High Country Baking: Chocolate cloud mini cakes
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 that make baking in the mountains successful.
A light chocolate dessert… isn’t that an oxymoron? You’re right, chocolate desserts aren’t often light, but the description fits these chocolate mini-cupcakes. With reduced butter and sugar, almost no flour and leavened by whipped egg whites, they combine an airy, delicate texture (think angel food cake) with a tantalizing chocolate taste. Refined and subtle, they’re not cupcakes for a kid’s party; share them with adults who’ll appreciate their understated appeal.
If you want a frosting to contrast with the cake’s lightness, choose the mocha buttercream frosting in the photograph or a chocolate ganache; both add a lush richness. If you prefer a frosting that adds to their airiness, top them with a rosette of sweetened whipped cream and, perhaps, a single raspberry.
When beating the egg whites, be sure they’re free of any yolk and that the bowl is squeaky-clean. Fat of any kind (even a residue on a washed bowl) will prevent the whites from whipping.
My favorite mini-cupcake pan (the one used here) has cups that are 2 inches in diameter and 1 inch deep, which I think is the perfect size for a baby cake. Mine is made by Calphalon and is available online and in many kitchen stores. The paper liners for pan cups of this size are also available from the same sources.
Chocolate Cloud Mini-Cupcakes with Mocha Frosting
Makes 12 2-inch cakes or 6 standard cupcakes.
Adjusted for altitude.
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
1 ounce semisweet chocolate
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large egg whites
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup superfine granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s
1 1/2 tablespoons bleached all–purpose flour
Mocha Frosting, optional
3/4 cup lump free confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tablespoons strong brewed coffee, room temperature
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center. Line the mini-cupcake pan with paper liners and grease the liners with a flour-vegetable oil baking spray.
2. Finely chop both chocolates, cut the butter into 12 pieces and place them all in a microwave-safe mixing bowl. Using a low temperature (I use 4 out of 10), melt them in a microwave oven until only a few small lumps remain. Remove and stir the mixture until it’s smooth and glossy. Set aside for about 5 minutes to cool.
3. While the chocolate mixture cools, place the egg whites in a small metal or glass bowl (I use a 4-cup measure). Beat with an electric mixer, using a low speed until the eggs get frothy, then increase the speed and beat until they get glossy, billowy and form peaks that stand up. Stop before they look dry. Set aside.
3. Place the 2 eggs in a small bowl or a cup measure and whisk to combine. Add this, the sugar and the flour to the cooled chocolate mixture and whisk/stir until fully blended. Use a large silicone spatula to gently fold in the whipped egg whites; try to deflate them as little as possible. Check the bottom of the bowl to make sure all ingredients are fully blended.
4. Spoon the batter into the paper liners, filling them about three-fourths of the way to the top. Smooth the tops if necessary and gently tap the pan on a counter to release any air bubbles. Bake until the cakes are set and look dry, about 12-15 minutes. Remove the pan to a cooling rack and, after about 5 minutes, remove the cakes (in their paper liners) from the pan to cool completely. They may deflate a little as they cool. Once cool, they can be frosted or frozen, wrapped airtight, for a month.
5. Make the frosting, if using: Whisk the sugar and cocoa in a small bowl until combined well. Beat the butter until it’s creamy and gradually add about two-thirds of the sugar mixture, beating until smooth. Add one tablespoon of coffee and the vanilla and beat until light and creamy. Taste, add more coffee, if desired. If the consistency is too thin, add more of the sugar mixture, a little at a time, beating well after each addition, until the frosting is the right thickness for piping or spreading. Remember that it will thicken more as it cools and sets up. Frost the cakes and store, covered, in the fridge for up to four days. Serve at room temperature.
This recipe is inspired by one published by Williams-Sonoma.
Vera Dawson teaches high-altitude baking classes and is the author of the high-altitude cookbooks Cookies in the Clouds and Baking Above It All (available at The Bookworm in Edwards and Next Page Bookstore in Frisco). Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at email@example.com.
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