Crisps, Cobblers and Crumbles + Pumpkin-Apple Caramel Hot Dish

Almond apple crisp in a large pot

If you’re looking forward to fall and winter parties — from the fun and informal to big holiday gatherings — this post is for you. There are all kinds of desserts you can make for your get-togethers, but some of the best feature fruit, sugar and topped with something delicious. For informal occasions, a nice, quick crisp will do the trick. The more fancy dinner parties may call for your very best pie, but this post will help you make the dessert decision with an overview of crisps, crumbles and cobblers. Plus the similarities and differences between each. (And a little bonus pie content.)

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Meringue Cake with Roasted Pears

Meringue Cake with Roasted Pears

I started the Zoë Bakes blog in 2007 as a way to stay connected to pastry while I was raising my boys and working on the Breadin5 bread books. I quickly found my community of online peers and Aran Goyoaga and her blog, Cannelle et Vanille, was at the center of it. Her recipes and photography stood out and became the bar the rest of us tried to reach. All these years later I am still striving to create the beauty she seems to produce with such immense grace and ease as if pastry is an innate talent. She grew up in a baking family and so, perhaps she was born with a touch of magic in her hand.

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Pumpkin Cake with Balsamic Cinnamon Meringue and Bittersweet Ganache

A slice of pumpkin cake with cinnamon meringue and layers of bittersweet ganache

This is a cake I recently baked at the Cherry Bombe Cooks & Books event in Brooklyn. All of the recipes are from Zoë Bakes Cakes, but I rearranged them into this sassy layer cake with a toasted meringue top. The pumpkin bundt cake from the book, can be baked as rounds, then separated by chocolate ganache and topped with the Swiss Meringue Topping. I decided for the sake of fall flavors and wanting to temper the sweetness of the meringue, I added an aged balsamic vinegar and ground cinnamon to the whipped peaks, before spiking it onto the cake and setting it ablaze with a blow torch. The recipes and directions to recreate the cake are below.

The cake layers were baked the day before, wrapped, and refrigerated. The chocolate ganache was also made ahead and just set at room temperature so it would be easy to spread. The day of the event I made the meringue and assembled the cake in front of an in-person crowd, while talking (it had been a while since I’d seen humans, so I had a lot to say) and got the cake finished in about 20 minutes. All of this is to say, that if you work ahead, a cake like this doesn’t take long to create. It absolutely can be made in one go, but you can decide how it best fits your schedule.

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Bittersweet Chocolate Tart with Irish Cream

Bittersweet chocolate tart with shortbread crust and piped whipped cream with chocolate shavings.

By now I am sure you’re aware of my dear friend Sarah Kieffer of The Vanilla Bean Blog. If you’ve watched Zoë Bakes on Magnolia Network, you’ve seen us make her famous pan-banging cookies together. Sarah even photographed me doing the how-to photos in my latest cookbook, Zoë Bakes Cakes. We go way back.

So it makes me very excited to tell you about Sarah’s brand new cookbook, Baking for the Holidays! This book is so beautiful, but that’s what we’ve all come to expect from Sarah. It’s filled with more than 50 recipes for easy morning pastries, treats to serve at your holiday table, ideas for gifting (Caramel candies! Turtle bars! Peppermint bark!), and so many more recipes that will quickly become family traditions. She’s also a genius story teller and even included a section of music to bake to. You know how much I love dancing in the kitchen!

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Snacks for Kids

Whether you’re looking for breakfast ideas before the kids head off to the bus stop, back to school treats to pack in their lunch boxes, after school snacks for kids, or a treat to wrap in a care package for your college student, I’ve got ideas for every palate (yes, even the most persnickety will find something here!).

Host Zoe Francois with her sons, Charlie and Henri, taste the squash scones, as seen on Zoe Bakes, season 1.
Tasting homemade squash scones with my sons Charlie and Henri on my new show, Zoë Bakes on Magnolia Network.
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