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…)

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Cardamom Pear Cake

Cardamom Pear Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

Cardamom is the quintessential flavor of the holidays in Scandinavian countries. I hadn’t used it much before moving to Minnesota, where Swedish and Norwegian baking is part of the fabric of this community’s tradition. It is also the perfect spice for pears, which have such a subtle flavor and absorb the intense spice when poached. I started with very firm pears and poached them slowly, so they would take on as much of the cardamom poaching liquid as possible. After the pears were poached to the point of just succumbing to the tines of a fork, but not too soft as to be mushy, I put them in a cardamom and orange cake batter, that I adapted from a Bake from Scratch recipe. When I put the pears into the batter they want to slump into the cake and bake under the surface. I did a little MacGyver engineering and secured them upright in the pan, so they would be standing straight when they came out of the oven. I must say that I was pretty pleased with the results. Recipe below.

Cardamom Pear Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François   (more…)

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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…

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Boozy Cherry Pavlova

Boozy Cherry Pavlova | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

I think a pavlova is the perfect holiday dessert. It is beautiful enough to be a center piece on your table, so light that it can follow a big holiday meal and it’s flavors can change with your every whim. This Boozy Cherry Pavlova was inspired by the cherry cordial filling in the chocolates that are a holiday stocking tradition in my house. I cooked the cherries in champagne, cherry juice and just a touch of sugar, until they created a boozy syrup. This can be done with just juice for a virgin cherry variation. The pavlova also has a layer of lemon curd and lots of whipped cream. “Man, this is delicious!” was the response from my always willing (and very opinionated) taster (and husband). You can see how I baked the pavlova in this shape in my “Pavlova” video on instagram.

So many people asked about baking the pavlova as individual servings, I created a video for that too. The recipe and directions are below, but to watch me make the mini Boozy Cherry Pavlovas and how I fill them, look for “Cherry Pavlova” in my instagram videos.

If you are looking for the equipment I use in any of my recipes, you can find them all here, on my ZoeBakes Kitchen Essentials page, where you can also find my list of favorite cookbooks and sign up for any updates – I add to it with every post. (more…)

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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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