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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Funfetti Birthday Cake with Chocolate Feathers

Funfetti Birthday Cake with Chocolate Feathers | ZoëBakes photo by Zoë François

Last week my youngest son turned 18. It hit me that he’s a man and about to head out into the world to make his mark. I am so excited for him and looking forward to watching him and his brother become their own men, but it’s a touch bittersweet to watch them take off into the world. This birthday will be marked by several cakes and desserts, as we do around here. For his actual birthday, I was traveling and left him a flan, a long time favorite birthday request. The next day, when I returned from my trip I was met by the latest Bake From Scratch cookbook and immediately flipped to the Birthday Cake chapter. Sometimes we just want the classics, and there is nothing better than a really good white cake with vanilla buttercream. It’s probably the most popular cake combination, for good reason. I am perhaps the last baker on the internet to make a Funfetti Birthday Cake, but this occasion called for a bit of celebratory color!! I simply added sprinkles to the Bake From Scratch White Cake.

In the spirit of my son’s birthday, I have partnered with Brian Hart Hoffman and the excellent folks at Hoffman Publishing to Give Away a Copy of the Bake from Scratch (Vol 3): Artisan Recipes for the Home Baker cookbook, just leave a comment below about your perfect birthday cake. You can DOUBLE YOUR CHANCES TO WIN, by heading to my instagram page and signing up there too! Oh, and I have a few holiday cookie recipes in this cookbook, so I hope you’ll bake those as well! 

Funfetti Birthday Cake with Chocolate Feathers | ZoëBakes photo by Zoë François

People ask me where I find inspiration and the truth is, EVERYWHERE! The decorations for this funfetti birthday cake were inspired by a Netflix special and a place card. I was watching a documentary about the fashion designer, Alexander McQueen, and I told my husband his dresses would make incredible cakes, especially a dress covered in feathers that already looked like a cake.  The place cards from my friends at The Punctilious Mr. P’s Place Card Company arrived and they were pictures of gorgeous birds that looked like cake toppers. It wasn’t inspiration as much as fate! The feathers are easy to make with white chocolate, which you can watch me make in my instagram video. Funfetti Birthday Cake recipe and chance to win the book are below! (more…)

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Almond Cake with Buttercream Roses

Almond Cake with Buttercream Roses | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François 

At the core this is a pound cake that has a perfectly dense crumb and is rich with almond paste, but it is also a tribute to spring, which is on its way. The decoration came to me after I made the blood orange glaze, that is the prettiest pink you can find in nature. The color is from the red fruit, without use of any food color (the season is short, so you can recreate this color with all natural food color that I link to below). The pink got me to thinking about Easter, Mother’s Day, Bridal Showers, Wedding Cakes and the Couture Dresses at the Oscars, which are tonight. That’s a lot of inspiration for one little bundt cake, but this cake can handle the pressure. The almond cake under all the fancy is good enough to serve with nothing more than the glaze or a simple dusting of confectioners’ sugar, so don’t skip this one even if you aren’t up for piping roses, which I show you how to do in my instagram video of this cake. (more…)

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Ultimate Carrot Cake with Candied Carrot Peels

The ultimate carrot cake with candied carrot peels | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

My Ultimate Carrot Cake with Candied Carrot Peels recipe is one of my favorites and one of the most popular posts on my website. I make it a lot. For birthdays, for Tuesdays,  for family gatherings, it was the first cake my boys ate, because I could justify giving a baby cake, if it had carrots. I’m not suggesting it replace baby food, but for their first birthday cakes, it was my go to.

I was inspired to use the whole carrot after making Cenk Sönmezsoy’s Perfect Apple Pie, which uses every single bit of the apple to make the pie, core, peel and seeds are all used to extract as much apple flavor as possible. I love that he didn’t waste a bit of the fruit. I usually peel the carrots and toss them away into the composter, which honestly doesn’t cause me too much guilt, but why not use them for the cake? I just washed the carrots, peeled them and candied the peels. They go through several stages while baking. First they turn to carrot leather, chewy and soft, then they dehydrate fully and turn to a snappy, brittle, sweet, but earthy candy. Delicious.

The ultimate carrot cake with candied carrot peels | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

You can watch me make the cake and carrot candy (plus a picture of my son eating his first carrot cake – 19 years ago) in my instagram video and recipe below.  (more…)

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Hot Chocolate Layer Cake

Hot Chocolate Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

This Hot Chocolate Layer Cake is the perfect cold weather dessert, although it would be equally as excellent in the summer or spring or fall. You get the picture, it’s great for any occasion. With hot chocolate as its inspiration, it has layers of Devil’s food, slathered with a deep, dark, luscious chocolate icing, that is like whipped ganache, but better, then I topped the whole thing in homemade marshmallows. I am not a big fan of bagged marshmallows, which taste like sweet, dried out sponges, but the homemade version are amongst my favorite treats. When they are toasted, with a torch, of course, they are soft, melty and delicious. You can flavor them with anything from vanilla to cardamom, or even swirl in chocolate.

I made this cake twice, once with my tried and true Devil’s food and then again for my friend, Stephanie Meyer’s birthday. Stephanie (Fresh Tart) doesn’t eat gluten, so I made the cake with a gluten-free flour blend and it came out just great. See me put the hot chocolate cake together in my instagram video and recipe below. (more…)

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Triple-Layer Parsnip Cranberry Cake

Triple-Layer Parsnip Cranberry Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

For those of you who have followed my blog since 2007, you’ll know I am a tremendous fan of Dorie Greenspan. I’ve considered her a mentor in my own career as a chef and cookbook writer. She is the absolute top of the game and I look forward to every book she puts out with bated breath. Everyday Dorie is her brand new book and I dove in the second I clawed it out of the packaging. As is my way, I flipped straight to the Desserts section and was instantly seduced by the opening image of this Triple-Layer Parsnip Cranberry Cake with cream cheese frosting. I’ve never made a cake with parsnip, but imagined it would be the sophisticated cousin to Carrot Cake, which is one of my go-to cakes. I was not wrong, it is just as satisfying and comforting as the carrot version, but it is all its own flavor and delicious. It is perfect with the tangy-sweet cream cheese frosting and tart candied cranberry garnish. You can watch me make Dorie’s cake in my instagram videos and she has graciously permitted me to share the recipe with you.

Triple-Layer Parsnip Cranberry Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François (more…)

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