Flourless Chocolate Lava Cake for Passover

Flourless Chocolate Lava Cake with Blackberries for Passover (gluten free) | Photo by Zoë François

The chocolate lava cake has got to be one of the most popular desserts to ever hit American dessert menus. The story goes that Jean-George Vongerichten created it in New York, sometime in the 80s. Others claim it goes farther back in history and should be credited to the French. Whoever was the first to pull a chocolate cake from the oven too soon, to discover that it was thoroughly baked on the outside and still warm and gooey on the inside, was a genius. Since the 80s nearly all restaurants have created a version of chocolate lava cakes. Some of the recipes, including Vongerichten’s, are not actually flourless, but for Passover it must be. The version I have created is made with bittersweet chocolate, cocoa powder, butter and egg whites. It is just a touch lighter in texture than many recipes, due to the whipped egg whites. If you need to make the dessert parve (no dairy), you can replace the butter with your favorite margarine or butter substitute, but not oil. These can be prepared a few days ahead, refrigerated and baked just before serving. Read More

Vanilla Bean Pound Cake

Vanilla bean pound cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

There may be no better dessert than a well crafted pound cake. It is perfect in its simplicity and purity of flavor. This vanilla bean pound cake gets its name from the recipe’s old-fashion formula; 1 pound butter, 1 pound flour, 1 pound eggs and 1 pound sugar. Very few modern recipes follow these exact proportions anymore, but the name stuck. Despite the richness of all that creamy butter and eggs the cake is actually quite delicate. I cream the life out of the butter to incorporate lots of air into it, whip the eggs until they are light and fluffy and add just a touch of baking powder to guarantee the texture I love. This is an excellent place to try out a European-style butter, which is made with less water and whey than American butters. It creates a melt in your mouth cake that is like eating vanilla flavored velvet. I use 1 1/2 vanilla beans to make sure the flavor is as intense as possible, but even made with a single bean this cake will knock your socks off. You can shake some confectioner’s sugar over the top or create this vanilla bean icing that accentuates the flavor and seals in the moisture of the cake. Read More

Valentine’s Day Desserts!

Valentine's Day Desserts - Chocolate Cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François
Valentine’s Day Chocolate Cake

I asked you what your favorite Valentine’s Day desserts are, and almost all of you answered chocolate. Chocolate in any and all forms. Although it was the hands down winner, there were also a large number who craved strawberries. Some of the treats on your list I haven’t made on ZoëBakes yet, but you can be sure I will now! Here are a few that caught my eye; tiramisu, molten lava cakes and a flourless chocolate soufflé cake. Thanks for the chocolatey inspiration. Feel free to add to the list.

Here are a few Valentine’s Day desserts you requested. For the recipes just click on the pictures. Read More

Almond Chiffon Cake

Almond Chiffon Cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

There are several perks to writing a food blog, the best being the excuse to have delicious cakes, like this almond chiffon cake, in the house at all times. The only person who has an issue with this is my personal trainer, but I just remind him what job security it is for him. I also have an extensive (300+) cookbook library that I attribute to “research” when my husband asks where we will put them all, now that my book shelves are over flowing. Then there are the products companies send me to critique and review. I have received everything from peanut flour (which I adore) to a confectionery funnel (which is for portion control of pancakes and other runny stuff. Really, you have to make your pancakes the exact same size???). I will never review or endorse a product I don’t actually love and find value in. As I mentioned, my shelves are overflowing and I need to make room for several books that I got for Christmas. So, I’m going to do a series of giveaways to make space. Admittedly this first giveaway doesn’t take up any room at all, but it was an awfully generous gift from Williams-Sonoma and I think you should have it. They sent me two gift cards. One for $50 and the other for $100. They are yours if you leave a comment about the strangest piece of kitchen equipment you own. Do you ever use it? I will pick two random winners next week. The first pick will get a $100 gift card and the second a $50 gift card to Williams-Sonoma. WINNERS HAVE BEEN CHOSEN!

Now back to the baking…this cake was inspired by my trip to Italy this past summer. The man who owned the home we rented introduced me to his favorite cookie, the ricciarelli. They are made from almond paste and egg whites baked into little rich clouds and dusted with pure white confectioners’ sugar. I was completely addicted to them after the first bite. They are available all over Tuscany and when baked fresh you want to sing their praises. The stale ones you buy in the tin are to be avoided and unfortunately that is what most of us have tried. After writing this description I realize I need to create and post a recipe for the actual cookie, but for now I have a cake that it inspired. It is light and spongy, but at the same time decadent because of the almond paste. The cake is great on its own with a cup of coffee for breakfast or with ice cream or coulis for dessert.

For recipe

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Charlie’s Chocolate Charlotte for his 8th Birthday! (how to make your own ladyfingers!)

Chocolate Charlotte Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Happy Birthday Charlie! You are the best sous chef a mom could ever ask for!

Not to be outdone by his brother’s Valentine’s dessert, Charlie designed these little cakes for his 8th birthday. Complete with layers of different chocolate mousse, a drizzle of caramel and topped with cream and berries. He instructed me to put strips of cake around the outside to hold it all in. Voila, he had built a chocolate charlotte in his mind! The kid is a genius! (in my humble, unbiased opinion ;))

Charlie has helped me in the kitchen ever since he could drag a stool over to the counter. He cracks eggs like pro, knows how to use a kitchen scale and is going to have better knife skills than I do someday soon. He already makes his own crepes, aebleskivers and bread, of course! He has passion in the kitchen and that special touch it takes to be a great chef! And a proud mom! Read More

Basics: Homemade Rolled Fondant! part two

More than half of the cakes I do for clients are covered with fondant. It is gorgeous, sleek and can be simple or ornate.  Over the years I’ve tried just about every product out there and have loved some and loathed others. Some are easy to use but have no taste feel like chewing gum in your mouth. Others are melt in your mouth and have a pleasant flavor, but are nearly impossible to work with unless the conditions are just right. Not to mention the cost. For those of you who have worked with it you know it is very spendy, as we say here in MN. So make your own and get the flavor, the texture and the price you like. It is very easy, albeit a tad messy, but most of all fun! Read More