This Hot Chocolate Layer Cake is the perfect cold weather dessert, although it would be equally as excellent in the summer or spring or fall. You get the picture, it’s great for any occasion. With hot chocolate as its inspiration, it has layers of Devil’s food, slathered with a deep, dark, luscious chocolate icing, that is like whipped ganache, but better, then I topped the whole thing in homemade marshmallows. I am not a big fan of bagged marshmallows, which taste like sweet, dried out sponges, but the homemade version are amongst my favorite treats. When they are toasted, with a torch, of course, they are soft, melty and delicious. You can flavor them with anything from vanilla to cardamom, or even swirl in chocolate.
I made this cake twice, once with my tried and true Devil’s food and then again for my friend, Stephanie Meyer’s birthday. Stephanie (Fresh Tart) doesn’t eat gluten, so I made the cake with a gluten-free flour blend and it came out just great. See me put the hot chocolate cake together in my instagram video and recipe below. Read More
This post is from a while back, but I was inspired to bring it to the fore when I created a Baked Alaska for the Holiday issue of Better Homes and Gardens. You will find a picture of my Egg Nog version at the bottom of this post, along with a link to that recipe. The Baked Alaska makes a fantastic and beautiful dessert for any holiday party.
The inspiration for my desserts can come from the craziest places and this Coffee, Bourbon & Chocolate Baked Alaska is no exception. This weekend I fulfilled a dream, (one I didn’t know I had until I did it), to be a radio talk show host. That’s a generous description of what I was doing on the Weekly Dish, but it was the kind job title Stephanie March offered when she invited me to sit in for her co-host (Stephanie Hansen), who was busy being on vacation. Luckily, I was not filling this role alone, our friend Stephanie Meyer, was also on the air for the 2 hour show. I had a ball, but what I learned is that the “Stephanies,” as they are lovingly known, make this job seem so easy and effortless. They are hilarious, smart, quick and have an endless knowledge of what is going on in the Minneapolis food community (and a fair bit about the rest of the country too). I loved every second of it, but don’t think I’ll be giving up my day job.
After the show we went across the street to a neighborhood bar with a long list of coffee drinks, it was only 11am, so booze should be served with caffeine. Stephanie March ordered a coffee, bourbon and black walnut drink, because…bourbon. I took one sip and said “Baked Alaska!” We were due for a snow storm that night, and all the predictions were that we’d be trapped inside. A baked Alaska made with ice cream of espresso bean, chocolate shavings, a splash of bourbon, sitting on a layer of devil’s food and then covered with toasted meringue seemed the perfect way to weather the storm.
This week has been epic and nothing short of a cake draped in gold seemed right to celebrate all that it brought. It started with a trip to New York to join my friend, Kevin Masse, and the folks at TheFeedFeed, for two events. But, before the official business even started we gathered at Gramercy Tavern to visit with the pastry chef, Miro Uskokovic, and tour his extraordinary kitchen. It was a coming together of some of my favorite bakers on instagram: Erin McDowell (The Fearless Baker), Rebecca Firth (The Cookie Book), Brian Hart Hoffman (Bake from Scratch Magazine) and Erin Clarkson (The Cloudy Kitchen). We took over the pastry prep kitchen for a few minutes to try our hand at shaping the burger buns for service the next day. There was more laughing than rolling, but it was inspiring just to be in that space. I forget how thrilling a commercial kitchen can be. That evening was capped off by seeing David Lebovitz at his book signing for his book, L’Appart. He is the gold standard of writers, bakers and bloggers, this book is as smart and funny as he is.
The next day I sat on a panel of cookie bakers at TheFeedFeed studio and we discussed our love of all things cookies. This is my life! Pinch me. Spending time with folks who love to bake was such a joy. Rebecca Firth and Erin Clarkson baked us all cookies and I got to visit with Jessie Sheehan, whose angel food cake I made several months ago and it remains one of my favorite posts. It is the yang to this Devil’s food’s ying.
And, last, but not least, it’s my Birthday!! The Gold Standard Devil’s Food Bundt Cake is simple, but one of my very favorites. I usually pair the cake with cream cheese frosting, but I wanted something a bit more elegant to mark these occasions, so I poured a shiny ganache over the top and draped the top with gold. You can watch me make this cake and enter to win on my instagram account. Read More
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.
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.
Tomorrow is my son’s birthday and this is the cake he requested. My kids have always been opinionated about their birthday cakes, because I encouraged it. I like the challenge of creating something special for them. Chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting is a simple enough birthday cake, but he’s turning 17, so it needed to stand tall, just like him.
I LOVE my devil’s food cake and it will always be my go to, but in the name of research, I am always trying new recipes. I tried this one from Stella Parks, BRAVETART cookbook. She and I seem to have a similar philosophy about sweet. We want it to be there, because it’s a cake, but it shouldn’t hurt your teeth or be the dominant flavor. We also have a fondness for testing recipes and hers always work, which is something you’d think was a given in cookbooks, but sadly isn’t always the case. So far everything I’ve tried in this book has been spot on and delicious.
Her Devil’s Food cake is made in a saucepan. I was skeptical, but she nailed it. It’s dark, bitter (in a GREAT way) and moist. The milk chocolate whipped ganache is creamy and sweet, which pairs perfectly with the cake, just as she claims it will. Her cream cheese icing is made with pastry cream and has a rich, tangy taste and holds it’s shape WAY better than cream cheese icing made with powdered sugar. Read More
This Valentine’s Day chocolate cake was designed by my 9-year old son (who is now almost 22). He even instructed me on how I should put it together. His plan was to bake a sheet of cake and cut the layers with a heart shaped cookie cutter. Then stack them together with raspberry cream and pour a glossy chocolate ganache over the top. I know I’m biased, but I think he is brilliant. You can watch me make the cake in my Instagram video.
You can find many more cake recipes and all the tricks and techniques I’ve learned over my decades in professional kitchens in my new book, Zoë Bakes Cakes, which is available for pre-order!
Happy Valentine’s to my two sons, Henri and Charlie, and my husband Graham. My 3 muses.
Here is Henri’s vision, I must say this Valentine’s Day chocolate cake is as delicious as it is pretty. Read More