Zoë grew up on communes—toddling around the infamous Woodstock festival in her birthday suit as a tot—and lived on a dirt road in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. Her crew sang while churning cream into butter, raised chickens for eggs and meat, and tapped the trees for maple syrup. Her dad even kept bees; that’s how self-reliant they were.
It was a Twinkie, of all things, that turned Zoë’s head from the carob, honey and maple syrup to which she’d grown accustomed. A schoolmate introduced her to them, and “to a sugar-deprived flower child, they were a revelation.” Soon she was—at eight or nine, natch—obsessing over her Dutch baby recipes, hovering by the stove. She started reading Martha Stewart and Julia Child for fun. It became what grounded her—after all, being born to “wandering hippie” parents entailed attending sixteen different schools before Zoë graduated college.
In college, she took a semester off to open Zoë’s Cookies, running the company out of her then-boyfriend, now-husband’s tiny apartment kitchen. After graduating, she stifled in the advertising world until her husband suggested she drop out and attend culinary school. She did—one of the best in the world, the Culinary Institute of America in upstate New York—and was hired by none other than Andrew Zimmern when she graduated. That was it; the superstar baker became Zimmern’s executive pastry chef within six months. Since then, Zoë has logged decades of pro kitchen time and 25 years of teaching experience. She feels most Zen when she has a pastry bag in her hand, and takes pride on fixing her students’ broken buttercreams (for instance) in a flash.
For her new cookbook, Zoë Bakes Cakes, Zoë embarked upon literal “cake walks”—she put in 25 miles in New York City—around cities as eclectic as Minneapolis and Dublin, Ireland. Her recipes are rooted in the baking classics, though she takes a somewhat unconventional approach to their construction. “Hot” chocolate cake piled high with over-sized toasted marshmallows, pound cake pieced together with ice cream scoop–sized dollops of vanilla and chocolate batter, and angel food cake studded with fresh raspberries are just three of the recipes that are a testament to the creativity she assigns to her craft. We’re thrilled to offer her new cookbook and a marvelous virtual class with the star baker on Monday, March 22nd, when she’ll make angel food cake (below).
Our favorite piece of Zoë wisdom from her book? “If you are enjoying the process and making [a] cake for someone you love, that cake will taste better than one made by a disgruntled professional.” We couldn’t agree more, and can’t wait to spread the love through baking. In fact, we’re taking a page out of her book (literally!) and starting with her supremely delicious marble pound cake (photograph above, recipe below). Happy baking!
Marble Pound Cake
- 1 cup (120 g) all-purpose flour
- 4 Tbs (40g) cake flour, sifted
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 cup (220 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups (300 g) granulated sugar
- 1 Tbs vanilla extract
- Scraped seeds from 1⁄2 vanilla bean
- 3 eggs, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) buttermilk, at room temperature
- 3 Tbs Dutch-processed cocoa powder (sifted if lumpy)
- Preheat the oven to 325°F (165°. Generously grease an 8 by 4-inch (20 by 10 cm) loaf pan, then line it with greased parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together both flours and the salt, then set aside.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium-high speed until creamy and smooth, about 1 minute.
- Turn the mixer speed to low, add the sugar to the butter, and mix until incorporated. Turn the speed to medium-high and beat until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape the bowl often for even incorporation.
- Add the vanilla extract and vanilla seeds, turn the speed to medium, and mix until incorporated.
- Turn the speed to medium-low and add the eggs, one at a time, beating just until combined. Scrape the bowl after each addition.
- Add one-third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, mixing on low speed, just until combined. Add half the buttermilk and mix on low speed just until combined. Repeat with another one-third flour, the remaining buttermilk, and the final one-third flour, scraping the bowl and paddle after each addition.
- Divide the batter in half. Stir the cocoa powder into half of the batter.
- Using an ice-cream scoop or a spoon, alternate scoops of the vanilla and chocolate batters into the prepared pan. Drag a knife or skewer through the batter to create a marbled effect. Smooth the top and tap the pan on the counter a few times to release excess air bubbles. Set the pan on a baking sheet.
- Bake until a tester comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and place onto a serving plate and let cool completely before serving. Makes one 8-inch (20 cm) loaf.