Churros with Chocolate Sauce

I’ve never made Churros with Chocolate Sauce before today! There aren’t many desserts that I have enjoyed at a restaurant, that I didn’t immediately come home and make. How has it taken me this long to realize how easy and delicious they are to make at home. The Churros with Chocolate Sauce recipes from Husbands That Cook, the new book by Ryan Alvarez and Adam Merrin are fantastic and couldn’t be easier. They make a very simple pate a choux (same dough used for eclairs, profiteroles and croquembouche), which is then fried until crisp. The dough itself is not sweetened and they even suggest serving it with a savory soup, which is brilliant. Given my love affair with sweets, I dredged mine in cinnamon sugar and paired it with their lovely, thick, rich, decadent hot chocolate sauce and a bit of cajeta I had on hand.

You can watch me make this lovely recipe from Husbands That Cook in my Instagram video and they graciously let me share the recipe with you here. (more…)

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Cherry Blossom Cake

Cherry Blossom Cake | zoebakes photo by Zoë François 

The magic trick of cake decorating was revealed to me 16 years ago when I attended a week long class at the Wilton School of Cake Decorating and Confectionery Art outside of Chicago. Anyone who loves cake and piping icing knows the Wilton name and reaches for their products to get the job done. I was beyond thrilled and honored when they asked me to try out their new line of products, Texturra Performance Bakeware and Versa-Tools, and create a signature dessert using them. This Cherry Blossom Cake came to me instantly, because I wanted to utilize the piping skills I learned from their classes all those years ago. I had just been on a trip to NYC and the cherry trees were in full bloom with their sweet, delicate blossoms. The inside of the cake is a spiral of sponge cake, which I baked in the new Texturra Performance baking sheet. Since they claim it is truly non-stick, I tested it by skipping the parchment paper. This is not something I would usually do, since parchment is the insurance policy, I rely on to make sure my cakes don’t glue themselves to the pan. The Wilton promise was spot on, the cake released from the unlined Texturra pan with ease, rendering the extra parchment unnecessary. For avid bakers, you know how exciting this is. 

I filled the sponge cake with a simple whipped cream and cherry sauce. This is where the new multi-functional Versa-Tools came in handy. I used them to make the filling, spread it, roll the cake and even decorate the sides. They are flexible, useful and multipurpose, which is everything you want in a kitchen tool. 

For the flowers I piped a simple cherry blossom with lemon royal icing and stuck them to the buttercream covered cake. There are a few steps to this Cherry Blossom Cake, but it is such a fun project and the results are stunning. 

You can watch me make this cake start to finish in my Instagram video and the recipe below.

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Rhubarb Berry Crumble

Rhubarb Berry Crumble | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

I wait all winter long for the rhubarb to pop up, signaling spring has arrived. Then, way too fast, the precious plants are bolting and done for the season. In a panic I pick all the rhubarb from my dad’s garden to bake it and freeze the stalks for a treat later in the year. My dad delivered rhubarb this weekend, on the same day I received Sarah Copeland’s dreamy new book, Every Day is Saturday. Her recipes are simple enough for Tuesday dinner, but festive enough to serve at a weekend party. I went immediately for the Rhubarb Berry Crumble, because it is one of my most treasured desserts. In fact, if I had to pick ONE favorite dessert, I would say anything rhubarb and baked into a crumble is always a winner. Sarah’s version is just the right amount of sweet, to take the edge off the puckery pink vegetable, but still tart enough to be true to rhubarb’s best quality. Her crumble is buttery and rich, which is a perfectly balanced partnership with the filling. My only issue with the recipe is that it wasn’t large enough to have leftovers for breakfast. Luckily, she gives instructions for making a bigger batch, so you can have it for dessert or breakfast or both! 

I made a batch of vanilla ice cream and swirled some raspberry jam into it for the top. Whipped cream or just a drizzle of cream would work beautifully as well. You can watch me make this Rhubarb Berry Crumble in my instagram video and recipe below. (more…)

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Silver Ombre Cake (banana & chocolate layer cake)

Silver Ombre Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

This Silver Ombre Cake was inspired by the arrival of Tessa Huff’s new book, Icing on the Cake. I’ve always been intrigued by cakes with the gradient shades of frosting, otherwise known as ombre. In her new book, Tessa shows us how it’s done, along with ALL her tricks of the trade she used in her California bakery. I made my ombre cake for Mother’s Day and was inspired by the silver hair I have developed from raising two fantastic boys! Hahaha. I’ve earned every strand and celebrate my grey hair with tremendous pride and honor at having lived a life that was full of challenge and joy. So, the cake is a reflection of my love of being a mom and celebrating being a woman of a certain age. And, it’s just so pretty! 

