Subscribe

Cloverdale’s ’Flour Girl’ whips up one-of-a-kind cakes, baked goods

Baker Shannon Moore of Cloverdale grew up in the South, where the art of baking hot-from-the-oven biscuits, dense poundcakes, delicate layer cakes and a legion of comforting pies has become the stuff of legends.

Her childhood home in Memphis, Tennessee, was full of the fragrant aromas of butter and sugar, strawberries and peaches, buttercream and clouds of whipped cream.

“I started baking with my grandmother when I was young,” the 51-year-old baker said. “One of my aunts gave me my first cookbook, and all I did was bake, mostly brownies and cookies. I always helped with the Christmas cookies and the Easter cakes.”

She has practiced her craft all over Sonoma County, from the Downtown Bakery and The Flying Goat in Healdsburg to Whole Foods in Santa Rosa and Plank Coffee in Cloverdale. She launched her baking business, Flour Girl, about 12 years ago after taking a much-needed break.

“A friend asked me to do their wedding cake, and I was terrified, but it turned out great,” she said. “Around 2012, I started to have bake sales in my backyard as a pop-up.”

Right before the pandemic hit last March, Moore was ready to take another break from baking and had planned to start managing the Cloverdale Farmers Market, held from 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays in an open lot next to Plank Coffee. But the pandemic forced the market to shut down. It has stayed closed, due to its limited outdoor space.

Instead of packing up her kitchen at the United Church of Cloverdale, Moore dug in and kept baking, and not just for her clients. She and a friend teamed up to create Farm + Flour, a weekly delivery service of their baked goods, vegetables and bouquets, plus other farmers market products.

“My friend Rebecca Bozelli of Lantern Farm called me and said, ‘Hey, why don’t we start doing farm box deliveries?’” she recalled. “I had weddings booked that were postponed, so I said, ‘Sure, let’s do it.’”

“I knew immediately I had to start offering farm boxes to our community, and her baked goods were a perfect match,” Bozelli said. “We never looked back, nor did we have the time to.”

Farm boxes

Farm + Flour started up just as the shelter-in-place orders took hold in March 2020. Since then, they have added 25 other vendors, including Preston Farm & Winery, Duncan’s Mushrooms, Franco’s One World Sausage, Abundance Handmade Pasta, Pennyroyal Farm Cheese, Jorin Hawley with her organic sourdough, two olive oil purveyors, Cookies by Carina and pot pie maker High Vibe Pies.

You can buy a farm box from Bozelli, who grows a range of seasonal produce and flowers on the 3 acres she farms. The box also includes other items, such as body care products, cutting boards and felted wool from Plum Blossom Farm.

Moore bakes the same items for the Farm + Flour Box as she would for the farmers market: rustic fruit and vegetable galettes, quiches, cookies, pies and cakes.

Not only has the Cloverdale community supported the farm box program, but several volunteers deliver the boxes along four routes in the city on Tuesday afternoons. Boxes also can be picked up at the lot next to Plank, where the farmers market used to be held.

“It’s not about making money,” Moore said. “We just wanted to support the growers and the community. The profits from Farm + Flour go back into the website.”

You can get a subscription for a farm box of veggies or the farm's bouquets. Moore also has a cookie subscription plan (weekly, biweekly or monthly) and a Pie of the Month program.

Cakes and cookies

Meanwhile, the Flour Girl continues to bake for her private clients, who mainly order her minimalist, sophisticated cakes for special occasions.

“They are adult cakes,” she said. “I have a lot of people who want cakes for their kids, with themes. That’s just not what I do.”

For Mother’s Day, she plans to bake a few of her favorite cakes for Flour Girl fans, including the Lady Grey Cake, which is infused with Earl Grey tea and frosted with a lavender buttercream.

“Cakes seem to be my thing,” she said. “People love them. I like to do small, 6-inch cakes for holidays. ... They are smaller but taller.”

She uses all organic ingredients and bakes in a European style, which is not overly sweet.

“For me, it’s all about the flavor,” Moore said. “I want them to be pretty, but they have to taste good. And I like unusual flavor combinations.”

Her approach to the frosting and other decorative elements is minimalist.

