Here we go, folks. It’s a new year and a new cake cookbook. Zoë François, author of Zoë Bakes Cakes, is a longtime, well-versed, American baker. This book’s angle is to “break down the baking fundamentals,” while making amateur bakers (like us) comfortable with baking her favorite cakes.

Will I appreciate her instructions? I don’t know. Will I be reassured by her coaching? I can’t be sure yet. As we bake through these cakes in 2022, we’ll better know the book.

I’m starting with the “Joconde,” which is an almond sponge cake rolled with whipped cream and berries. This is a cake that requires us to be graceful, to artfully fill it and roll it after baking. While I lack the skill to expertly roll a cake, I still manage to make a spongy cake layered with beautiful, billowy cream.

Reading the recipe over and over, I see this is not a complicated cake. As always, I take a breath and prep. Whiz sugar in the food processor to make it superfine; crack three eggs and sugar into the mixer bowl; sift flours into a small bowl; crack three egg whites into another bowl.

Beat the eggs and sugar for 10 minutes at high speed, until light in color and texture. The whipped mixture will “ribbon on the surface for several seconds.”

I scrape this whipped mixture into a big bowl, and stir in the sifted flours. This allows me to wash my emptied mixer bowl to then whip my egg whites into a meringue -- two-and-a-half minutes at medium speed “just until they start to foam.” Then, mix at “high speed until glossy and stiff.” Always rewarding, to produce a pillowy meringue with these simple ingredients: egg whites and sugar. Fold this into the earlier flour mixture to appreciate the batter’s smooth softness.

My 10½ by 15½ inch jelly-roll pan (smaller than a baking sheet) is uniquely suited for spreading the batter and baking. The cake smells like scrambled eggs as it bakes. The majority of the cake batter is, after all, eggs.

Bake for 15 minutes until “just golden on top.” Smooth and beautiful. Sure enough, the cooled cake is spongy. Surprisingly, the cake is easy to invert out of the pan. The spongy cake is tricky to roll, as I admitted earlier.

Now, let’s tackle the whipped cream. When the recipe says, “whipped cream is best used right away,” how can I make a batch of whipped cream when half of it will not be used to decorate the cake until the rolled cake is refrigerated for an hour? I am wise enough(!) to halve the whipped cream recipe, to first have the amount I need to spread over the cooled, flat cake. After refrigerating the rolled cake, I whip the second half of cream to decorate my cake. Brilliant!

How easy it is to quickly eat a big slice of this cake. Spongy, light, and creamy. A bite of light cake, balanced by tart berries, is generously coated with homemade cream.

Each month The Cake Slice Bakers are offered a selection of cakes from the current book we are baking through. This year it is Zoë Bakes Cakes by Zoē François. We each choose one cake to bake, and then on the 20th - never before - we all post about our cake on our blogs. There are a few rules that we follow, but the most important ones are to have fun and enjoy baking & eating cakes!

Follow our Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest pages where you can find all of our cakes, as well as inspiration for many other cakes. You can also click on the links below to take you to each of our cakes. If you have a blog and are interested in joining The Cake Slice Bakers and baking along with us, please send an email to thecakeslicebakers at gmail dot com for more details.

The Cake Slice Bakers also have a new Facebook group called The Cake Slice Bakers and Friends. This group is perfect for those who do not have a blog but want to join in the fun and bake through this book.

It is a new year and a new book - Zoë Bakes Cakes - and our choices for January 2022 were ~

Pear-Cardamom Cake