Cherry Blossom Cake

Cherry Blossom Cake | zoebakes photo by Zoë François 

The magic trick of cake decorating was revealed to me 16 years ago when I attended a week long class at the Wilton School of Cake Decorating and Confectionery Art outside of Chicago. Anyone who loves cake and piping icing knows the Wilton name and reaches for their products to get the job done. I was beyond thrilled and honored when they asked me to try out their new line of products, Texturra Performance Bakeware and Versa-Tools, and create a signature dessert using them. This Cherry Blossom Cake came to me instantly, because I wanted to utilize the piping skills I learned from their classes all those years ago. I had just been on a trip to NYC and the cherry trees were in full bloom with their sweet, delicate blossoms. The inside of the cake is a spiral of sponge cake, which I baked in the new Texturra Performance baking sheet. Since they claim it is truly non-stick, I tested it by skipping the parchment paper. This is not something I would usually do, since parchment is the insurance policy, I rely on to make sure my cakes don’t glue themselves to the pan. The Wilton promise was spot on, the cake released from the unlined Texturra pan with ease, rendering the extra parchment unnecessary. For avid bakers, you know how exciting this is. 

I filled the sponge cake with a simple whipped cream and cherry sauce. This is where the new multi-functional Versa-Tools came in handy. I used them to make the filling, spread it, roll the cake and even decorate the sides. They are flexible, useful and multipurpose, which is everything you want in a kitchen tool. 

For the flowers I piped a simple cherry blossom with lemon royal icing and stuck them to the buttercream covered cake. There are a few steps to this Cherry Blossom Cake, but it is such a fun project and the results are stunning. 

You can watch me make this cake start to finish in my Instagram video and the recipe below.

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Chocolate Microwave Mug Cake

Chocolate Microwave Mug Cakes topped with ice cream

I purposely waited until after April 1st to post this little Disco Party of a Chocolate Microwave Mug Cake, because I didn’t think you’d take it seriously enough. It’s very serious! 😉

The recipe was inspired by one of the most celebrated pastry chefs of our time, Christina Tosi. Her new Milk Bar book, all about cake, is full of playful, but delicious cakes. Her molten chocolate microwave mug cake is in the same chapter as crock-pot cakes and there are 50 pages dedicated to cake pops, sans the stick.

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Simple Chocolate Cake

Simple Chocolate Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

Oh, you know me, I love a flourish. Sometimes it’s a rose crown on a bundt cake or a ruffle of gossamer apples topping a tart or maybe, just maybe a crazy swirl of toasted meringue on anything! But, sometimes simple is best. A summer snack at the lake, a slice of cake in a lunchbox or a midnight treat with a glass of milk. Those are the cakes we’ll make at the last minute, after a long day of work, just because we want a treat and cake makes everything good. Odette Williams wrote Simple Cake, a book about those cakes; the simple ones that are pure joy. Her book is filled with lots of delicious cakes and simple toppings that are great for a special occasion, but just as good if nothing in particular is going on. This simple chocolate cake is elegant and warm and makes me want to eat all the cake. 

I baked Odette’s Simple Chocolate Cake in a pullman pan, because I like the clean shape of the slices. I combined two of the whipped cream flavors she suggested for the cake to create a Vietnamese coffee cream, which was just the right balance of sweet and bitter. I went at the cake with a giant star tipped piping bag and then backed away and realized it needed something quiet and sleek. I just spread the whipped cream over the cake and smoothed the edges. I’m in love with this cake, it calms me. The dusting of cocoa was for drama (I just can’t help myself) and more contrast of flavor. Read More

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. Read More

Best-Ever Homemade Carrot Cake

The best-ever homemade carrot cake decorated with cream cheese frosting and candied carrot peels.

This carrot cake is perfectly spiced, moist and unbelievably good! Using candied carrot peels as decoration (optional), cream cheese frosting and sweetened shredded coconut, this cake is simply the best — I make it all the time.

My Ultimate Carrot Cake with Candied Carrot Peels recipe is one of my favorites from Zoë Bakes Cakes. I make it a lot. For birthdays, for Tuesdays, for family gatherings, it was the first cake my boys ate, because I could justify giving a baby cake, if it had carrots. I’m not suggesting it replace baby food, but for their first birthday cakes, it was my go to. I put this cake and many more of my all time favorites into my new book, Zoë Bakes Cakes: Everything You Need to Know to Make Your Favorite Layers, Bundts, Loaves, and More:

Zoë Bakes Cakes, Zoë François's cookbook.

I was inspired to use the whole carrot after making Cenk Sönmezsoy’s Perfect Apple Pie, which uses every single bit of the apple to make the pie, core, peel, and seeds are all used to extract as much apple flavor as possible. I love that he didn’t waste a bit of the fruit. I usually peel the carrots and toss them away into the composter, which honestly doesn’t cause me too much guilt, but why not use them for the cake? I just washed the carrots, peeled them, and candied the peels. They go through several stages while baking. First they turn to carrot leather, chewy and soft, then they dehydrate fully and turn to a snappy, brittle, sweet, but earthy candy. Delicious.

A slice of homemade carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, decorated with candied carrot peels.

You can watch me make the cake and carrot candy (plus a picture of my son eating his first carrot cake – 19 years ago) in my instagram video and find the recipe below. 

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Cardamom Pear Cake

Pear-Cardamom Cake | ZoeBakes 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. When I put the pears into the batter of this pear-cardamom cake they want to slump into the cake and bake under the surface. I discovered that by checking the pears after 20 minutes of baking to make sure they’re upright in the pan, they stand straight when they come out of the oven. I must say I’m pretty pleased with the results. Updated recipe from my book, Zoe Bakes Cakes, below.

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