Chocolate Fudge Cake with Strawberry Salsa and Candied Flowers

Chocolate Fudge Cake with Strawberry Salsa and Candied Flowers | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

Chocolate Fudge Cake with Strawberry Salsa and Candied Flowers. It’s been several years, closer to two decades, since I worked in a professional kitchen as a pastry chef. After all those years, I still miss it. Every time I eat at a great restaurant, I wish I was in the kitchen to watch them create the magic. It is magical, but it’s also a crazy amount of work and a super-charged and stressful environment. I left that world shortly after my first son was born (yesterday was his 20th birthday), because it is a hard life on a young family. The hours are long and all the wrong times; nights, weekends and holidays are in high demand. To stay connected to the restaurant world, I’ve consulted on dessert menus. Creating the pastry program gives me all the joy of being a part of the action, without having to be on the line to create the food during the rush of service. The best of both worlds for me. I also stay connected by fawning over restaurant accounts on instagram. One chef I met on instagram, through a web of industry friends, is Neal Fraser. He has an acclaimed restaurant in LA called Redbird.

I just happened to be in NYC when Chef Fraser was going to be cooking, along with fellow LA chefs from The Strand House, at the James Beard House. He invited me to join them for the event (or perhaps I offered (begged him) to let me help and he graciously agreed.) Either way, I found myself in the most iconic kitchen in NYC, cooking with some of the most talented chefs of LA. I don’t really have a bucket list, but if I did, this would be on it. Chef Fraser was in charge of dessert and together we made a chocolate fudge cake with strawberry sauce, chocolate cremeaux, candied violets, sugared pansies and a quenelle of ice cream. You can see pictures of the dinner, the dessert and meet the chefs in my instagram video and watch the James Beard Live Stream of the kitchen as we prepared the meal.

I created this abbreviated version of Chef Fraser’s dessert to share with you. He graciously shared his warm, super fudgy, chocolate cake recipe and I added a fresh strawberry salsa and lavender ice cream to it, all of which you can watch me make Chocolate Fudge Cake with Strawberry Salsa and Candied Flowers in my instagram video. (more…)

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Cherry Semifreddo

Cherry Semifreddo | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

The inspiration of a Cherry Semifreddo goes like this…I recently spent time in New York City and had the great fortune of meeting some of the wonderful people I otherwise only knew on social media. It still seems incredible to me that I can befriend people online, while working alone in my midwestern kitchen. These folks have been my inspiration, my support and my friends. However, it is even better to spend time with friends in person and that’s just what I did. One of the events I attended in NY gathered several of these folks and I had the opportunity to meet so many more, including Hetty Mckinnon, who writes about family, gatherings and delicious food. It just so happened that her newest book, FAMILY, was about to launch and she invited me to an intimate gathering at her Brooklyn photo studio to celebrate. Her food was EXACTLY how I choose to eat! Although I am not vegetarian, I go for clean, bright, bold flavors, in simple, but exciting preparation that don’t take me all day to make. Since I am baking all day and don’t often have time to cook. At her party she made an olive oil cake that blew my mind, which is in the book and I’d buy a copy just for that recipe. 

I made this cherry semifreddo based on her recipe, because I LOVE a semifreddo and it is one of those under appreciated desserts and because we met at the Cherry Bombe Jubilee, so it just felt fitting to celebrate that with a special treat. A semifreddo is a cross between ice cream and mousse, but doesn’t require any special equipment to prepare. The texture is smooth and luxurious when allowed to sit at room temperature until it just on the verge of melting, but still partially cold, hence the name. 

You can watch me make this semifreddo in my instagram video, recipe below.

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Chocolate Microwave Mug Cake

Chocolate Microwave Mug Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

I purposely waited until after April 1st to post this little Disco Party of a Chocolate Microwave Mug Cake, because I didn’t think you’d take it seriously enough. It’s very serious! 😉 The recipe comes from one of the most celebrated pastry chefs of our time, Christina Tosi. Her new Milk Bar book, all about cake, is full of playful, but delicious cakes. This molten chocolate microwave mug cake is in the same chapter as crock-pot cakes and there are 50 pages dedicated to cake pops, sans the stick.

Cake truffles are a catering trick we used to do in professional kitchens to use up the cake scraps and make truffles that were quick and delicious. Christina has lots of fun flavors. I generally go for a recipe in a new book that introduces a technique I’ve not tried before, so baking in a microwave seemed like a good challenge. I was late to buying a microwave, but my boys begged me for it. Now, I am the only one in the house that uses it, mostly to melt butter, but that keeps it pretty busy. Well, as you’ll see from my instagram video, I mastered it.

