"I wanted the kind of fire power I had when I worked in restaurant kitchens, at home."

Zoe Francois

BlueStar Chef

Minneapolis, MN

Food Writing: I am the co-author of the best selling bread books: The NEW Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day and Gluten Free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. In addition to the books you can also find my writing and recipes in Cooking Channel, Fine Cooking, Disney, Easy Eats, Mother Earth News and Cooking Club magazines.

Blogging: I created Zoe Bakes as a playground for desserts and a way to help home cooks overcome their fear of baking. I want to give people the confidence to make everything from vanilla extract to a tiered wedding cake. It is all easy with a little guidance and lots of how-to pictures. I also blog for theCooking Channel, Food Network, General Mills and Breadin5.com. One of the thrills of blogging came when Ladies Home Journal invited me to join them at Ina Garten’s house for a Cookie Swap.

My history in the kitchen: Long before I wrote books or created my blogs, while studying art at the University of Vermont, I was an ice cream cake maker at Ben & Jerry’s. Then came Zoe’s Cookies, a cookie company I started as a way to earn extra money. I baked outrageous gourmet cookies in a tiny apartment and sold them from a beautiful vending cart on Burlington’s Church Street and to a few wholesale accounts. Once I graduated with a BFA, I traveled through Europe to consume as much pastry and art as possible. When we returned to the states, my husband and I moved to Minneapolis, where I found the world of professional kitchens. I quickly decided I needed more formal training so I headed off to the Culinary Institute of America in New York. Since then I’ve been a pastry chef at several Twin Cities’ restaurants. I’ve worked with Steven Brown (Tilia), Andrew Zimmern (before he started eating crazy things) and other culinary geniuses. I was doing what I loved. Rick Nelson of the Minneapolis Star Tribune called my desserts“endlessly delicious… the best in town…inventive and flat-out gorgeous!”  Most recently Mpls/St Paul magazine named me as one of the Top 10 Pastry Chefs in the Twin Cities for the work I’ve done with Chef Brown at Tilia.

Teaching: I began teaching baking in 1997. I now travel all over the country to share my love of pastry and  bread baking. I also have a Bread Baking Video Class through Craftsy. Some places I have taught recently: Sur la Table (in several locations around the country), Kitchen Window (Minneapolis), The Cooking Warehouse (Atlanta),  The Cooking School at the Ocean Reef Club (Key Largo, FL), Cooks of Crocus Hill (MN), Mother Earth News Festival (PA) and many more. To find current happenings you can check my Events and Classes page.

I live in Minneapolis with my husband Graham and our two sons, the best creations yet!

Favorite Products

Chocolate Caramel Ice Box Cake

Homemade Chocolate Wafer Cookies:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, well packed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder (Dutch processed)
  • 1/2 teapsoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup milk

Caramel Whip Cream:

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon corn syrup
  • 3 cups heavy whipping cream

To make the caramel whip cream:

  • In a large saucepan put the sugar in a mound in the center of the pan, be sure it doesn’t hit the sides.  Gently add the water and corn syrup, making sure the sugar doesn’t splash up on the sides of the pan.
  • If any sugar is not dissolved, very gently stir, but make sure none of the sugar hits the sides of the pan.  (All of this care to keep the sugar off the side of the pan will prevent your sugar from crystallizing while it cooks.)  Cook over high heat, without stirring.
  • When the sugar starts to color on the edges, gently stir the sugar.
  • Until it is quite dark, it will smoke a bit.  I like my caramel very dark, with an almost bitter edge.
  • Once the caramel is dark in color, reduce the heat and add half the cream.  The caramel will sputter and seize up, which is normal.  Gently whisk the caramel until the caramelized sugar dissolves.  Add the remaining cream and stir.
  • Strain the caramel cream into a shallow container.  Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least an hour.  Can be made the day ahead.

To make the chocolate wafer cookies:

  • Cream together the butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla until light, about 2 minutes.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.  Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix just to combine.  Add the milk and mix just to combined.
  • Form the dough into two 1 1/2-inch-thick logs.  Wrap well in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  • To bake: Preheat oven to 350° F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment.  Slice the log of cookie dough into 1/8-inch-thick coins.
  • Arrange on the cookie sheets with about 1 1/2 inches between the cookies.  Bake for 8 minutes and then rotate the trays back to front and switch from top to bottom racks.  Bake for another 2 minutes or until they are dry looking and firm.  Because the cookies are dark, you can’t go by color on these.  Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
  • Line an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, set aside.
  • Using a whisk or stand mixer whip 2/3 of the chilled caramel cream until soft peaks.  Be sure not to whip the cream in a plastic bowl or it may not whip properly.  Reserve the remaining 1/3 of the cream for topping the cake.  The best way to whip cream is to do it on a lower speed for a longer time.  If you whip the cream on medium-high, instead of high, you will have a smaller air bubble and the cream will have more stability.  This will also prevent some over whipping.
  • Coat the bottom of the prepared pan with about a 1/4-inch-thick layer of the cream.  Line the outside of the pan with the cookies.
  • Spread a layer of the cream on each cookie and layer them together in the pan.
  • You should end up with about 3 rows of cookies and cream.  This may vary slightly depending on how large your cookies are.
  • Cover the top with more of the cream, so the cookies are completely covered.  Refrigerate the cake for at least 3 hours or overnight.
  • Invert the cake onto a serving platter.
  • Whip the remaining 1/3 of the cream and decorate the cake as you wish.