A gazillion cupcakes for Children’s Heartlink with Honey Tuile Hearts

Devil's Food Cupcakes Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

First I have to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my dad, Craig Neal! He is leading a trip in the boundary waters today or I’d bring him some cupcakes.

Last night I delivered a gazillion mini cupcakes to the annual Children’s Heartlink Gala event. I was part of the live auction with my friends Michelle Gayer (owner of the Salty Tart and pastry chef who wrote Charlie Trotter’s Desserts); extraordinary pastry chef Khanh Tran; Kevin Ryan (the author of Betty Crocker Why It Works); Sue Zelickson, the grand dame of food in the Twin Cities; Andrew Zimmern; Marjorie Johnson (the author of The Road to Blue Ribbon Baking and frequent guest on Jay Leno) and the Kare11 host Belinda Jensen. We are having a bake-off-party at General Mills with the highest bidder. It will be a fabulous event for an incredible cause.

Michelle and I went to the Gala and served up some sweet treats to try to entice people to bid on our auction package. She came with a brown butter pear tart with maple cream and a black pepper tuile. I decided to go CHOCOLATE and made my Devil’s Food cupcakes with Outrageous Mocha Buttercream with a honey tuile heart as the garnish. To make the honey tuile and see pictures of the event: Read More

Ultra Chocolate Wedding Cake

Chocolate Wedding Cake Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

This weekend I had the greatest honor and pleasure of making a chocolate wedding cake for my friend Maggie and her wonderful husband Steve. She is a fabulous midwife and delivered my two boys. It is an understatement to say she went above and beyond for me during my pregnancies and births. Maggie is the type of person who brings joy and love to everyone who has the good fortune to meet her. It meant so much to me when she and Steve asked me to participate in their special day.

Steve is a chocoholic and they decided to break with convention and go with a tower of over-the-top chocolate. I couldn’t agree more! I, of course, started with my Devil’s Food recipe and added a deep chocolate ganache-fudge icing. Read More

Fig, Champagne Grapes and Raspberry Cake, for my 17th Anniversary!

Fresh Figs and Fruit | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

This time of year brings with it all of the sensual fruits. They seem more decadent, rich and sweet and just a little bit adult. To me they are the fruits of romance. Perhaps it is because the first time I ever ate a syrupy ripe fig was on my honeymoon in the South of France. We had a small house on a hill over looking Saint-Tropez and a fig tree on the terrace. We’d sit under the tree, drink our morning coffee and pluck figs off to eat them while looking at the Côte d’Azur. It is hard not to associate anything in that picture with romance. But the figs were the star. Every year I look forward to eating them on our Anniversary. Read More

“Simple” Summer Strawberry Torte for Nana!

Summer Strawberry Torte Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

This strawberry torte is simple; and by this I mean, not fancy, nearly rustic in appearance and suitable for a picnic table. I left the sides uncovered so that everyone could see all the layers that make up the cake, like a trifle without the bowl. I just had to let the dacquoise poke out because I thought it was a terrible shame to trim it into obscurity. Perhaps the piping on top is a bit fanciful, but I made it for Nana’s (my step mother, my boys call her Nana so now we all do!)  birthday party and I wanted it to be fun and whimsical. Read More

Orange Scented Sponge Cake

Orange Scented Sponge Cake Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

I made this fresh orange scented sponge cake from my The Fannie Farmer Baking Book. It is a classic and really nothing about it needs changing. It is light and the orange gives the cake a fresh flavor that isn’t overly sweet. I combined it with a dacquoise, strawberry whipped cream and homemade jam to make a birthday torte for my stepmother. Even though there is no butter or oil in the cake I find it moist enough that I didn’t use a simple syrup soak. But you certainly could add it for flavor. Read More

Orange Blossom Honey Cake with Fresh Blueberries

 Honey Cake with Blueberries | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

The strangest thing happened on my way to ordering new chefs jackets; I discovered the most amazing honey I’ve ever eaten. You see, Jeff and I have been doing a lot of TV appearances recently to promote our book. I decided that my old worn out chocolate covered chefs jackets just weren’t going to cut it on HDTV and so I decided to splurge on some new ones. I consulted a few friends and found they were unanimous on where to go shopping; Crooked Brook.

As I placed my order, the owner of the company asked me if I’d like to try some of their honey. This isn’t just any honey, it is artisan honey. Made by bees that are so carefully watched that the producers know what flowers are in every jar. They even pack up these bees to vacation in Florida so they can create honey from orange blossoms. It is pure, organic and raw, so all of the nutrients of the honey is preserved. This is the stuff I get very excited about. This honey cake recipe was inspired by these bees and their fabulous honey. Read More