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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Valentine’s Day Cinnamon Rolls

Valentine's Day Cinnamon Rolls | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

There is really nothing more loving or romantic than baking for the ones you love. And, if it happens to be Valentine’s Day Cinnamon Rolls in the shape of a heart, they are the perfect holiday treat for everyone. These buns are based on our most popular, super easy and fast cinnamon roll recipe from Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day, which is the perfect way to celebrate just about any day, no special occasion necessary. I added crushed fresh raspberries to the cream cheese icing to add a bit of pink and sweeten the deal even more. 

Happy Galentine’s and Valentine’s Day to you all!  (more…)

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Christmas Croquembouche

Christmas Croquembouche | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

A croquembouche (kroke-em-boosh) is a tower of profiteroles (cream puffs) stuck together with a thin layer of crisp caramel, which gives the dessert its name, “crocque em bouche” or “crunches in the mouth.” This dramatic pile of puffs is typically served at weddings, but I’ve taken liberties and find it a worthy dessert for any big occasion. A Christmas Croquembouche seems like the perfect way to celebrate this holiday season. The puffs are made of choux paste and are filled with mango pastry cream, which isn’t a flavor you might think of for a Christmas dessert, but it is such a wonderful contrast to the sweet of the caramel. When you break into the cream puffs you’ll find the rich, creamy golden filling.  Just to jazz it up and to continue the holiday theme I added snowflake sugar cookies that I made with an olive oil sugar cookie recipe from my friend Sarah Kieffer’s book, The Vanilla Bean Baking Book, which is one of my favorite cookbooks. Then I spun some sugar into fine threads and wrapped it around the tower of puffs in a garland.

You can watch me make this Christmas Croquembouche in my Instagram video. (more…)

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Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

Chocolate Mousse was one of the very first recipes I tried to make, way back when I was a middle schooler. Making a quintessentially French dish was an assignment for my French class, so I set off with a copy of Time Life Books: classic French cooking and did my best. Which wasn’t very good. Actually, it was terrible. The recipe called for coffee, which at the time, before I became an avid consumer of the beverage, was a confusing ingredient. Did they mean coffee grounds or brewed coffee. Well, I chose very wrong and went with the grounds, probably because I didn’t know how to brew coffee. It was like eating chocolate with sand in it. Not good. I made it again with brewed coffee and it was a revelation. The texture was like silk, the taste of the chocolate was so rich and luscious, unlike anything I’d every eaten. It was like a very distant cousin to chocolate pudding, but altogether superior. I was so proud that I’d made something this delicious. It was one of the first times I was excited about a school assignment and it set me off on more baking adventures.

When Fanny sent me her book, I flipped through it, saw her Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake and I knew it was the one I would make. This recipe is traditional in that it uses uncooked eggs; whipping both the whites and the yolks separately and folding them into the chocolate. The result is glorious. For those who are squeamish about using raw eggs in a recipe, you can find pasteurized eggs, which are deemed safe to eat without cooking. I used fresh eggs from my neighbor’s chickens and it was not only exquisite, but I am also still here to talk about it.

Fanny’s recipe was pure and simple, which is a lovely thing in a day of over complicated recipes, but I decided to add a bit of coffee flavor to the Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake, to recreate the flavor of my childhood memory.

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

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Contest Winning Coconut Cookies

Contest Winning Coconut Cookies | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

These Contest Winning Coconut Cookies are from the Great Minnesota Cookie Book by Rick Nelson and Lee Svitak Dean. I often bake from books written by other bakers I admire, but sometimes inspiration comes, not from the professionals, but from our neighbors.  The recipes they grew up baking, from their family traditions, have been time tested and in this case, have won first prize in the Star Tribune Holiday Cookie Contest. That is what this book is all about; real people, baking their hearts out and winning prizes. I love Mounds Bar candies (one of my favorite Halloween candy), which this cookie was inspired by, so this one grabbed my attention. I have a coconut macaroon recipe that is in constant rotation at the holidays, but I am always looking for something new to add to my repertoire. This recipe is super simple and full of coconut goodness. Rick Nelson graciously gave me permission to share the recipe from the book (Snowball Clippers recipe submitted by Becky Varone) with you and you can watch me make them in my instagram video.

I’ve had lots of requests for vegan recipes and I thought this one would be a perfect and easy one to make both gluten-free and vegan, so I have added my notes on how to do that.  (more…)

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