Carrot Cupcakes (from The Minimalist Kitchen)

Minimalist carrot cupcakes | Zoe Bakes(11 of 5)

If you’ve ever seen my kitchen tour on instagram, you’ll know that I am not a minimalist. The abundance  just sort of happened. I’ve lived a full life and gathered stuff along the way. Too much stuff, perhaps. I just got Melissa Coleman’s (thefauxmartha) beautiful new book and I am determined to declutter, downsize and minimize my kitchen (and eventually my whole house). I vow to go through each cabinet and keep only what is essential. The rest I will donate or pass along to the next owner. The other thing that is wonderful about her book and philosophy is the way she approaches a recipe. Use as few utensils and equipment as possible. In my instagram video of this recipe, I did just that. I tried to stick to the two bowls she recommends and even chose one with a spout, so I could just pour the batter out, instead of using a spoon to scoop. It’s amazing to be so conscious of what is crucial and what is just extra. I normally live in the “extra” zone, but now I will be more mindful.

I adore carrot cake. It’s one of my favorite desserts. This carrot cupcakes recipe is delicate and less hippie than my go to, so it was fun to try Melissa’s sophisticated take on the classic. The mascarpone frosting is so good I had to keep my whole family from eating all before I could pipe it onto the carrot cupcakes. Melissa has kindly given me permission to share her lovely recipe with you here. I also have a video of making them on my instagram page.

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Pear Almond Tart

poached pear almond tart | photo by Zoë François

I think tarts are an under appreciated art form. The sweet, tender crust is the perfect frame for just about any filling. This one has poached pears laying in a bed of almond cream and surrounded by toasted almonds. The flavor combination is classically French and looks sophisticated enough to be served at any special occasion. But, it’s really quite simple to create and there’s no reason not to have it on a Tuesday or for breakfast or as an after school snack. 

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Banoffee Pie Topped with Toasted Meringue from The Farmette Cookbook

Banoffee Pie | ZoeBakes (3 of 7)

There are many beautiful cookbooks coming out of this rich world of food blogging, but The Farmette Cookbook is special. It isn’t at all surprising considering Imen is one of those people who lives a life full of passion, creativity and grace. It isn’t luck exactly, it is a fierce curiosity about food and farming and Ireland and photography and being a mom and a friend and a student of life. She has created a magical life in Ireland, which is nothing short of a real life fairytale. Her book speaks to all those things and is absolutely gorgeous.

Do you have pie questions or need to troubleshoot your recipe? Check out my guide on how to make pie crust.

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Grapefruit Posset with Campari Gelee

Grapefruit Posset | Zoebakes 07

This is a grapefruit Posset. It has been around for a very long time, but chances are you’ve never heard of it. It is like a perfectly executed panna cotta, in texture and taste, but it is made without the gelatin. There is no fear that you will end up with creamy jello because you added too much gelatin. As a result you have to serve it in a cup because it’s so perfectly soft and it can’t hold its shape if inverted onto a plate. I’m smitten with this dessert and believe in my heart of hearts that it will become the next big thing in restaurants. Well, it should be at least.

Grapefruit Posset | Zoebakes 09

The creamy grapefruit posset really needs no accessories, so you can serve it all by itself. But, I wanted to layer on the grapefruit flavor, so I made a bed of pound cake and then topped it with a grapefruit and Campari gelee. It is very rich, but the grapefruit and slight bitterness of the campari create a sophisticated “creamsicle” that is super refreshing.

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Homemade Crème Fraîche

Homemade crème fraîche | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Homemade crème fraîche is the sophisticated French cousin of sour cream. Its texture is smoother and the flavor more subtle, not quite so sour, but still a bit sharp. It is simple to make and requires only two ingredients, so it is no wonder it is a staple in most French kitchens and a must have for pastry chefs.

Fresh heavy cream is blended with just a splash of buttermilk and then left to sit, it does all the work on its own, and the result is luscious. I like to finish sweet desserts with the cultured cream; a thin layer on my butterscotch pot de crème, a dollop on top of a berry pie or stirred into chocolate ganache. It can be used in place of sour cream or most places you might use heavy cream. Read More

Icebox Cake (homemade chocolate wafers with caramel cream)

icebox cake with homemade chocolate wafers and caramel cream | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

Icebox cake, is really not a cake at all; it’s layers of chocolate wafer cookies and whip cream. So, what’s up with the name? Once the cookies and the cream have a chance to sit together, in their little rows, the cookies soften and in a blind taste test you’d never know you weren’t eating cake. I am sure the version I ate as a child was made with Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers, which are still available (and still satisfy), plus Cool Whip. I loved it as a kid, but now my taste buds crave more flavor and a LOT less sweet. I added burnt sugar to the fresh whipping cream and baked my own bittersweet chocolate wafers. The homemade chocolate wafers make a big difference. They are intensely chocolate and less sweet, which gives the icebox cake so much more personality. Something old is new again and much tastier.

When you slice into the icebox cake you reveal the beautiful stripes of caramel and chocolate. You can simply spread the top with the caramel whip cream, but for Easter or other holidays you might want to use a pastry bag and pipe a fancier design. As you can see I went a little Downton Abbey with my decorating, but either way this is one of the easiest and tastiest desserts I have ever made. Read More