I had the great fortune of meeting Tessa while I was in LA last week. She is so lovely and it was a joy to meet the woman who creates the beautiful cakes. You can see a picture of us below. We were also joined by Adam and Ryan, who also have a new book, Husbands That Cook, which I’ll dive into next! 

Silver Ombre Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

The decorating is the real star on this cake and in Tessa’s book, but she provides her tried and true recipes for cakes, pies, cookies and anything else you can decorate. I used layers of my banana and devil’s food cakes, separated by a layer of a chocolate icing as the foundation. You can watch me create the ombre finish for the cake in my instagram video and recipes below.  (more…)

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Chocolate Fudge Cake with Strawberry Salsa and Candied Flowers

Chocolate Fudge Cake with Strawberry Salsa and Candied Flowers | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

Chocolate Fudge Cake with Strawberry Salsa and Candied Flowers. It’s been several years, closer to two decades, since I worked in a professional kitchen as a pastry chef. After all those years, I still miss it. Every time I eat at a great restaurant, I wish I was in the kitchen to watch them create the magic. It is magical, but it’s also a crazy amount of work and a super-charged and stressful environment. I left that world shortly after my first son was born (yesterday was his 20th birthday), because it is a hard life on a young family. The hours are long and all the wrong times; nights, weekends and holidays are in high demand. To stay connected to the restaurant world, I’ve consulted on dessert menus. Creating the pastry program gives me all the joy of being a part of the action, without having to be on the line to create the food during the rush of service. The best of both worlds for me. I also stay connected by fawning over restaurant accounts on instagram. One chef I met on instagram, through a web of industry friends, is Neal Fraser. He has an acclaimed restaurant in LA called Redbird.

I just happened to be in NYC when Chef Fraser was going to be cooking, along with fellow LA chefs from The Strand House, at the James Beard House. He invited me to join them for the event (or perhaps I offered (begged him) to let me help and he graciously agreed.) Either way, I found myself in the most iconic kitchen in NYC, cooking with some of the most talented chefs of LA. I don’t really have a bucket list, but if I did, this would be on it. Chef Fraser was in charge of dessert and together we made a chocolate fudge cake with strawberry sauce, chocolate cremeaux, candied violets, sugared pansies and a quenelle of ice cream. You can see pictures of the dinner, the dessert and meet the chefs in my instagram video and watch the James Beard Live Stream of the kitchen as we prepared the meal.

I created this abbreviated version of Chef Fraser’s dessert to share with you. He graciously shared his warm, super fudgy, chocolate cake recipe and I added a fresh strawberry salsa and lavender ice cream to it, all of which you can watch me make Chocolate Fudge Cake with Strawberry Salsa and Candied Flowers in my instagram video. (more…)

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Maida Heatter Bull’s Eye Cheesecake

Maida Heatter Bull's Eye Cheesecake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

The title of Maida Heatter’s new book sums up why I love my job, Happiness is Baking. When I am sad, I bake! When I am celebrating, I bake! No matter where my mood starts out, I’m always carried to a place of joy as I make my way through a recipe. Maida Heatter has lead me on so many journeys in the kitchen that they are literally countless. I have nearly all of her books and was so thrilled to find out that at the happy age of 102, she has a new one for all of us bakers to enjoy. I went to a classic recipe, the Maida Heatter Bull’s Eye Cheesecake, because it is so striking and delicious. I believe she developed this recipe for one of her first books in 1974. The recipe stands alone and needs nothing but a plate and fork, but sometimes I just can’t leave well enough alone and I draped the whole thing in a glossy ganache. 

Maida Heatter Bull's Eye Cheesecake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François  

You can watch me make the Maida Heatter Bull’s Eye Cheesecake and pour the ganache over the top for a perfectly smooth finish in my instagram videos. Maida Heatter and her publisher have graciously allowed me to share the recipe, which is below. She is also partnering with me to give away 3 copies of her book. You can enter to win here on my website, by leaving a comment below or on my instagram account (just look for this cheesecake for another chance to win). I will pick the 3 winners randomly next week. 

You can also find my Show Stopping Cheesecake Class on Craftsy (Now BluePrint), where I show this technique and all kinds of other simple and fancy cheesecakes. 

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