“I don't do much of any piping, I don't work with fondant, and I truly dislike writing on cakes,” she said. “I like to keep things natural and organic, with fresh flowers and greenery, but I also love sparkles.”

As she is frosting a cake, Moore enjoys creating texture with the strokes from the spatula as it spreads the frosting. She is also fond of “naked” cakes that have just a thin layer of frosting on the side.

For Mother’s Day, Flour Girl will offer an Almond Matcha Pound Cake, an elegant concoction with the green matcha cake dough swirled into the almond-flavored dough.

Her signature cookie, always available in the Farm + Flour box, is a Bourbon Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie with Pecans, which incorporate two of her favorite flavors: earthy bourbon and brown butter.

“The cookies are sold in the farm box,” she said. “If you subscribe, you also get a six pack of mystery cookies once a month.”

For more information about the weekly farm boxes, go to farmandflourboxes.com. To view the full Flour Girl menu, go to myflourgirl.blogspot.com. To order: goodies@myflourgirl.com

Tender Earl Grey tea-infused cake paired with lightly scented lavender buttercream delivers subtle yet complex layers of flavor, Moore said. “It’s a beautiful combination.”

Lady Grey Cake

Makes 3 6-inch cake layers or 2 8-inch cake layers

For cake:

1 cup whole milk

1½ tablespoons loose Earl Grey tea

8 ounces unsalted butter, softened

2 cups sugar

4 eggs, room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 ⅔ cups unbleached flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon loose Earl Grey tea, finely ground with a spice or coffee grinder

Pinch sea salt

For Lavender Buttercream:

3 tablespoons whole milk

1 teaspoon dried organic lavender flowers

12 ounces unsalted butter, softened

Pinch of sea salt

3 cups powdered sugar

For cake: Combine 1 cup whole milk and 1½ tablespoons loose Earl Grey tea in a small saucepan. Place on the stove over medium heat and bring to a simmer, being careful to not boil. Once simmering, remove from heat and cover to steep for 15 minutes. Strain milk through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl; discard tea leaves. Place in refrigerator to chill at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat sides of cake pans with nonstick spray and line bottoms with parchment paper. Set aside.

Sift together flour, baking powder, ground Earl Grey tea and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

Combine butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until very light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. With mixer running on low speed, add eggs one at a time until combined, then add vanilla. Scrape the bottom of the bowl with a spatula to make sure nothing is sticking and continue mixing until smooth.

Remove infused milk from refrigerator and pour into a measuring cup. Add more milk to measure 1 full cup.

With mixer running on low speed, add flour mixture to butter and sugar mixture, alternating with milk. Mix until just combined. Remove bowl from mixer and fold by hand with a large spatula until smooth, being sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl.

Evenly fill prepared pans and gently smooth tops. (Moore likes to use a large ice cream scoop to evenly fill pans.) Bake for 20-25 minutes until tops spring back when lightly pressed and a cake tester comes out clean.

Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove cakes and allow to cool completely.

Make buttercream while cakes are cooling.

For buttercream: Combine 3 tablespoons milk and 1 teaspoon dried lavender in a small saucepan. Place on the stove over medium heat and bring just to a simmer, being careful to not boil. Once simmering, remove from heat and cover to steep for 15 minutes. Strain milk through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl, discard lavender. Place in refrigerator to chill at least 15 minutes.

Combine butter with a pinch of salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat until the butter is smooth. Add 3 cups powdered sugar and mix on low speed until sugar is mostly combined. Continue to mix on high speed until very light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl and turn mixer on low speed. With mixer running, slowly add lavender-infused milk. Once combined, increase mixer speed and beat 1 more minute.

To assemble cake: If the cakes are domed, use a large, serrated knife to slice a thin layer off the tops of the cakes to create a flat surface. Discard (or crumble over ice cream!). Place one cake layer on your cake stand, cake turntable or serving plate. Evenly cover the top with about 1½ cups of frosting. Top with second cake layer and evenly cover the top with about 1 ½ cups of frosting. Top with the third cake layer. Spread the remaining frosting all over the top and sides.

Decorate with fresh organic flowers and serve.

_____

This cake can either be dusted with powdered sugar or topped with a simple glaze. Moore likes to serve it with fresh strawberries from Preston Farm on the side.

