Japanese Cotton Soft Cheesecake

Don’t be fooled by the picture, this is a cheesecake, not a sponge cake. I have seen Japanese Cotton Soft Cheesecake all over the internet for years, but hadn’t come around to trying it until now. My fellow instagram baker, Silvia Colloca, just sent me her latest cookbook, Love Laugh Bake!, and she has a version of this internet sensation made with mascarpone. The name, cotton soft, refers to the texture of the cake, which is far lighter and almost soufflé-like compared to the New York or custard style cheesecakes in my repertoire. Silvia also used fruit in the batter, so there is a layer of berries that rest along the bottom, creating a base in this otherwise crustless cheesecake. In her book she uses blueberries, but I had raspberries on hand and they worked perfectly. The only other change I made was to use gluten-free flour (there is very little flour in the recipe, so it adapts without compromise), since I was bringing this dessert to a party and the host is gluten-free. It was a big hit and I will be making this cheesecake again and again.

You can watch me make this cheesecake in my instagram video and Silvia has generously shared the recipe below.

Read More

Lemon Mascarpone Crêpe Cake

Lemon Mascarpone Crêpe Cake | photo by Zoë François

Crêpes are a beloved food group in my household. My boys have grown up eating them with everything from sweet to savory fillings, sometimes dozens at a time. When I couldn’t get them to eat as little kids I’d make a batch of crêpes and watch as they disappeared. Stacking them into a crêpe cake is an easy and elegant way to dress up what is really a humble street food in France. This version was made from a really sweet book called Simply Citrus by Marie Asselin. I “met” her on Instagram and she kindly sent me a copy of the book. I adore instagram for all the inspiration and for the space to create videos of the recipes I make. You can watch me make Marie’s cake in my instagram stories.

Marie’s lemon curd is unlike any I’ve made before. She cooks it like a pastry cream, which uses cornstarch and eggs to bind it and then finishes it with heavy cream. It is delightful. I suggest you double her recipe, so you can have some left over after the cake is filled. The combination of the tart lemon curd and rich mascarpone cream are a perfect marriage. Instead of topping with more cream, I went with the brûlée on top. I like the contrast of texture and you know how I feel about my blow torch, so any excuse to use it.  Read More

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.

Melissa says the sprinkles on top of these carrot cupcakes are optional, but I think they are brilliant and you should go for it.

Read More

Strawberry Mascarpone Cake with Raspberry Cream and a Fondant Crown

Strawberry Mascarpone Cake with Raspberry Cream and a Fondant Crown | ZoeBakes | Photo by Zoë François

A friend asked me to create a cake for a 6-year-old with a fondness for tiaras and all things sparkly. As the mother of two boys who were never that into sparkles, I jumped at the chance to play with rolled fondant and make something worthy of a princess party. I knew exactly which recipe would suit the occasion, since I’ve been reading through Abby Dodge’s newest book, the EVERYDAY BAKER. Abby has a gorgeous pink cake with layers of strawberry mascarpone icing and tender white cake, which struck me as a perfect base for a pink fondant crown, but also sophisticated enough for all the adults at the party.

Strawberry Mascarpone Cake with Raspberry Cream and a Fondant Crown | ZoeBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Abby Dodge has been sharing her knowledge of baking for years in her many books, in national magazines and in her Baking Boot Camp Craftsy class. The EVERYDAY BAKER is no ordinary baking book, it is a full education in the art of pastry making. Abby lovingly takes you through the techniques of baking wonderful cookies, cakes, breads, pies, and more. She’ll guide you through with such grace and joy that none of it will seem intimidating for even the novice bakers. She has been an inspiration to me as a baker and cookbook author and I am thrilled that she has joined me in a giveaway of her essential book. Read More

