Trix Cake and a Movie Night Giveaway

Trix cake 11

We really have David Chang and Christina Tosi of the Momokuku restaurant group in NYC to thank for elevating breakfast cereal from a mere bowl of milk to high-end desserts. They’ve been serving cereal milk (you know the flavored milk at the end of a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios) as panna cotta and soft serve ice creams at their Milk Bar to rave reviews. It’s created a bit of a sensation. I recently went to Travail, a local restaurant where the food is art and the chefs are entertainers, and what did I see on the pantry shelf, a box of Lucky Charms.  We all have fond childhood memories of reading the box as we ate the contents, but most adults I know wouldn’t sit down to a bowl of it in the morning. But, as a dessert? You bet, that makes total sense to me.

General Mills sent me a big selection of their cereals and challenged me to think outside the box, beyond breakfast and sticky marshmallow bars (not that there is anything wrong with either). I knew right away that Trix was going to be my muse. I always loved it as a kid. Everything from the silly rabbit commercials to that bright pink milk at the end of the bowl. I set out to create a cake using the bright colors and fruity flavors. For my first attempt I hoped to suspend the round cereal in cake batter to create a polka dot interior. As the cake baked I realized all the little colorful balls were floating to the top and I ended up with a layer of cereal confetti. It was pretty, but the cereal didn’t soften enough, so they were still crunchy and not a good texture in the cake. Then the perfect solution came to me…but, let me tell you about the movie giveaway first. (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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Thin Mint Cupcakes for St. Patrick’s Day

mint cupcakes

‘Tis the season of Girl Scout cookies and there is none more famous and beloved than the thin mint, at least in my house. I love Girl Scout cookies, both for the memories of being a scout and for what they represent; empowering kids is always a good thing. Sadly, the days of my 13-year-old metabolism are long gone, when I was capable of eating an entire box at a sitting. Now just a couple cookies will do me and the thin mints are still my favorites. They just seemed to have the perfect ratio of chocolate to mint, and go down easy with a glass of milk. I have to act quickly, because my boys are still at the age when they can polish off an entire box, even though mom would never allow such a thing. 😉

This cupcake recipe manages to be light, fluffy and moist, all at the same time. It starts with a true all-American white birthday cake. The recipe is made with whipped egg whites and no yolks, so the color is bright white. It’s perfect for adding color, but this time I left that to the mint icing. A thin layer of ganache between the cake and icing makes these just a touch more sophisticated, in case you are looking for a St. Patrick’s Day treat to bring to work. The super creamy icing is one that I made from Vintage Cakes, an adorable addition to my cookbook collection. It is made by thickening milk and flour together into a smooth paste, then adding it to creamed, sweetened butter. The thickened milk and flour gives the icing body and a luxurious texture. Despite the extra step, it is an easy recipe, my 11-year-old made it start to finish with perfect results. The basic icing takes flavors really well, so a bit of mint extract and a few caps full of Crème de menthe and these cupcakes taste just like a thin mint. (more…)

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Banana Bread (and Pear Bread) – One Recipe, Two Flavors.

Banana Pear Bread Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

The fact that Bosc pears taste like spicy, buttery perfume (I mean sweet, pure essence of pear, not old lady soap), may be second to their beauty. I admit I bought this bag of pears to decorate my kitchen. They’re so sleek and statuesque that most every still life painter from Van Gogh to Picasso has captured their elegance.

Pears | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

The carefully arranged bowl was quickly decimated by my family, who didn’t recognize the art in my attempt, but smelled the juicy pears and ate them. The boscs are in their prime. Some years the pear crops are mealy and tasteless, but this year they’re sweet, juicy and the flesh is perfectly smooth. As they ripened the texture is as soft as an overly ripe banana, so I got the idea of making my banana bread recipe with chunks of the ripe pears.  I added a bit of homemade granola, instead of the toasted coconut I usually put in the banana bread. It is essentially the same recipe, but the result is completely and wonderfully different banana pear bread.

The trick to this recipe is using the pears when they are almost too ripe to eat. This means they are at their sweetest and will breakdown when baking. Unlike other banana recipes, this one calls for chunks of fruit, instead of a puree. Try both the banana and the pear versions and let me know which is your favorite. See the banana bread at the bottom of the post.

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Working with Rolled Fondant (3 part Video Series)

rolled fondant

It is smooth and sophisticated, but there is a mystique about working with rolled fondant that keeps too many people from using it. Fondant reminds me of Play-Doh, you can create everything from an intricate wedding cake to a birthday cake in the shape of a Tonka truck. Your imagination and few helpful hints will open up a new world of cake decorating options. I chose this simple winter motif to get us started. First, we have to choose our color and tint the fondant, next we’ll cover the cake in the perfectly smooth fondant and to finish we’ll add simple snowflakes.

I’ve broken the videos into 3 parts: coloring the fondant, covering the cake and decorating. Enjoy and happy holiday baking! (more…)

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How-to Video: Piping Icing on a Cupcake 101 (Ovaltine Cupcake with Nutella Buttercream)

I was amazed recently to find Ovaltine on the shelves at the grocery store. I hadn’t had or thought about it in about 35 years. There are certain memories of childhood that hold space in the brain in a sensory way, and Ovaltine is one of them. I can’t remember an actual occasion of drinking it, but I do remember the excitement and malty flavor from way back. When I drink it now I recall our black and white television, big cars with no seat belts, sans-a-belt slacks and the Brady Bunch. These were simple days, so it seemed to a 7 year old, and Ovaltine was one of the glimmering bonuses that life had to offer. Keep in mind that my household was without Twinkies or Soda, so when Ovaltine hit the threshold it was an occasion, a glorious one at that. It was like drinking a malted milk ball and I was in heaven.

In order to make the cupcakes look as gorgeous as they taste, you’ll want to decorate them like a pro. I’ve put together a video on how to pipe on a perfect base of icing. It can be the foundation for other decorations or leave it alone and it is a classic finish. I will share some tips on how to use the pastry bag and the key to piping anything from stars to roses.

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