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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Maida Heatter Bull’s Eye Cheesecake

Maida Heatter Bull's Eye Cheesecake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

The title of Maida Heatter’s new book sums up why I love my job, Happiness is Baking. When I am sad, I bake! When I am celebrating, I bake! No matter where my mood starts out, I’m always carried to a place of joy as I make my way through a recipe. Maida Heatter has lead me on so many journeys in the kitchen that they are literally countless. I have nearly all of her books and was so thrilled to find out that at the happy age of 102, she has a new one for all of us bakers to enjoy. I went to a classic recipe, the Maida Heatter Bull’s Eye Cheesecake, because it is so striking and delicious. I believe she developed this recipe for one of her first books in 1974. The recipe stands alone and needs nothing but a plate and fork, but sometimes I just can’t leave well enough alone and I draped the whole thing in a glossy ganache. 

Maida Heatter Bull's Eye Cheesecake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François  

You can watch me make the Maida Heatter Bull’s Eye Cheesecake and pour the ganache over the top for a perfectly smooth finish in my instagram videos. Maida Heatter and her publisher have graciously allowed me to share the recipe, which is below. She is also partnering with me to give away 3 copies of her book. You can enter to win here on my website, by leaving a comment below or on my instagram account (just look for this cheesecake for another chance to win). I will pick the 3 winners randomly next week. 

You can also find my Show Stopping Cheesecake Class on Craftsy (Now BluePrint), where I show this technique and all kinds of other simple and fancy cheesecakes. 

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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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Strawberry Rhubarb Fool Cheesecake

Strawberry Rhubarb Fool Cheesecake | ZoëBakes photo by Zoë François

This Strawberry Rhubarb Fool Cheesecake was a happy mistake. You know how they say you learn from your failures? Well, I was going for a tourteau fromage and it went wrong in a big way.

I wanted to make the classic French cheesecake that is baked in a rounded pan, is lightened with whipped egg whites and has a top crust that is burnt, black as night, and is domed. Mine came out a lovely caramel color and sank like a bowl. So, instead of feeling defeated, I used it as a bowl. I was going to just make a traditional strawberry New York cheesecake topping, but it’s almost spring and the rhubarb is popping up all over instagram, so I added a rhubarb fool as well. What started out as a mistake turned into a family favorite. There was lots of joy and praise leveled at this delicious weeble of a dessert. 

The tourteau fromage I was trying for is made with a young goat cheese, but my family preferred the version I made with a combination of cream cheese and mascarpone. I figured since I’d failed at the traditional one, it wouldn’t matter if I really took it off the rails and just developed my very own thing. It has a subtle flavor that is the perfect vessel for the tart fool and sweet strawberries.

The rhubarb fool is nothing more than roasted rhubarb folded into barely sweetened whipped cream. This simple preparation of the fruit (we all know rhubarb is a vegetable that passes as a fruit) is very British and there are many ways to make a fool, but this is the simplest and most fool proof. Oh, come on, you knew that pun was coming. The strawberry sauce is just the berries, a bit of sugar and a touch of starch to hold the juices together. 

I decorated it to look like a jester’s hat, because the whole fool theme. Actually, I realized what I had done after I took the photo, it was just a happy accident. 

Strawberry Rhubarb Fool Cheesecake | ZoëBakes photo by Zoë François

You can watch me make this Strawberry Rhubarb Fool Cheesecake in my instagram video and the recipe is below.

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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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