Zoë Bakes Cakes

Everything You Need to Know to Make Your Favorite Layers, Bundts, Loaves, and More [A Baking Book]



Award Winner

March 16, 2021 | ISBN 9781984857378

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About the Book

IACP AWARD WINNER • The expert baker and bestselling author behind the Magnolia Network original series Zoë Bakes explores her favorite dessert—cakes!—with more than 85 recipes to create flavorful and beautiful layers, loafs, Bundts, and more.
“Zoë’s relentless curiosity has made her an artist in the truest sense of the word.”—Joanna Gaines, co-founder of Magnolia

Cake is the ultimate symbol of celebration, used to mark birthdays, weddings, or even just a Tuesday night. In Zoë Bakes Cakes, bestselling author and expert baker Zoë François demystifies the craft of cakes through more than eighty-five simple and straightforward recipes. Discover treats such as Coconut–Candy Bar Cake, Apple Cake with Honey-Bourbon Glaze, and decadent Chocolate Devil’s Food Cake. With step-by-step photo guides that break down baking fundamentals—like creaming butter and sugar—and Zoë’s expert knowledge to guide you, anyone can make these delightful creations. 
Featuring everything from Bundt cakes and loaves to a beautifully layered wedding confection, Zoë shows you how to celebrate any occasion, big or small, with delicious homemade cake.
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Praise for Zoë Bakes Cakes

“One of the most prolific and awarded bakers in America has hit it out of the park with Zoë Bakes Cakes. Zoë François walked into my life almost twenty-five years ago and I told someone at the time, that lady is a star. Now I think I might have undersold her. This is the only cake book you will ever need. Superb recipes, clear and concise teaching, and a treasure trove of inspiration for beginners and experts.”—Andrew Zimmern, chef, teacher, and author

“Zoë François’s love language is cakes. Studded, soaked, or stacked, she elevates the cake-baking game. From breakfast to birthday—and every occasion in between—Zoë’s artful, yet accessible cakes are a revelation. If you’re a master baker, an experimental baker looking to learn a few new tricks, orjust someone who loves eating cake, this glorious gem is for you.”—Candace Nelson, founder of Sprinkles Cupcakes and judge on Netflix’s Sugar Rush

Zoë Bakes Cakes is a spectacular collection of cakes that are within anyone’s reach, from beginning bakers to those who are looking to take their cakes to the next level. With the hows and whys, and lots of step-by-step photos from Zoë’s kitchen, it’s like having her right there with you, whipping, creaming, and swirling. This is the perfect baking book!”—David Lebovitz, author of My Paris Kitchen and Drinking French

“Not only is this book expertly presented with amazing cake recipes for any mood or occasion (I see Hummingbird Cake!) and technique tutorials to ensure the home baker’s success, but it’s a true love letter to cake. Zoë’s personality and passion for baking and life will have you cranking up the music and smiling while you dance and bake, as if she were in the kitchen with you!”—Brian Hart Hoffman, editor in chief of Bake from Scratch

“There are few I trust as much as Zoë François to deliver recipes for astonishingly beautiful cakes. She has the knack of demystifying complicated methods as well as imparting her amazing knowledge in ways that will have you rushing for your whisk. From the simple to the sensational, Zoë Bakes Cakes will inspire novices and experts alike. Generous, warm, and instructive, Zoë’s family favorites will undoubtedly become yours too. A joyous and delicious celebration of cake!”—Helen Goh, recipe columnist and co-author of Sweet

“Zoë François’s book on cake is a must-have for every kitchen. Through her recipes and instruction, she is able to take intricate, complex cake creations and present them in ways that are straightforward and accessible to everyone—new bakers with much to learn, as well as experienced bakers with years of recipes under their belts.”—Sarah Kieffer, cookbook author, baker, and writer at The Vanilla Bean Blog
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Zoë Bakes Cakes


My obsession with cake started in an unexpected way—with the humble Twinkie. It was tucked inside a Charlie Brown lunch box, unfortunately not mine, and that little cake opened up a whole new world. A lifelong love affair with all things cake was ignited on my very first day of kindergarten. Perhaps the average kid wouldn’t even have blinked at that iconic tube of sponge cake, with its freakishly white and delicious filling squished inside, as if by magic. But, I wasn’t average.