Tiramisu

Tiramisu With Raspberries | photo by Zoë François

By the time I became a pastry chef in the mid 1990s tiramisu, the decadent Italian dessert that defined the 80s, was banned from all high-end restaurants. It was a matter of bad PR, not because it wasn’t well liked or frequently requested. In fact, it was its very popularity that took it down. We pastry chef types just got bored with making it all the time to satisfy the demand. The same fate took down the molten lava cake and flourless chocolate torte. But, as happens with all good things, they find their way back in fashion. I predict the humble tiramisu will find its way onto a menu near you. If I happen to be wrong about this, we can have our own revolution and make it at home.  This version was inspired by a recipe from  Joanne Chang’s book, Flour. Yes, she apologizes for making it. I stand proud and layer espresso sponge cake, soaked with coffee and booze with rich mascarpone mousse, then top it all with chocolate ganache and raspberries. The trick is to soak the layers just enough to impart flavor and make them delicate, but not so much that they become soggy mush. The bite of the coffee and liqueur is perfectly mellowed by the custard, but none of it is overly sweet. I built them as individuals, using PVC pipe that I had cut to the right size (super cheap), but you can buy circular pastry molds (kind of expensive) or even washed out cans (sweetened condensed milk is just the right size). You can do this exact same recipe in a small trifle bowl or in short water glasses.

Andrew Zimmern was my very first boss out of culinary school –  in the 1990s high-end restaurant I mentioned earlier. It was a wild and creative time in my life. He wasn’t eating freaky things, but he was pushing the culinary palate in Minneapolis, and I was lucky enough to be part of that ride. Last week he invited me to visit with him on his podcast Go Fork Yourself. We talked about baking bread in a crock pot, cooking in a dishwasher, vegan egg replacer that is changing the world, to be, or not to be gluten-free and the merits of a sexy index (my new book has one), plus the first time I told him to go fork himself! You can here the podcast here.

Tiramisu 

(makes 8 individual)

Sponge cake:

4 eggs, separated

2/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup espresso, hot

1 cup all-purpose flour

Pinch salt

Mascarpone cream filling:

4 egg yolks

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup Amaretto

Pinch salt

3/4 cup mascarpone cheese

1/2 cup heavy cream

For assembling tiramisu:

1 cup coffee, plus 2 tablespoons Amaretto

1/4 cup cocoa powder, for dusting layers

Ganache:

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate

2/3 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon Amaretto

Fresh Raspberries for garnish

To make the sponge cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F

Line a baking sheet with parchment and grease with butter

NOTE: I doubled the above recipe, so all of the pictures will show a larger amount than you will be making.

Mixing Eggs, Sugar and Espresso with Whisk Attachment | photo by Zoë François

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat 4 yolks, 1/3 cup sugar and the hot espresso on high speed for about 5 minutes.

Mixing Eggs, Sugar and Espresso with Whisk Attachment | photo by Zoë François

The egg mixture will be light in color and very thick.

Egg Mixture Dripping Off Whisk Attachment | photo by Zoë François

The egg foam will hesitate on the surface when the whisk is lifted out of the bowl and the foam falls back into the bowl.

Egg Foam in a Mixing Bowl | photo by Zoë François

In another metal bowl (if you use the same bowl and whisk, they need to be perfectly clean and dried or the whites won’t whip properly). Beat the egg whites on medium speed until they start to foam, about 1 minute. Slowly add the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar and continue mixing until the whites are shiny and hold a stiff peak.

Egg Foam Mixture | photo by Zoë François

Mix about 1/3 of the whites into the yolks, this will lighten the yolk mixture. Gently fold the remaining egg white mixture into the yolks using a rubber spatula.

Sifting Salt and Flour for into Egg Mixture | photo by Zoë François

Sift the flour and salt over the combined egg foam.

Zoe sifting flour into a bowl of egg mixture | photo by Zoë François

Gently fold the flour into the eggs, using the rubber spatula.

Tiramisu Batter Spread on Pan | photo by Zoë François

Spread the cake batter over the prepared baking sheet.

