Today is my best friend’s birthday and nothing short of a Buttercream Rose Cake will do. This is also the perfect cake for Easter, which is just around the corner. Creating the buttercream roses and other flowers requires a bit of special equipment and some practice, but this is just the kind of activity that relaxes me and I hope you agree. I’ll walk you through building the cake that will be the canvas for your floral top and then show you how to create the buttercream and roses.
I have some tutorials on my Instagram page, but you can find even more information on my youtube channel (links for each step below). Read More
There are two camps when it comes to beets and each is fiercely committed to their opinions. One side loves the sweet, jewel-toned, earthiness of the root vegetable and usually order them at every opportunity. That’s the camp I’m in. I LOVE beets. Then there are the folks that don’t. This Chocolate Beet Cake with Ganache by Susan Spungen from her gorgeous new book, Open Kitchen: Inspired Food for Casual Gatherings, will bring the two camps together in perfect agreement. It is so delicious and despite my selfish desire to have the beet flavor shine through, it is so subtle, it just leaves a super-rich and moist cake that everyone, no matter their feelings about beets, will love. Plus, it is so gorgeous, how could you refuse to try it? Once you do, you’ll go in for seconds.
The art of tempering chocolate (this is when melted chocolate sets at room temperature and stays shiny) seems like a next-level task, but Susan brings it into the home kitchen with great ease. Like anything you are trying for the first time, it takes a bit of getting used to it. I will walk you through it in my Instagram video and Susan’s directions are terrific, so give it a try and see how satisfying and beautiful the curls are. You’ll end up using this technique for so many desserts. The finishing touch on the Chocolate Beet Cake with Ganache is a dusting of beet powder. When I was flipping through Susan’s book this cake jumped off the page because of the velvety red finish of beet powder. It is actually quite easy to find too (see link and recommendations below).
For those of you who are not familiar with Susan Spungen by name, you are certainly familiar with her work. She was the editor of Martha Stewart Living, she is the go-to food stylist for Hollywood, having created all the incredible food in Julie & Julia, Eat Pray Love and many others. Open Table is a beautiful book about casually entertaining, but with incredible style. I’m such a fan of her and her lovely book. Susan generously gave me permission to share the recipe with you, which you’ll find below. I also made the cake in a video which you’ll find on my Instagram account. Read More
This Guinness Chocolate Cake with White Knight Frosting was inspired by my recent trip to Ireland. I have had epically good fortune this past year which brought me to Ireland twice. Earlier this year, I spent a week seeing Ireland with my friends at Bake from Scratch magazine, Tourism Ireland and Williams Sonoma. With each trip I have fallen deeper in love with that country. I know you will love it too and so I want to share an opportunity to win a trip to Ireland. Tourism Ireland* is giving one lucky winner the chance to design a customized trip to Ireland for 2 people. You can see some of the great places I’ve seen like Powerscourt House and Gardens, Kylemore Abbey, Kinsale, Cork City and so much more (check out my Ireland 2020 Instagram highlights to see some of these magical places. For IRELAND SWEEPSTAKES Enter Here! Winner will be drawn in November. Ireland is beyond beautiful with the rolling hills of green grass and clover that fall off into the ocean and that’s just a description of the pastures where the dairy cows graze.
The dairy in Ireland and all the products made with it were among the biggest surprises for me. I come from a dairy rich state and yet, I have never experienced cream, butter and even simple milk like I had in Ireland. I kept asking the bakers I met during my trip what they’d topped cakes with, just to find out that it was nothing more than whipping cream. That whipping cream was so luxurious I assumed it was made with creme fraiche or something to boost the velvety texture it had. Turns out feeding cows nothing more than green Irish grasses produces cream that needs nothing more than aeration to achieve magic.
(just some of the chocolates I brought home from Ireland)
Another pleasant surprise was the universal love of chocolate I found across Ireland. Just about every stop, including at the petrol station, turned into an opportunity to eat chocolate. Maybe these two discoveries are not unrelated, the chocolate + the rich cream are bound to be dynamic. Even brands of chocolate I’ve had in the States, that have never elicited anything more than mild pleasure were so superior in Ireland. Then there were the local, bespoke chocolate makers who were creating truly brilliant and exciting boxes of chocolates.
