Living in the Colorado High Country is pure joy. Baking in it isn’t. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful.
Forget the store-bought cards this year and celebrate Valentine’s Day with this chocolate-raspberry torte. Its classic flavor combination, rich taste, dense texture and visual appeal please a wide audience and make it worthy of any special occasion.
The recipe is quite straightforward and takes less time and kitchen equipment than the standard layer cake. To get the best taste possible, opt for high-quality chocolate, the kind you’d eat of hand, with about 60 percent cacao (higher percentages don’t work well in this recipe).
(Adjusted for altitudes between 8,000 and 10,000 feet. Make in an 8 1/2 inch spring-form pan.)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons bleached flour (spoon and level)
1/4 teaspoon plus 1⁄8 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
3 large eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup superfine sugar
3/4 cup seedless raspberry jam
1 tablespoon Creme de Cassis or raspberry liqueur
1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam
1 teaspoon Creme de Cassis or raspberry liqueur, optional
1/2 ounce semisweet chocolate, coarsely grated
1 cup sweetened whipped cream
1/2 cup fresh raspberries
Step 1: Heat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. Flip over the bottom of the spring-form pan so the side with the lip is down and fasten it in place. (This eases removal of the baked torte.) Spray the pan with a vegetable oil-flour spray, line the bottom with a round of parchment paper and spray the paper.
Step 2: Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and whisk vigorously to combine. Place the chopped chocolate and cut-up butter in a microwave-safe bowl and heat in a microwave on low until the butter melts and the chocolate is almost fully melted. Remove and stir until the mixture is completely smooth, shiny and combined. (Alternately, melt the chocolate and butter in a saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth.) Set aside.
Step 3: Whisk the eggs until combined (but not frothy) in a mixing bowl. Add the sugar, ¾ cup jam and Creme de Cassis and whisk gently until blended. Stir in the chocolate-butter and the flour mixtures until all are well combined. Don’t whisk or stir vigorously during this step or you’ll create air bubbles in the batter. Tap the pan on a counter several times to release any air bubbles that may have formed during mixing.
Step 4: Pour the batter into the prepared pan; smooth and level the top. Place on a cookie sheet to catch any drips. Bake until a tester inserted in the middle of the torte comes out clean (50 minutes to an hour, though times vary so start checking earlier). A few cracks may develop on the top; no worries — this will be the bottom once the torte is inverted.
Step 5: Remove to a rack and cool for about 10 minutes. Slide a thin knife or offset spatula around the sides, pressing towards the pan, not the torte. Carefully remove the pan’s side. Let the torte cool until barely warm. Invert it onto a cardboard cake circle or a cooling rack, carefully remove the pan bottom and round of parchment paper, and, if on a rack, slide the inverted torte back onto the base of the spring-form pan. Let it cool completely.
Step 6: Make the topping by simmering and stirring the raspberry jam for several minutes in a small saucepan until it’s slightly thickened and smooth. Remove it from the heat, stir in the liqueur (if using) and set it aside to cool. Spread it over the top of the cooled cake and sprinkle with grated chocolate. (This can be done early in the day you serve it. Cover and refrigerate.) Up to an hour before serving, pipe rosettes or stars of the sweetened whipped cream around the edge of the torte and arrange some fresh raspberries in the middle. Cut the torte into thin pieces (it’s rich) and serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.
Vera Dawson, a chef instructor with CMC’s Culinary Institute, lives in Summit County. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at email@example.com.