Chocolate Fudge Cake with Strawberry Salsa and Candied Flowers

Chocolate Fudge Cake with Strawberry Salsa and Candied Flowers | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

Chocolate Fudge Cake with Strawberry Salsa and Candied Flowers. It’s been several years, closer to two decades, since I worked in a professional kitchen as a pastry chef. After all those years, I still miss it. Every time I eat at a great restaurant, I wish I was in the kitchen to watch them create the magic. It is magical, but it’s also a crazy amount of work and a super-charged and stressful environment. I left that world shortly after my first son was born (yesterday was his 20th birthday), because it is a hard life on a young family. The hours are long and all the wrong times; nights, weekends and holidays are in high demand. To stay connected to the restaurant world, I’ve consulted on dessert menus. Creating the pastry program gives me all the joy of being a part of the action, without having to be on the line to create the food during the rush of service. The best of both worlds for me. I also stay connected by fawning over restaurant accounts on instagram. One chef I met on instagram, through a web of industry friends, is Neal Fraser. He has an acclaimed restaurant in LA called Redbird.

I just happened to be in NYC when Chef Fraser was going to be cooking, along with fellow LA chefs from The Strand House, at the James Beard House. He invited me to join them for the event (or perhaps I offered (begged him) to let me help and he graciously agreed.) Either way, I found myself in the most iconic kitchen in NYC, cooking with some of the most talented chefs of LA. I don’t really have a bucket list, but if I did, this would be on it. Chef Fraser was in charge of dessert and together we made a chocolate fudge cake with strawberry sauce, chocolate cremeaux, candied violets, sugared pansies and a quenelle of ice cream. You can see pictures of the dinner, the dessert and meet the chefs in my instagram video and watch the James Beard Live Stream of the kitchen as we prepared the meal.

I created this abbreviated version of Chef Fraser’s dessert to share with you. He graciously shared his warm, super fudgy, chocolate cake recipe and I added a fresh strawberry salsa and lavender ice cream to it, all of which you can watch me make Chocolate Fudge Cake with Strawberry Salsa and Candied Flowers in my instagram video. (more…)

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Easter Cheesecake

Easter Cheesecake piped with white buttercream roses | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Easter is the holiday that ushers in spring. The tulips are starting to make their way out of the frozen earth and the trees are hinting at color. It has been a long winter and all of these little changes are so very welcome. It seems fitting to make a cake that is full of color and blooms. But, as a nod of respect to this past winter and all of its fury, I created this Easter cheesecake with an all white blanket of roses over a swirl of wild color within.  (more…)

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Beyond the Box – Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Rice Krispie Treats (plus a short tour of the bakery that inspired them and a wedding cake)

It took the extraordinary pastry chef from Flour in Boston, Joanne Chang, to get me to confess my love for Rice Krispies Treats. She boldly put a recipe for them in her cookbook, next to the cakes and other delicate, fanciful pastries. It was an honest and unpretentious statement, which gives the rest of us the ability to stand tall while admitting we too love these juvenile confections. Until now I have used my boys as an excuse to have them around, but the truth is I love them more than they do. This recipe takes the ordinary to new heights. One may argue the beauty of a recipe on the side of a cereal box is the speed, ease and simplicity of ingredients. Admittedly this version takes a few more minutes, and I do bother to use some pretty special ingredients, but it is so worth the effort and I promise the vanilla bean is not lost on them.

I have been following Joanne’s career since she worked in New York with François Payard. Her talents were recognized even while in the shadow of one of New York’s pastry greats, which is no small feat. Several years ago she took the bold step of leaving Payard and opening her own bakery in Boston, now she has a small pastry empire. When my brother announced that he would be getting married this summer near Manchester, New Hampshire, I immediately made plans to slip into Boston for a day to sample her goodies. (more…)

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