Almond Matcha Pound Cake

Makes 12 slices

3 cups unbleached flour

¼ cup almond flour

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon baking powder

8 ounces very soft butter

3 cups sugar

6 eggs, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon almond extract

1 cup sour cream, room temperature

2-3 teaspoons matcha green tea powder, depending on your taste

Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 10-inch tube pan with nonstick spray.

Sift together flour, salt, soda and baking powder into a bowl and set aside. With a mixer, beat butter and sugar together until smooth, light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add almond flour and mix until combined. Combine eggs and vanilla and add one at a time with the mixer on low speed, beating well after each addition.

Scrape down the bowl to make sure nothing is sticking on the bottom and add sour cream. Mix on low speed until smooth. With mixer running on low speed, gradually add dry ingredients until just combined. It’s OK if there are still a few lumps.

Scoop approximately half the batter into a separate bowl. Add 2-3 teaspoons matcha green tea powder to the mixture in the bowl and fold in with a spatula until evenly mixed.

Spoon half the plain batter into prepared pan and gently smooth. Scoop all of the matcha batter into the pan and gently smooth. Scoop remaining plain batter over the top of the matcha batter and swirl the batters together with a wooden skewer or thin knife. Swirl just enough to have defined pockets of each batter creating a decorative pattern.

Bake 45-50 minutes, until just set. Cool for 10 to 15 minutes, then remove cake from pan to cool completely.

When completely cooled, dust with powdered sugar or make a simple glaze (whisk together 2 cups sifted powdered sugar and 2-4 tablespoons milk until smooth) to coat the top. Serve with fresh strawberries.

_____

This is Flour Girl’s signature cookie. The secret to these cookies is to brown the butter until it is very dark and do not strain out the browned bits of milk solids. Dark, earthy and not too sweet, they are an adult version of a childhood favorite.

Flour Girl Bourbon Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 24 cookies

8 ounces unsalted butter, browned and cooled

1¾ cups unbleached flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon sea salt

½ cup granulated sugar

¾ cup dark brown sugar, packed

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 tablespoon bourbon

1 egg

1 egg yolk

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

¾ cups pecans, lightly toasted and chopped

To brown butter: Cut butter into pieces. Place the pieces of butter in a light-colored pan over medium heat. Stir the butter the entire time to keep it moving. Once melted, the butter will begin to foam and sizzle around the edges. Keep stirring. In about 5-8 minutes from the time you started, the butter will turn golden brown. Some foam will subside and the milk solids at the bottom of the pan will be toasty brown. It will smell intensely buttery and nutty. Allow the butter to reach a dark brown color. Immediately remove the pan from heat and pour the butter into heatproof bowl to stop the cooking process. Place in the refrigerator to cool until almost solid, but still soft. Can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator for two weeks.

When ready to make the dough, pull browned butter from the fridge and allow to soften. Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

Add butter, both sugars, bourbon and vanilla to stand mixer bowl. Beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg and yolk and beat until mixture is smooth, with no sugar lumps remaining. Stir in flour mixture until just combined.

Stir in chocolate chips and nuts. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Using a small ice cream scoop, scoop balls of dough and place on parchment-lined baking trays about 2 inches apart. Alternately, scoop 3 tablespoons of dough and quickly roll into a ball with your hands.

Bake for 12 minutes, rotating halfway through the baking time. The cookies will look very soft and underbaked. They will continue to bake on the cookie sheet. Allow to cool on the trays for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Cookies will keep at room temperature for 1 week or frozen up to 3 months in an airtight container. Unbaked dough balls can also be frozen for up to 3 months.

Staff Writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 707-521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56

Diane Peterson

Features, The Press Democrat

I’m interested in the home kitchen, from sheet-pan suppers to the latest food trends. Food encompasses the world, its many cultures, languages and history. It is both essential and sensual. I also have my fingers on the pulse of classical music in Sonoma County, from student mariachi bands to jazz crossover and symphonic sounds. It’s all a rich gumbo, redolent of the many cultures that make up our country and the world.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.
Send a letter to the editor

Our Network

The Press Democrat
Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Sonoma County Gazette