This is Sister Genevieve from Kylemore Abbey who creates some of the finest chocolates I’ve ever had. I even got a chance to step into her chocolate making shop and try my hand at creating her famous and adorable chocolate sheep. You can see more pictures and videos of the chocolates and chocolate makers I met in my Instagram Stories (including my moment in Sister Genevieve’s workshop).
During our trip through Ireland, we stopped at as many bakeries as we could fit into a day. The full list of not-to-be-missed bakeries will appear in an upcoming issue of Bake From Scratch Magazine. One of our stops was at the Pepperpot Cafe in Dublin, which I was lucky enough to visit on both of my trips through Ireland. They served us a lovely chocolate stout cake with a super-rich, but simple whipped cream topping. I was instantly smitten and knew I’d come home to make a version of my own. Later that evening we arrived at Castlemartyr Resort, again a place I’ve been fortunate enough to stay at twice (and I hope to go back again and again!)
In the beautiful lounge at Castlemartyr we were served a White Knight cocktail (think of the Irish version of a White Russian), which had layers of whiskey and a tall pour of perfect Irish heavy cream. It tasted like it was meant to be frosting and was the final inspiration for this cake. Read More
I made this Apple Pie with Lacy Whole Wheat Lattice Crust to celebrate the milestone of having 200k amazing followers on Instagram. It’s not just any pie, but a lacy lattice pie. It looks super fancy, but really it’s simple to make with the right tools. As a THANK YOU to everyone who has made Instagram such a remarkably fun and inspirational place to spend my time (Yes, I’m talking to you!), I teamed up with Emile Henry and JK Adams to do a Lacy Pie tool GIVEAWAY.
You can win the GRAND PRIZE PACKAGE of the tools I used to make this Apple Pie with Lacy Whole Wheat Lattice Crust:
You need to enter on my @zoebakes Instagram account since this is a celebration of my time there. If you are not already on Instagram, I highly encourage you to join us there, since I share videos and my favorite pastry inspiration on that platform.
This Blood Orange Creamsicle Semifreddo was inspired by one of my first pastry mentors, Claudia Flemming. Her book, The Last Course, was a collection of desserts she created for the venerable restaurant, Gramercy Tavern, in New York. It is an understatement to say her book was a steady guide to me when I was a pastry chef, fresh out of culinary school and trying to find my voice as a chef. She was combining flavors in ways that no one else was doing at the time. She used herbs in desserts and she had an exquisite balance of sweetness, sour, bitter, and salty. Her palate was informed by the savory side of the kitchen and it made all of her desserts profoundly more interesting and exciting to me. My copy of her book was written in, dog eared and splattered with cake batter, the truest sign of respect to a cookbook and its author. That seminal book went out of print for a while, but there was a cult following that just never let it be forgotten. So, when her publisher decided to celebrate it with another printing, I was thrilled. Other than the cover there are no changes to the book and it didn’t need any, that’s how good it was and is. The desserts still hold up nearly a decade later and I was just as excited by the Frozen Orange-Blossom Honey Mousse today as I was the first time I made it in 2001. I topped it with Blood Orange Sorbet to create my idea of the perfect creamsicle and then topped it with a Rosemary and Orange Meringue. I think Claudia would approve of the combination.
When my son was heading back to college after winter break I asked him what he’d like for his last homemade dessert before our long drive. He opened up Pastry Love by Joanne Change and pointed to her cobbler. The perfect choice. Perhaps nothing says comfort food as well and succinctly as a blueberry cobbler. Bubbling sweet fruit covered with tender, flaky biscuits is exactly the image I hope he recalls of being home for the holidays. Joanne is a phenomenal pastry chef and owns, Flour, one of my all-time favorite bakeries in Boston, so I knew her recipe would satisfy this lofty request from my son. It did not disappoint and I have a feeling this will be an often requested treat in my house. Her book is filled with so many fantastic recipes from this quintessential comfort food to more refined pastries. A pastry book for every home!