Apple Butter Rose Tart

Apple Butter Rose Tart | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François  

This apple butter rose tart was inspired by Rory MacDonald’s new cookbook, bake. His book is full sweets, from flaky morning pastries to intricate plated desserts. It’s a book about a pastry chef taking you through the process of a restaurant kitchen, but he made the recipes accessible for the home cook. It is a beautiful book and his apple tart recipe intrigued me the second I turned to the page. His apple design is a super sleek spiral, where as mine went a bit more girly and romantic. I used a vegetable turner, as he suggested, to slice the apples as thin as possible and rolled them tight into rosettes. The ruffles that formed as the apples passed through the turner reminded me of fabric and I loved the effect so much that I just gathered the apple as it fell and piled it into the center of the tart. This tart has so few ingredients and yet the finished dessert is quite striking and intricate looking, perfect for a special occasion. You can watch me put together the apple butter rose tart in my instagram video and recipe is below. 

Apple Butter Rose Tart | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François   (more…)

Read More

Almond Cake with Buttercream Roses

Almond Cake with Buttercream Roses | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François 

At the core this is a pound cake that has a perfectly dense crumb and is rich with almond paste, but it is also a tribute to spring, which is on its way. The decoration came to me after I made the blood orange glaze, that is the prettiest pink you can find in nature. The color is from the red fruit, without use of any food color (the season is short, so you can recreate this color with all natural food color that I link to below). The pink got me to thinking about Easter, Mother’s Day, Bridal Showers, Wedding Cakes and the Couture Dresses at the Oscars, which are tonight. That’s a lot of inspiration for one little bundt cake, but this cake can handle the pressure. The almond cake under all the fancy is good enough to serve with nothing more than the glaze or a simple dusting of confectioners’ sugar, so don’t skip this one even if you aren’t up for piping roses, which I show you how to do in my instagram video of this cake. (more…)

Read More

Perfect Popovers

Perfect Popovers | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François   

When I was in middle school I lived in Westport, CT and would take the train into NYC to spend the weekend with my late aunt, Melissa. She worked in the film industry and seemed impossibly sophisticated in her fashion and food. A favorite tradition was having breakfast at Sarabeth’s. We’d order perfect popovers, which were puffed to the heavens and slathered in her homemade marmalade and/or honey butter. They reminded me of the puffy pancakes my friend Sasha and I had made (when we were just tiny kids) in our commune kitchen, but so much more delicious and light. The perfect popover is crisp on the outside, tender and airy on the inside and at its very best when served right from the oven. This is a super easy and yet very impressive recipe, that even a first time baker can master and feel like they’ve made magic.

The short video I made for these popovers is my first YouTube video in quite some time. When you go to my YouTube channel you will find some vintage Zoë, feel free to ignore those, unless you need a good laugh or want some earnest cake decorating advice. The short video was filmed by Charlie at Lilacs Media(more…)

Read More

Chocolate Chip Cookies 101

Chocolate Chip Cookies 101 | Everything you need to make the best chocolate chip cookies ever. | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

When I was at the University of Vermont studying theater, studio art, English lit, philosophy, photography, Latin, art history and everything else a Liberal Arts Degree offers, I decided to throw a business class into the mix. Truth is, I was just fulfilling a math credit requirement. I learned how to balance a checkbook and some basic—very basic—accounting, which went something like this … don’t spend more than you make! Then the professor had us write a business plan. It was the mid-1980s and I grew up eating Mrs Field’s, David’s and Famous Amos cookies, which were the “gourmet” cookies of the day. While in college I was also the “baker” at a favorite breakfast joint in Winooski, VT and spent my free time baking to relax after classes. So, I wrote my business plan based on a fictitious cookie company called Zoë’s Cookies. I can’t remember how I did in the class, but six months later I was standing on Church Street in Burlington, VT, selling my cookies from a hand pushed cart.

This post is your chocolate chip cookie primer: the result of what I learned making those cookies and the countless batches I’ve baked in the 32 years since then. This post offers a really great chocolate chip cookie recipe, but it is also a Chocolate Chip Cookies 101. I want to explain what the ingredients do to a cookie and how baking can change them. You can tweak your cookies to be just how you like them using my cookie guide towards the bottom of the post. (more…)

Read More

Hot Chocolate Layer Cake

Hot Chocolate Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

This Hot Chocolate Layer Cake is the perfect cold weather dessert, although it would be equally as excellent in the summer or spring or fall. You get the picture, it’s great for any occasion. With hot chocolate as its inspiration, it has layers of Devil’s food, slathered with a deep, dark, luscious chocolate icing, that is like whipped ganache, but better, then I topped the whole thing in homemade marshmallows. I am not a big fan of bagged marshmallows, which taste like sweet, dried out sponges, but the homemade version are amongst my favorite treats. When they are toasted, with a torch, of course, they are soft, melty and delicious. You can flavor them with anything from vanilla to cardamom, or even swirl in chocolate.

I made this cake twice, once with my tried and true Devil’s food and then again for my friend, Stephanie Meyer’s birthday. Stephanie (Fresh Tart) doesn’t eat gluten, so I made the cake with a gluten-free flour blend and it came out just great. See me put the hot chocolate cake together in my instagram video and recipe below. (more…)

Read More

Holiday Sugar Cookies

Holiday Sugar Cookie House | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

This is an updated post from one of my very first blogging efforts back in 2007. The recipe is wonderful, but my photos were a bit rough back then. You can see them at the end of the post, I kept them, because they are sentimental. This Holiday Sugar Cookies recipe is perfect for simple cut out cookies and for building a more intricate house. I live in a big house that makes me think of a wedding cake or confection. I have been meaning to create it out of cookies since I moved in and I finally did it. I think it will become an annual tradition and I imagine I will get more and more detailed with every try. This one was so much fun. I am lucky to have the original blueprints for the house, so it made it easier to trace the outline of the house, but I just approximated where I to, since it didn’t have to be built to stand for very long! 😉

2007 Post: My aunt Kristin is a great collector of recipes. She sends me packages of them, often! The recipes come from magazines, books, cooking shows, gourmet grocery stores and various people she meets. They are far too numerous to try all of them, but I use them as a constant source of inspiration. This past week, just in time for Christmas she sent me a sugar cookie recipe by Dorie Greenspan she had clipped from Bon Appetit and a set of snow flake cookie cutters. I am always searching for the perfect sugar cookie. I’m not sure yet if this is THE ONE, but it is really great. The flavor is not too sweet, slightly lemony (because I added the lemon zest) and the texture is crisp but not at all tough.

I decorated the cookies and house with royal Icing made with lemon juice, which is tasty, quite stunning and strong enough to hold up as the glue for the house. I’ll admit that I love the fussy work of intricate decorations on sugar cookies. It is the closest I will come to ever using my BFA from college. If you don’t share my enthusiasm for precision piping then just sprinkle them with colored sugar like my boys did and they are delicious and festive!

Obviously this recipe and technique are great for Valentines Day, Easter and any other holiday or special occasion when you celebrate with sweets! Which means every day…

(more…)

Read More