s jumped out of a plane, bungeed off a bridge, she did stand up comedy (that’s what my nightmares are made of), quit her job and got married (her husband is awesome, so not much risk there). We’d always talked about baking together for her blog, but why not up the ante by trying to create something extra special for her friend’s most important day. No pressure there. We settled on a rather ambitious menu of individual chocolate pretzel crunch cakes and a rose scented pavlova with lemon curd and berries. She did an absolutely fantastic job, as she does with everything.

Chocolate Pretzel Cake (Matt Lien Photography) | ZoeBakes 09

Our journey in the kitchen was captured by Matt Lien. I spotted his photos on Facebook after he shot Sameh Wadi’s cookbook, The New Mediterranean Table. I immediately contacted Matt to gush over his gorgeous work and figure out a way to work together on something, anything.  That was just weeks ago and he was game to come over and play in the kitchen with Molly and me. These images perfectly capture how much fun we had and how easily Molly conquered her fear of baking. (Matt had to leave before we were finished, so the pictures of the final desserts are mine, which will be painfully obvious.)

Chocolate Pretzel Cake | ZoeBakes (photo Matt Lien) 01

Chocolate Pretzel Cakes

pavlova | ZoeBakes 01

Pavlova

Follow her adventure and maybe you’ll offer to make your friend’s wedding desserts, or a birthday cake.

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Chocolate covered Coffee Toffee and my Birthday Cake!

Today is my birthday. I am a woman of a certain age and I think it is worthy of celebrating, so I made one of my favorite candies, chocolate covered toffee, with a hit of coffee. I never buy Health Heath Bars, but every year I manage to convince my boys to give me them from their Halloween bags. This year was no different. Then on my travels for the book tour I ended up with the ultimate version, which has completely ruined me to the Hershey’s product. Not so sweet, a powerful kick of coffee and really lovely bittersweet chocolate. The maker is Poco Dolce and Samantha at Omnivore Books in San Fran turned me onto them after our book signing there. I love her and hate her for that! I bought several varieties and all them were delicious, but the little bag of coffee toffee was like a bag of chips, you can’t eat just one. I brought them home and considered not sharing with my husband, but after leaving him at home for 9 days with the boys I figured it was the least I could do to share my candies. Big mistake, he ate them all, well not really, but they were gone. I had only one choice, make my own. It is surprisingly easy and perfect for wrapping up as holiday gifts or just hiding in your desk drawer, or both.

Every year my husband and my boys set off on the loving task of baking my birthday cake. This year my husband out did himself and made a devil’s food cake with cream cheese icing and a fresh raspberry filling. You can see his lovely work at the end of the post. (more…)

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