I grew up with my parents on a series of communes, which absolutely had its benefits. In 1969, I could toddle sans clothes around the Woodstock Festival with a backdrop of screaming guitars, as if it were any other day; in fact, I did just that.

I have visceral memories of sitting in my dad’s vast garden with the smell of tomato plants vining around me, mixed with dirt, pine trees, and wood smoke. The counterculture to which my parents adhered included a back-to-the-land philosophy on food. We lived in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, on a dirt road that was impassable by anything other than foot for long stretches of the year, due to mud or snow. Geography compelled our self-reliance. So, growing our own food was a necessity, not merely a fashionable trend, and we raised chickens for eggs and meat, a rather nasty-tempered collection of rams and sheep, and a cow for milk and the resulting cream that also became our butter.

My first kitchen memory as a wobbly toddler was standing inside the “Big House.” This was the only permanent structure on the land and where everyone on the commune gathered for cooking and a respite from the winter. The room was filled with singing and music while sharing the chore of churning cream into butter. That is probably why, to this day, I find music (and butter) essential parts of baking. If you know my Instagram baking tutorials, you’re familiar with the soundtracks that often start with Joni Mitchell and bring it all home with the dance beat of Drake by the end of the recipe.

Along with tending the gardens, my dad kept bees. The beeswax was transformed into ornate candles in a makeshift factory we had within a geodesic dome built out of VW car hoods (because it isn’t really a commune without a geodesic dome). We sold the candles at the local co-op, along with homemade granola and bread that my Aunt Melissa baked.

There was also sap collected from the maple trees on our eighty-plus acres of land. We brought the sloshing pails to a neighbor’s sugarhouse, where it was processed into syrup. Honey and maple syrup were the only two sweeteners I ever knew, and I was quite fine with that. Until that Twinkie. . . . 

Today, those cylindrical cakes with the mystery creme on the inside are synonymous with junk food; but to a sugar-deprived flower child, they were a revelation—a parting of the seas, as it were, and the source of a newly born passion. I must have given my folks an earful about the deception they’d been pulling on me all those years. Carob was the actual lie—and decidedly not chocolate—despite all their lip service to the contrary. Grapes were fruit, period. Drying grapes in the sun to shrivel into raisins does not change them into candy. I fought that injustice with all the fervor and dedication those wonderful hippies had instilled in me.

The baking began soon after, tossing ingredients and a handful of hope in a bowl and expecting some sort of alchemy to return as cake. I was eight or nine years old before a miracle occurred by way of a Dutch Baby recipe, courtesy of my friend, and fellow commune-dweller, Sasha. That glorious mix of flour, eggs, and milk puffed to the point of exploding in the oven. We wolfed it down with maple syrup and slices of McIntosh apples from our yard. It was an auspicious beginning.

A parade of knowledge marched into my kitchen after that. First came the Time Life books on French cooking, which still hold space on my stuffed cookbook shelves. Through them, an attempt at a chocolate mousse was a gritty disaster, because I didn’t know that adding coffee didn’t mean Folgers coffee grounds. Lesson learned: mousse should be velvety, not chewy. The next batch was spot-on. Soon I had baked my way through Lee Bailey’s Country Kitchen, Baking with Julia, and Martha Stewart’s everything; Ina Garten’s brownies were on high rotation. Over the years, my affection for sugar only deepened, along with a determination to figure out its transformational powers.

About the Author

Zoë François
Zoë François studied art at the University of Vermont while also founding a cookie company as a way to earn extra money. She later studied at the Culinary Institute of America in New York and has been a pastry chef at several Twin Cities restaurants. Zoë co-authored the bestselling book series, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and wrote the award winning, Zoë Bakes Cakes. She created the Zoë Bakes website and Substack newsletter to share her passion for pastry and now has a hit TV series on the Magnolia Network. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband Graham and their poodle. Her two sons come home for cookies as often as possible. More by Zoë François
Decorative Carat
Random House Publishing Group