Blackberry Opera Torte (Diva Cake)

Blackberry Opera Torte (Diva Cake) | ZoeBakes photos by Zoë François

I set out to bake a traditional Opera Torte, but I ended up getting distracted and took off in an entirely different flavor direction. In the end I created this Blackberry Opera Torte ( which I have named the Diva Cake). It has way more layers than a traditional opera torte, which is not a bad thing at all. Instead of coffee soaked Joconde ( almond sponge cake) and coffee buttercream, this one uses blackberry preserves to flavor the buttercream and then has a layer of fresh berries separating the cake from the spiky meringue. Those fresh berries turned out to be a brilliant layer of protection from the flamethrower I used to toast the meringue. Oh, that is no joke. I got ahold of one of Elon Musk’s Boring Company Flamethrowers and had a blast (see what I did there) torching the top of the cake. You can use a regular kitchen torch to get the job done too. You can watch me make the cake and wild a flamethrower in my instagram video.

Blackberry Opera Torte (Diva Cake) | ZoeBakes photos by Zoë François (more…)

Read More

Strawberry Charlotte Royale

Strawberry Charlotte Royale | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

The truth is the last time I made a Strawberry Charlotte Royale was in culinary school and that was a very long time ago. I have been meaning to make one, but just never got around to it. Then I bought a copy of Soulful Baker, by one of my favorite bakers, Julie Jones, and she had the most beautiful Charlotte Royale in the book. I took it as a sign that I needed to make this regal (it’s in the name) dessert. Julie was my muse, but being incapable of leaving things well enough alone, I wanted to make the filling in two separate flavors. I made a Grand Marnier Bavarian Cream and then added Strawberry coulis to it for the second layer. It’s not quite as simple as a banana bread, so I’ve made a video on instagram to walk you through the process. The steps are not at all difficult, but they do require a bit of planning and some timing. (more…)

Read More

Canelés de Bordeaux

caneles 1(9 of 7)

These fluted confections are the official dessert of the Bordeaux region of France. The interior of these canelés is like a lovely, creamy custard that is rich with both vanilla and rum. The trick to success, IMHO, with making canelés is using copper molds lined with beeswax and butter. That’s how you get the luxurious color, shine and crisp shell. You can also use silicone molds, which don’t achieve quite the same texture, but are still excellent and totally worth making. Not to mention much less expensive and easier to find. The latest batch I made, which you can see in my instagram stories, was from  The Fearless Baker by Erin Jeanne McDowell. Erin is a trained pastry chef and her recipes represent her knowledge and love for the craft. A cookbook should be lovely and inspiring, but the recipes need to work to gain my respect. She has delivered all of it and it brings me great joy to see someone elevating the art of pastry as she does.

The crêpe-like batter is super simple to make, but the batter requires a day of rest, before baking, so plan ahead. The outcome is delicious and sometimes the best things in life are worth waiting for.  (more…)

Read More

Chocolate Bundt with White Chocolate-Raspberry Cream

Chocolate Bundt Cake with White Chocolate-Raspberry Cream | Photo by Zoë François

This Brilliant Bundt Pan is my recent favorite piece of kitchen equipment. It is so elegant and fun. A simple cake baked in it really is worthy of standing alone on a pedestal. However, I decided to gild the lily and add white chocolate raspberry cream to the inside. It is a perfect party cake (Mother’s Day is coming up or just a Tuesday will do). To create this, you’ll want a cake that has a bit of body to it, so I picked a chocolate cake that was developed especially for the bundt pan from the trusted folks at Bake from Scratch. Then I wanted something creamy and bright in the middle. Adding white chocolate to whipped cream will stabilize it and allow it to keep it’s shape when cut into slices. To get the flavor of raspberries, without adding a ton of extra liquid to the cream was a challenge, but I think I found a pretty clever solution.

You can watch me make this chocolate bundt cake in my Instagram stories. It really is a fun format for me to create instructional videos and I hope you’ll join instagram to see them, if you haven’t already. I’m not sure you can view the older videos, that live in my highlight archives from a computer, you may have to do that from your phone. I am trying to figure out how to convert the videos to Youtube, but haven’t found a graceful way to do that yet. I will let you know as soon as I do. So much technology, so little time. (more…)

Read More

Lemon Mascarpone Crêpe Cake

Lemon Mascarpone Crêpe Cake | photo by Zoë François

Crêpes are a beloved food group in my household. My boys have grown up eating them with everything from sweet to savory fillings, sometimes dozens at a time. When I couldn’t get them to eat as little kids I’d make a batch of crêpes and watch as they disappeared. Stacking them into a cake is an easy and elegant way to dress up what is really a humble street food in France. This version was made from a really sweet book called Simply Citrus by Marie Asselin. I “met” her on Instagram and she kindly sent me a copy of the book. I adore instagram for all the inspiration and for the space to create videos of the recipes I make. You can watch me make Marie’s cake in my instagram stories.

Marie’s lemon curd is unlike any I’ve made before. She cooks it like a pastry cream, which uses cornstarch and eggs to bind it and then finishes it with heavy cream. It is delightful. I suggest you double her recipe, so you can have some left over after the cake is filled. The combination of the tart lemon curd and rich mascarpone cream are a perfect marriage. Instead of topping with more cream, I went with the brûlée on top. I like the contrast of texture and you know how I feel about my blow torch, so any excuse to use it.  (more…)

Read More

Croissants 101

Croissants cooling on a wire rack | Photo by Zoë François

There are very few things as satisfying as a perfect croissant. Flaky, tender, just the right amount of pull and give, and BUTTERY. Have you ever made one? Probably not, because they’re labor intensive and require a bit of skill to “laminate” the dough. This is an industry term for layering the butter within the dough. It’s not hard, but it requires some patience and a good amount of time to do it right. I’ve had more requests on my instagram account for a video on how to make them than anything else. So, that’s what I’ve done. I learned this technique at the CIA and I’ve changed nothing (well, I cut them differently, so as not to waste a bit of dough). If you haven’t visited my Instagram stories, you’ll find tutorials (set to the music in my head) for everything from macarons to meringue (because I love using my blow torch) and I take requests for things people are having troubles with in their own kitchens.

Here is the recipe for the croissants, but the instructions are basically useless without the visuals, so come to my Instagram account (you’ll find the video on my homepage in the “highlights” archive. Just look for croissants 101.

(more…)

Read More