Funfetti Birthday Cake with Chocolate Feathers

Funfetti Birthday Cake with Chocolate Feathers | ZoëBakes photo by Zoë François

Last week my youngest son turned 18. It hit me that he’s a man and about to head out into the world to make his mark. I am so excited for him and looking forward to watching him and his brother become their own men, but it’s a touch bittersweet to watch them take off into the world. This birthday will be marked by several cakes and desserts, as we do around here. For his actual birthday, I was traveling and left him a flan, a long time favorite birthday request. The next day, when I returned from my trip I was met by the latest Bake From Scratch cookbook and immediately flipped to the Birthday Cake chapter. Sometimes we just want the classics, and there is nothing better than a really good white cake with vanilla buttercream. It’s probably the most popular cake combination, for good reason. I am perhaps the last baker on the internet to make a Funfetti Birthday Cake, but this occasion called for a bit of celebratory color!! I simply added sprinkles to the Bake From Scratch White Cake.

In the spirit of my son’s birthday, I have partnered with Brian Hart Hoffman and the excellent folks at Hoffman Publishing to Give Away a Copy of the Bake from Scratch (Vol 3): Artisan Recipes for the Home Baker cookbook, just leave a comment below about your perfect birthday cake. You can DOUBLE YOUR CHANCES TO WIN, by heading to my instagram page and signing up there too! Oh, and I have a few holiday cookie recipes in this cookbook, so I hope you’ll bake those as well! 

Funfetti Birthday Cake with Chocolate Feathers | ZoëBakes photo by Zoë François

People ask me where I find inspiration and the truth is, EVERYWHERE! The decorations for this funfetti birthday cake were inspired by a Netflix special and a place card. I was watching a documentary about the fashion designer, Alexander McQueen, and I told my husband his dresses would make incredible cakes, especially a dress covered in feathers that already looked like a cake.  The place cards from my friends at The Punctilious Mr. P’s Place Card Company arrived and they were pictures of gorgeous birds that looked like cake toppers. It wasn’t inspiration as much as fate! The feathers are easy to make with white chocolate, which you can watch me make in my instagram video. Funfetti Birthday Cake recipe and chance to win the book are below! (more…)

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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…)

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Bûche de Noël ~ Christmas Yule Log

This is a classic French dessert that is served at Christmas time. Bûche de Noël translates as the “Christmas Log” and is meant to look like the piece of wood you are about to toss into the fireplace. It is a rather odd tradition and yet I find myself making one every year. It always reminds me of the TV station that plays Christmas music and shows nothing but a burning log in a fireplace. I thought those were just memories of my long ago childhood, but I was amazed to see that the burning log still finds its place on YouTube even today.

Despite my unglamorous association there is something quite elegant and beautiful about the Bûche de Noël. According to Larousse Gastronomique the yule log cake tradition started in the 1870s when Parisian pastry chefs decided to replace the less elaborate brioche style fruit loaf with this more festive confection. Although I am quite partial to the Panettone style breads, I can see why pastry chefs created something a little more fussy to work on, that is just how we are!

I created the yule log pictured here for the holiday issue of Better Homes and Gardens. You can find the recipe here and you’ll find a video of me creating one in my instagram video. It is the very first video in my highlights, so you’ll need to scroll all the way to the end. You may find some other videos to watch along the way.

More Bûche de Noël recipes…

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Honeycomb Banana Layer Cake

Honeycomb Banana Layer Cake | ZoeBakes photos by Zoë François

This Honeycomb Banana Layer Cake is inspired by Cadbury Crunchie Bar candy my husband ate as a child growing up in Montreal. He’s been asking me to recreate the chocolate covered honeycomb (sponge toffee) candy and I am finally getting around to it. Now that I’ve had it, I regret not making it decades ago. I made this banana cake with a coffee flavored honey meringue buttercream, the honeycomb candy seemed just the right garnish for the top. The name comes from the honeycomb look of the candy and not because honey is in the ingredients. I added a touch of honey, just because it seems like it should be in there, but that’s not the traditional way Cadbury Crunchie Bars were made. You can watch me make this cake and honeycomb candy in my instagram video.

Honeycomb Banana Layer Cake | ZoeBakes photos by Zoë François (more…)

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Cajeta Cake with Cinnamon Buttercream

cajeta cake (10 of 3)

This week I finished the second round of edits on my new book. That’s about halfway through the process, but it still felt like a reason to celebrate. I like to celebrate, even the small stuff. Why wait? Celebrate along the way, since the process is the whole reason I do this. Cake seemed the right way to mark the moment. A slightly-over-the-top cajeta cake at that. Piping icing into flowers is a zen moment for me, it’s how I relax and the results are so satisfying.

The inside of this cajeta cake is a collection of things I had stocked up in my freezer, because I always feel a little more secure knowing there is a cake just a thaw away. I typically bake extra cake layers and make more buttercream than I need for a single cake, then I freeze them. This may be a result of years in the catering world, when a rush order would come in and we’d have to create something in minutes, not hours. Cake and buttercream freeze like a dream.

cajeta cake slice (9 of 2)

The cake is chocolate, the buttercream I flavored with cinnamon and for the filling I made cajeta flavored mascarpone cream. Cajeta is often called “Mexican Caramel,” even though it’s not really caramel at all, but a reduction of goat milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and baking soda. You cook it low and slow for a couple of hours until it is both the color and consistency of caramel. The baking soda (an alkaline) reacts with the milk (slightly acidic) and it quickly darkens. Without the addition of baking soda the milk/sugar would have to actually caramelize (burn) to darken and that’s not what we want. You can watch me make the cajeta cake in my instagram stories.

Cajeta has an earthy flavor that I love, but it definitely tastes of goat milk. It is related to the dulce de leche and is made in the exact same way, so you can swap out the cajeta for the cow milk version if you’re not a fan of goat milk. Or, you can combine the two types of milk to mellow out the flavor a bit. You decide.

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St Patrick’s Day Cupcake

St. Patrick's Day Cupcake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Here is a simple, but delicious St. Patrick’s Day cupcake to help you celebrate this greenest of holidays. You can watch me bake and decorate these in my Instagram videos. You’ll also see me save a buttercream from ruin and bring it back to fluffy perfection. The art of pastry is being able to fix what goes wrong. And there is a blow torch involved, so that’s fun. (more…)

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