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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Homemade Marshmallows

marshmallows | ZoeBakes (2 of 4)

I really, really wanted to start this post by bitching about the weather. Something my poor family has to endure for much of the winter. But, I’ve decided to rise above the whining-chatter in my head and embrace the weather. It is easy today, at a balmy 42°F. A small, but welcome comfort after an epic freeze. Instead of complaining about the cold, I made hot chocolate and homemade marshmallows. It reminds me of being a kid, when I loved winter and playing outside. There is just something magical about the puff of a marshmallow and how it floats on top of hot chocolate, melting just a little to make a layer of sweet fluff. Totally comforting. Nothing beats that, except now I prefer my hot chocolate with a shot of whiskey and my marshmallows scented with a touch of mint or vanilla or even cardamom.

Last week I was gifted cardamom scented marshmallows by Lee, who owns l.c.finn’s Extracts. Homemade marshmallows are a brilliant idea and one I have never shared on the site. I’ve always made marshmallows by whipping egg whites and then suspending them with sugar syrup and gelatin until they are light as air and chewy. I adore the texture, but I can also detect the faintest taste of the egg white. This doesn’t bother me if I am layering the homemade marshmallows with other bold flavors. But, when I am going for an adornment for hot chocolate, I prefer a recipe that has no egg. This recipe for homemade marshmallows is just a combination of sugars and gelatin, simple as that. You can keep the marshmallows pure or play with flavored extracts and fun colors. They store for weeks in a dry spot, which is super easy this time of year in MN. Anytime you come home after braving the cold, just make up some hot cocoa and float a bit of happiness on top.

I am using sheet gelatin in my recipe, but I have also given the instructions for using the powdered variety. You can watch me use both types of gelatin in my instagram video. I got used to using sheets when I worked in restaurants and just find it easier to deal with. The sheets also have less of that kindergarten-glue flavor. You can find the gelatin sheets on Amazon if you want to give them a try.

You can watch me make the marshmallows in my instagram video.

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Honeycomb Banana Layer Cake

Honeycomb Banana Layer Cake | ZoeBakes photos by Zoë François

This Honeycomb Banana Layer Cake is inspired by Cadbury Crunchie Bar candy my husband ate as a child growing up in Montreal. He’s been asking me to recreate the chocolate covered honeycomb (sponge toffee) candy and I am finally getting around to it. Now that I’ve had it, I regret not making it decades ago. I made this banana cake with a coffee flavored honey meringue buttercream, the honeycomb candy seemed just the right garnish for the top. The name comes from the honeycomb look of the candy and not because honey is in the ingredients. I added a touch of honey, just because it seems like it should be in there, but that’s not the traditional way Cadbury Crunchie Bars were made. You can watch me make this cake and honeycomb candy in my instagram video.

Honeycomb Banana Layer Cake | ZoeBakes photos by Zoë François (more…)

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Oh, Fudge!

Chocolate Fudge topped with chopped nuts | photo by Zoë François

Addiction warning, I cannot stop eating this fudge! I’ve been giving away bags of it to anyone I meet, just to keep from eating the whole batch. I lost a bet to my boys on Super Bowl Sunday and as a result I had to make the dessert of their choice. They chose fudge. It wasn’t my best parenting moment to teach my boys to bet, but I got swept up in the moment and really thought I was going to win. In this case we all won, because this fudge is crazy good. I like chocolate fudge with all kinds of stuff in it, especially nuts, but my boys are purists and just wanted unadulterated chocolate.

This recipe is made by boiling down evaporated milk until it reaches just the right temperature and poured over really great chocolate. No marshmallow fluff! I’ve done those recipes as well, but I like the texture of this better and the flavor is more intense and not as cloying. It requires a candy thermometer, but don’t let that scare you, it is really very simple and I’ll talk you through any possible sticking points. (more…)

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Chocolate Caramel Matzo for Passover (Updated!)

Chocolate Caramel Matzo with a Variety of Toppings | Photo by Zoë François

This year I added a little extra flavor power to classic chocolate caramel matzo. I made a triple batch to make sure I could send gift bags home after the seder. All the toppings were a hit, but the toasted sesame seeds with the milk or dark chocolate is my new favorite.

Every Passover I make this chocolate caramel matzo recipe from Marcy Goldman’s classic book A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking. When I was growing up I loved matzo with butter or my mother’s matzo brei, but as a dessert it never inspired me. Until my friend and co-author Jeff introduced me to Marcy Goldman’s recipe she calls: “My Trademark, most requested, absolutely magnificent caramel matzoh crunch!” Despite the main ingredient being matzo it satisfied my craving for a decadent dessert at Passover. The candy was met with rave reviews and is now part of our tradition along with the fruit pâtes. It really is magnificent and a bit addictive, which is why I save it for Passover! (more…)

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Chocolate Glazed Praline Cheesecake with Candied Hazelnuts

Chocolate glazed praline cheesecake with candied hazelnuts | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

There are certain things that happen in a professional kitchen that strike me as magic. They seem unmanageably gorgeous and too difficult to attempt at home, but usually with a bit of guidance anyone can do it. These hazelnut candies are on the list. They look like delicate jewels, standing impossibly tall and thin. They are the perfect accessory to a sleek chocolate covered praline cheesecake and not at all difficult to make.

This cake is about as smooth and rich as is possible. To flavor the cheesecake I used a product by love n’ bake, which is just ground praline made into a paste. You can replace it with nutella (for even more chocolate) or even peanut butter (go smooth for this). The trick to the texture is baking in a water bath at a low temperature to prevent the cake from baking too fast.

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