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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Cherry Semifreddo

Cherry Semifreddo | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

The inspiration of a Cherry Semifreddo goes like this…I recently spent time in New York City and had the great fortune of meeting some of the wonderful people I otherwise only knew on social media. It still seems incredible to me that I can befriend people online, while working alone in my midwestern kitchen. These folks have been my inspiration, my support and my friends. However, it is even better to spend time with friends in person and that’s just what I did. One of the events I attended in NY gathered several of these folks and I had the opportunity to meet so many more, including Hetty Mckinnon, who writes about family, gatherings and delicious food. It just so happened that her newest book, FAMILY, was about to launch and she invited me to an intimate gathering at her Brooklyn photo studio to celebrate. Her food was EXACTLY how I choose to eat! Although I am not vegetarian, I go for clean, bright, bold flavors, in simple, but exciting preparation that don’t take me all day to make. Since I am baking all day and don’t often have time to cook. At her party she made an olive oil cake that blew my mind, which is in the book and I’d buy a copy just for that recipe. 

I made this cherry semifreddo based on her recipe, because I LOVE a semifreddo and it is one of those under appreciated desserts and because we met at the Cherry Bombe Jubilee, so it just felt fitting to celebrate that with a special treat. A semifreddo is a cross between ice cream and mousse, but doesn’t require any special equipment to prepare. The texture is smooth and luxurious when allowed to sit at room temperature until it just on the verge of melting, but still partially cold, hence the name. 

You can watch me make this semifreddo in my instagram video, recipe below.

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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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Cherry Olive Oil Cake

Cherry Olive Oil Cake | photo by Zoë François

A family friend is Greek and sent me a honey from Ikaria. It is a little smoky and tastes of caramel. Bees never cease to amaze me in what they create. I wanted to bake it into a cake and decided to go with other flavors you might find on that Greek island. Olive oil, of course. It is best known for savory dishes, but I think it is beautiful in desserts. I like a fruity oil, but you can use an extra virgin if you don’t want anything too over powering. Lastly, but not least, cherries. Apparently they abound in Ikaria and they pair beautifully with honey and olive oil, so they were the natural pick. I used sweet cherries, but I think sour cherries would be even better and they are in season at the moment. You could use any other fruit you like and add them in the same way.

Watch the cherry olive oil cake come together in a video on my instagram page.

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Chocolate Cherry Cake with Marsala Cream

Chocolate Cherry Cake with Marsala Cream | ZoeBakes | Photo by Zoë François

There has been lots of conversation about grains recently. Many opinions and theories and personal stories about whether or not they should be eaten, and if so, which ones, and by whom. One of the voices I trust the most on the topic is Maria Speck. She is endlessly thoughtful and has meticulously researched the subject. You will see both a passionate and intellectual pursuit of delicious grain filled recipes in her latest book “simply ancient grains.” A few years ago I would have warned you that some of these grains are a bit challenging to find, but thanks to folks like Maria, these grains can be found in most grocery stores and easily had online.

Instead of summarizing Maria’s words on the subject of grains, I invite you not only to take a look at her beautiful book, but also to read the words she recently wrote in the Washington Post on the importance of grains.

Simply Ancient Grains Cookbook by Maria Speck | ZoeBakes | Photo by Zoë François

As I flipped through Maria’s book I was struck by this photograph by Erin Kunkel. I just knew this was the recipe I’d start with. The chocolate cherry cake looked absolutely perfect baked in a loaf pan, but I wanted a slightly more festive presentation, so I took Maria’s exact recipe, but just baked it in cake pans instead. Your friends and family will never know that this chocolate cherry cake is made with whole grain Kamut flour (more about that in a minute), they’ll just know it is chocolatey and delicious.

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Cherry Cheesecake

Heart-Shaped Cherry Cheesecake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

I started off thinking this was a Valentine’s post, with a heart-shaped sensuous cheesecake, topped with ruby-red cherry sauce. It still is, but I have to digress for a moment and talk about the Olympics. It is more connected and less random than you might think. When I was researching the origin of the cheesecake I found out, thanks the internet, that this favorite cake (which I think is really a custard, but now I digress in my digression) dates back to about 250 bc, where a Roman politician first wrote down the recipe. I am sharing it with you, because the translation is hysterical and I can only imagine the range in results with such crude instructions:

“Recipe for libum (cheesecake) – Bray 2 pounds of cheese thoroughly in a mortar; when it is thoroughly macerated, add 1 pound of wheat flour, or, if you wish the cake to be more dainty, ½ pound of fine flour, and mix thoroughly with the cheese. Add 1 egg, and work the whole well. Pat out a loaf, place on leaves, and bake slowly on a warm hearth under a crock.”

It goes on to talk about covering it in honey and poppy-seeds if you so desire. Even the “dainty” version sounds a bit severe to me. The editor who translated this couldn’t help themselves and added a note at the end that reads…”These recipes cannot be considered alluring.” They were, however, hearty and fed to the ancient Olympians during the games to keep them well fueled. Oh, how far we have come from the times when you had to “bray” (grind) cheese to get it soft enough. This rather utilitarian version of the cheesecake may have satisfied the ancient Romans, but today we are going for something a little bit sexier.

My cherry cheesecake is made with ricotta and a touch of honey, as a nod to the original Romans, but that’s as far as the similarities go. Just a touch of flour is used as a slight binder, but not so much as to ruin the luxurious texture. I whipped the egg whites and folded them into the cheese batter to keep it lighter than some of my denser, custard-style cheesecakes. The crust is crushed ginger cookies and the cherry topping is made with a hint of vanilla, cardamom and ginger extracts. This cake would keep any Olympian going, but it’s romantic enough to serve to your sweetheart on Valentine’s day. (more…)

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