Rustic Almond Coffee Cake with Cranberries

Cranberry Almond Coffee Cake

This is a cake from Zoë Bakes Cakes and in the book, I baked it with grapes; juicy, sweet, but slightly tart, table grapes. It’s curious why grapes are rarely used in baking, unless dried into raisins. They are juicy and have such a wide range of sweetness and flavor, depending on the variety. They’re also a perfect match for almond paste, an ingredient with which I’m more than just a bit smitten; there are so many ways to play with the slightly creamy, earthy flavor. Together with the olive oil, the combination makes a gorgeous cake that’s just as suited for a holiday table as it is for a Tuesday-morning coffee cake. The moist cake is also one that lasts for days, so if you need a cake you can bake ahead for your holiday morning, this is the one!

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Meringue Cake with Roasted Pears

Meringue Cake with Roasted Pears

I started the Zoë Bakes blog in 2007 as a way to stay connected to pastry while I was raising my boys and working on the Breadin5 bread books. I quickly found my community of online peers and Aran Goyoaga and her blog, Cannelle et Vanille, was at the center of it. Her recipes and photography stood out and became the bar the rest of us tried to reach. All these years later I am still striving to create the beauty she seems to produce with such immense grace and ease as if pastry is an innate talent. She grew up in a baking family and so, perhaps she was born with a touch of magic in her hand.

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Pumpkin Cake with Balsamic Cinnamon Meringue and Bittersweet Ganache

A slice of pumpkin cake with cinnamon meringue and layers of bittersweet ganache

This is a cake I recently baked at the Cherry Bombe Cooks & Books event in Brooklyn. All of the recipes are from Zoë Bakes Cakes, but I rearranged them into this sassy layer cake with a toasted meringue top. The pumpkin bundt cake from the book, can be baked as rounds, then separated by chocolate ganache and topped with the Swiss Meringue Topping. I decided for the sake of fall flavors and wanting to temper the sweetness of the meringue, I added an aged balsamic vinegar and ground cinnamon to the whipped peaks, before spiking it onto the cake and setting it ablaze with a blow torch. The recipes and directions to recreate the cake are below.

The cake layers were baked the day before, wrapped, and refrigerated. The chocolate ganache was also made ahead and just set at room temperature so it would be easy to spread. The day of the event I made the meringue and assembled the cake in front of an in-person crowd, while talking (it had been a while since I’d seen humans, so I had a lot to say) and got the cake finished in about 20 minutes. All of this is to say, that if you work ahead, a cake like this doesn’t take long to create. It absolutely can be made in one go, but you can decide how it best fits your schedule.

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Apple-Cider Bundt Cake with Honey Glaze

With its perfectly moist texture, soft crumb and depth of apple flavor, this apple-cider bundt cake is perfect for any occasion. I like to use a variety of apples in this cake such as Honey Gold, MacIntosh, Haralson and Prairie Spy. Drizzle with a simple honey-cider glaze and serve.

Apple-Cider Bundt Cake with Honey Glaze on a white platter.

I grew up in New England and the apples from my childhood were MacIntosh. They are deliciously tart and have a soft flesh that practically turns to applesauce on a hot day. It wasn’t until I moved to Minneapolis that my apple horizons were broadened and now I am spoiled by the riches of so many local varieties of apples.

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Cakettes

A Chocolate Peanut Butter Mini Cake on a white plate with a gold fork

Sometimes a baking fail is just the inspiration I need to try something new. I originally baked my Devil’s Food Cake from Zoë Bakes Cakes in cupcake liners that promised to be sturdy enough not to need a muffin pan to support them. Well, I put them to the test and it was a complete fail! The liquid batter poured out of the sunken liners after about 5 minutes and I knew I was going to have a mess on my hands. One of the best lessons I learned in culinary school was not to panic. If things aren’t going as planned, pivot. That’s exactly what I did and ended up with these Chocolate Peanut Butter Cakettes (larger than a cupcake, but still an individual-sized mini cake).

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