Blood-Orange Creamsicle Semifreddo

Blood-Orange Creamsicle Semifreddo | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

This Blood Orange Creamsicle Semifreddo was inspired by one of my first pastry mentors, Claudia Flemming. Her book, The Last Course, was a collection of desserts she created for the venerable restaurant, Gramercy Tavern, in New York. It is an understatement to say her book was a steady guide to me when I was a pastry chef, fresh out of culinary school and trying to find my voice as a chef. She was combining flavors in ways that no one else was doing at the time. She used herbs in desserts and she had an exquisite balance of sweetness, sour, bitter, and salty. Her palate was informed by the savory side of the kitchen and it made all of her desserts profoundly more interesting and exciting to me. My copy of her book was written in, dog eared and splattered with cake batter, the truest sign of respect to a cookbook and its author. That seminal book went out of print for a while, but there was a cult following that just never let it be forgotten. So, when her publisher decided to celebrate it with another printing, I was thrilled. Other than the cover there are no changes to the book and it didn’t need any, that’s how good it was and is. The desserts still hold up nearly a decade later and I was just as excited by the Frozen Orange-Blossom Honey Mousse today as I was the first time I made it in 2001. I topped it with Blood Orange Sorbet to create my idea of the perfect creamsicle and then topped it with a Rosemary and Orange Meringue. I think Claudia would approve of the combination.

Book GIVEAWAY: The folks at Random House have generously offered to give a lucky winner a copy of The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern, so check out my @zoebakes Instagram page to enter the contest. You will also find my Instagram video tutorial on how to make this dessert.

Find the recipe below…

Blood-Orange Creamsicle Semifreddo | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François (more…)

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Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake Bars

 

There seem to be two schools of thought about Thanksgiving desserts. Those who must have pumpkin pie and those who avoid anything pumpkin, other than the spice mix. I am squarely in the pumpkin camp and so is my whole family, but if you or someone you love is not, these Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake Bars are the perfect way to ease into using the Thanksgiving essential and give a loving gesture to those who adore pumpkin. The base of these bars comes from Michelle Lopez’s new book Weeknight Baking, which is made up of great recipes that are quick and easy enough to fit into everyone’s busy schedule, even at the holidays. I added the swirl of pumpkin, which is also super easy and fast, but makes them just right for this week. Michelle has lots of great ideas for jazzing up the cheesecake bars and once you see my technique for swirling, you can add your own flair. You can easily make these in time for the big Turkey Day and I suggest making a double batch, so you have leftovers to snack on and stick into school lunches. 

GIVEAWAY! Not only did Michelle graciously allow me to share the recipe with you, but she’s also doing a giveaway of the book. Leave a comment below or on my instagram account for a chance to win a copy of Weeknight Baking.

You can watch me swirl the cheesecake bars on my Instagram account and the recipe lives below. (more…)

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Simple Chocolate Cake

Simple Chocolate Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

Oh, you know me, I love a flourish. Sometimes it’s a rose crown on a bundt cake or a ruffle of gossamer apples topping a tart or maybe, just maybe a crazy swirl of toasted meringue on anything! But, sometimes simple is best. A summer snack at the lake, a slice of cake in a lunchbox or a midnight treat with a glass of milk. Those are the cakes we’ll make at the last minute, after a long day of work, just because we want a treat and cake makes everything good. Odette Williams wrote Simple Cake, a book about those cakes; the simple ones that are pure joy. Her book is filled with lots of delicious cakes and simple toppings that are great for a special occasion, but just as good if nothing in particular is going on. This simple chocolate cake is elegant and warm and makes me want to eat all the cake. 

I baked Odette’s Simple Chocolate Cake in a pullman pan, because I like the clean shape of the slices. I combined two of the whipped cream flavors she suggested for the cake to create a Vietnamese coffee cream, which was just the right balance of sweet and bitter. I went at the cake with a giant star tipped piping bag and then backed away and realized it needed something quiet and sleek. I just spread the whipped cream over the cake and smoothed the edges. I’m in love with this cake, it calms me. The dusting of cocoa was for drama (I just can’t help myself) and more contrast of flavor.

I’m very excited about this book and Odette has generously partnered with me to do a GIVEAWAY of Simple Cake. You will find the giveaway details on my instagram post. Recipe below. (more…)

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Tres Leches

Tres Leches Cake | Photo by Zoë François

Tres Leches Cake is a light sponge cake that is soaked with three kinds of milk: sweetened condensed, evaporated and heavy cream (milk-ish enough to count), hence the name. Today is Cinco de Mayo and this cake seemed just the thing to celebrate with. It’s a rather simple cake, both in it’s presentation and in the making of it. Just bake a sheet cake, soak it and cover in whipped cream. I added a layer of cinnamon for the intensity of flavor and because I like how it looks. The recipe is from the newest cookbook by the America’s Test Kitchen folks, The Perfect Cake. As is suggested in their name, they test the living day lights out of every recipe they print, so I always trust they will work. The book is filled with the how’s and why’s of baking cakes, so you understand what you are up to while baking. You know how I love a good tutorial on baking, so this is right up my alley. It’s a great book and covers all the basics of cake baking.

The only place I went off script was in the whipped cream topping. I had a little bit of homemade creme fraiche left over from my Pot de Creme, so I added it to the whipping cream and made a slightly more decadent topping. I also wanted a slightly thicker layer of the cream, so the creme fraiche stretched it for me. Then I dusted with cinnamon, which is not required, but it’s delicious.

To watch me make the tres leches cake, check out my instagram video. Recipe is below.

Tres Leches Cake and The Perfect Cake cookbook | Photo by Zoë François

GIVEAWAY: The America’s Test Kitchen said I could give away a copy of their wonderful book to my readers, so I am going to do just that. Leave me a comment below about your favorite cake and you will be entered to win. The giveaway is limited to the USA only.

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Strawberry Mascarpone Cake with Raspberry Cream and a Fondant Crown

Strawberry Mascarpone Cake with Raspberry Cream and a Fondant Crown | ZoeBakes | Photo by Zoë François

A friend asked me to create a cake for a 6-year-old with a fondness for tiaras and all things sparkly. As the mother of two boys who were never that into sparkles, I jumped at the chance to play with rolled fondant and make something worthy of a princess party. I knew exactly which recipe would suit the occasion, since I’ve been reading through Abby Dodge’s newest book, the EVERYDAY BAKER. Abby has a gorgeous pink cake with layers of strawberry mascarpone icing and tender white cake, which struck me as a perfect base for a pink fondant crown, but also sophisticated enough for all the adults at the party.

Strawberry Mascarpone Cake with Raspberry Cream and a Fondant Crown | ZoeBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Abby Dodge has been sharing her knowledge of baking for years in her many books, in national magazines and in her Baking Boot Camp Craftsy class. The EVERYDAY BAKER is no ordinary baking book, it is a full education in the art of pastry making. Abby lovingly takes you through the techniques of baking wonderful cookies, cakes, breads, pies, and more. She’ll guide you through with such grace and joy that none of it will seem intimidating for even the novice bakers. She has been an inspiration to me as a baker and cookbook author and I am thrilled that she has joined me in a giveaway of her essential book. (more…)

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Chocolate Cherry Cake with Marsala Cream

Chocolate Cherry Cake with Marsala Cream | ZoeBakes | Photo by Zoë François

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 Cookbook by Maria Speck | ZoeBakes | Photo by Zoë François

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 cherry 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 chocolate cherry cake is made with whole grain Kamut flour (more about that in a minute), they’ll just know it is chocolatey and delicious.

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