It’s a cheeky recipe, but I promise, it is one of those cakes you’ll rely on when you need to indulge at midnight. Just you, Donna Summer and a crazy satisfying mug of chocolate cake. I added Caramel-Peanut ice cream to the top, because who eats chocolate cake at midnight without ice cream? Watch me make this cake and disco my hair in my instagram video.

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Chocolate Chestnut Bread Pudding

Chocolate Chestnut Bread Pudding | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

I think this Chocolate Chestnut Bread Pudding may be the ultimate comfort food. I always have bread on the counter. Since my new book, Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day, came out, I have several loaves going at a time. What to do with all the partially eaten loaves? Cube it up, soak it in a rich custard and bake it. It could not be any easier and the results are warm and so satisfying. Bread pudding is one of the those desserts that also doubles as breakfast, like pie and cake! 🙂 No, really, it is full of eggs and toasty bread and this one just happens to have bits of chocolate and chunks of chestnuts. If you were to serve it with a dollop of creme fraiche instead of ice cream, it would be a simple and elegant Christmas breakfast. Add the ice cream and it is a homey, but decadent dessert.

When I worked in restaurants my bread pudding was always one of the most popular desserts on the menu. Hope you enjoy it!

Chocolate Chestnut Bread Pudding | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

You can watch me make this bread pudding in my instagram video. Recipe below. (more…)

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Coffee, Bourbon & Chocolate Baked Alaska

Coffee, Bourbon & Chocolate Baked Alaska | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

This post is from a while back, but I was inspired to bring it to the fore when I created a Baked Alaska for the Holiday issue of Better Homes and Gardens. You will find a picture of my Egg Nog version at the bottom of this post, along with a link to that recipe. The Baked Alaska makes a fantastic and beautiful dessert for any holiday party.

The inspiration for my desserts can come from the craziest places and this Coffee, Bourbon & Chocolate Baked Alaska is no exception. This weekend I fulfilled a dream, (one I didn’t know I had until I did it), to be a radio talk show host. That’s a generous description of what I was doing on the Weekly Dish, but it was the kind job title Stephanie March offered when she invited me to sit in for her co-host (Stephanie Hansen), who was busy being on vacation. Luckily, I was not filling this role alone, our friend Stephanie Meyer, was also on the air for the 2 hour show. I had a ball, but what I learned is that the “Stephanies,” as they are lovingly known, make this job seem so easy and effortless. They are hilarious, smart, quick and have an endless knowledge of what is going on in the Minneapolis food community (and a fair bit about the rest of the country too). I loved every second of it, but don’t think I’ll be giving up my day job.

After the show we went across the street to a neighborhood bar with a long list of coffee drinks, it was only 11am, so booze should be served with caffeine. Stephanie March ordered a coffee, bourbon and black walnut drink, because…bourbon. I took one sip and said “Baked Alaska!” We were due for a snow storm that night, and all the predictions were that we’d be trapped inside. A baked Alaska made with ice cream of espresso bean, chocolate shavings, a splash of bourbon, sitting on a layer of devil’s food and then covered with toasted meringue seemed the perfect way to weather the storm.

Recipe below and you can watch me make the Baked Alaska in my instagram video, found in the highlights.

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Awesome Apple Almond Crisp

Awesome Apple Almond Crisp | ZoeBakes photos by Zoë François

This Awesome Apple Almond Crisp is the easy, last minute, under appreciated cousin to the Apple Pie. It is every bit as delicious and I think beautiful in a rustic way, albeit not as refined looking. It can be in the oven in less than 30 minutes and emerges bubbling, crisp (hence the name) and the perfect landing place for a scoop of ice cream. My topping typically has rolled oats, but this time I wanted the toasted almonds to be the clear star, so I used oat flour instead of the old fashioned oats and all-purpose flour, making this crisp entirely gluten-free (and vegan). I used a mix of apples, as I always do, to give the fruit layer more depth of texture and flavor. I also sliced them thin, because I was using a shallow pan and I wanted the apples to create a dense layer that stood up to the topping. For me the ratio should be just barely more fruit than crisp topping, so you’ll see I go thick.

You can watch me make this Awesome Apple Almond crisp apple crisp

Awesome Apple Almond Crisp | ZoeBakes photos by Zoë François (more…)

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