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Book Report: Zoë Bakes Cakes

Prolific baker Zoë François lets her expert skills and Magnolia Network flair shine in her first solo book. The introductory sections are packed with very helpful explanations for beginners related to separating eggs, making vanilla extract, and selecting oils and flours.

Once the perusal of those initial pages is complete, getting started on creating a François-original, like raspberry Charlotte royal, blueberry muffin cake, and coconut candy bar cake, should be a cinch.

Zoë François grew up in the 1960s on a commune in Vermont, where honey from her dad’s beehives and syrup tapped from the property’s maple trees were the only sweeteners she knew.

Then she entered kindergarten and got her first taste of a Twinkie, setting her on a lifelong, sugar-laden journey in pastry. She’s baked in professional kitchens in the Twin Cities where she now lives, including stints with Andrew Zimmern. While collaborating with Jeff Hertzberg on the bestselling cookbook series, “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day,” she conducted pastry tutorials on her website, Zoë Bakes.

Cakes are “what I give people for special events and how I busy my hands and mind when I am stressed or sad,” she writes. “I also profoundly enjoy the process of building a cake, finding the just-right recipe that a specific moment calls for.”

We found that “just-right recipe” in her Blueberry Muffin Cake — a fruit-laden, walnut-topped beauty baked in a springform pan which came together almost as quickly as it was consumed at a special brunch.

Her recipes run the gamut from simple to sensational, each with clear and concise instructions. Pick up a copy here as we enter into the holiday baking season.

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