Tiramisu Baking in the Oven | photo by Zoë François

Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes, or until the cake springs back when gently pressed. Allow the cake to cool completely. It can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for 24 hours.

To make the mascarpone filling:

Whipping Egg for Tiramisu Mascarpone Filling | photo by Zoë François

In a double boiler whisk together 4 egg yolks, sugar, Amaretto and salt.

Egg Mixture for Tiramisu Mascarpone Filling Thickening | photo by Zoë François

Continue whisking until the mixture thickens.

Placing Egg Mixture for Tiramisu Mascarpone Filling In an Ice Bath | photo by Zoë François

Place the bowl in an ice bath to cool the mixture quickly. Stir occasionally until it is completely cool.

Whisking Mascarpone and Heavy Cream for Tiramisu Filling | photo by Zoë François

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment beat together the mascarpone and heavy cream until they hold stiff peaks. Be sure not to over do it or it will get grainy.

Folding Egg and Mascarpone Together for Tiramisu Filling | photo by Zoë François

Once the yolk mixture is cool, fold the whipped mascarpone into it.

To assemble the individual tiramisu:

Place the molds on a baking sheet lined with parchment and line your molds with acetate strips. The acetate is a stiff, but pliable, plastic that will line the molds, which makes removing the tiramisu a snap.

Mold for Tiramisu | photo by Zoë François

Using a round cutter that matches the diameter of your PVC molds, cut out a circle of the cooled cake. Place the cake circle on the bottom of the mold.

Brushing Tiramisu With Amaretto | photo by Zoë François

Brush each cake layer with the coffee and Amaretto mixture. Just enough to flavor, but not so much that it is saturated.

Dusting Tiramisu with Cocoa Powder | photo by Zoë François

  

dust the top with cocoa powder.

Mascarpone Filling for Tiramisu in Pastry Bag | photo by Zoë François

Place the mascarpone mixture in a pastry bag fitted with a round tip.

Tiramisu Piped with Mascarpone Filling | photo by Zoë François

Pipe a thin layer of the custard over the cream.

Tiramisu Topped With Cocoa Powder | photo by Zoë François

Repeat with another layer of cake, soaking liquid, cocoa powder, mascarpone. Finish with one more layer of cake, soaking liquid and cocoa.

Drizzling Tiramisu With Ganache | photo by Zoë François

To make the ganache: Heat the cream in a saucepan to a simmer. Remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate, swirl the pot to make sure the chocolate is covered. Let sit for 3 minutes, then gently stir with a spoon. Allow the ganache to cool and thicken slightly. While it is still pourable, spoon the ganache over the top of each tiramisu to make a thin layer.

Tiramisu Ready to Serve | photo by Zoë François

Cover each tiramisu with raspberries and refrigerate until ready to eat.

Tray of Tiramisu Topped With Raspberries | photo by Zoë François

They can be made a day ahead.

Tiramisu Ready to Eat | photo by Zoë François

Remove the acetate and serve.

Blackberry Ricotta Tarts, a wee bit of summer in the dead of winter!

Blackberry ricotta tarts | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

This past weekend I NEEDED summer. The weather was vacillating between rain and sleet, my boys couldn’t even go ice skating because the rink was just a pool of slush. The Midwestern sky, that I can usually count on for an endless blue sunny backdrop to winter, was gray. It was all too much to take, especially after the Vikings gave up the big game. When I saw the flat of blackberries at the store, I had to have them. It was a gift from a land far, far away that is in their growing months. I am usually dedicated to eating seasonally and as local as possible, but once in a while we Minnesotans have to cheat. It worked. My family and I were much happier after eating these tarts. The fresh berries were lovely with the rich creamy ricotta custard that has the slightest hint of nutmeg. Be sure to use a whole milk ricotta to get the silky texture.

This morning we woke up to snow, which is at least beautiful, albeit a reminder that our summer is still far away. I suppose it just means we have a longer baking season than most! Read More