High Altitude Baking: Cherry-almond cakelettes (recipe)
Editor’s note: 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.
No, these aren’t cupcakes. I know they look like them, but they’re not as sweet or as rich and I doubt they’d be a hit at a children’s party. They’re more sophisticated and refined in taste, with the classic combination of almond and cherry flavors; a tight, dense texture and a medium crumb. A dark cherry, buried within each cakelette, and a topping of whipped cream add to their elegance and appeal.
The recipe, reminiscent of financiers (a famous French tea cake), comes together in about 15 minutes of active time and requires a quarter of an hour or less in the oven.
The almond flavor in these pastries comes from almond flour. If you’re unacquainted with it, it’s almonds ground so fine that they have the texture of wheat flour. Packaged commercially by Bob’s Red Mill, it’s available at City Market, Whole Foods and Natural Grocers. You can make your own by grinding raw almonds in a food processor until they have the consistency of meal. Be sure to stop processing the nuts before they start to release their oils and form a paste; they should have a dry, flour-like quality.
Be sure to bake the cakelettes in a pan with cups that are at least one inch deep or the cherries won’t be properly submerged in the batter. They’re best the day they are made but can be baked in the morning, stored covered at room temperature and served later in the day.
(Makes 10 two-inch cakes. Make in a mini-muffin pan with cups that are one at least 1 inch deep and 2 inches wide)
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ cup flour (spoon and level)
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons almond flour/meal (spoon and level)
- ½ cup superfine granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 extra-large egg whites
- A little less than ¼ teaspoon almond extract
- 2 teaspoons Crème de Cassis
- 10 pitted dark cherries, canned, jarred or frozen and thawed
- Sweetened whipped cream, flavored with Crème de Cassis
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees with a rack in the center position. Line the cups of the mini-muffin tin with paper liners, and grease the paper liners with a vegetable oil-flour spray.
Step 2: Brown the butter by melting it in a skillet over medium-low heat, swirling or stirring the pan frequently, until the butter sputters and pops, gets foamy, starts to darken in color and has a nutty aroma. Quickly remove it from the heat at this point, (it burns easily), skim off any foam that’s formed on the top, and set it aside.
Step 3: Combine the flour, almond meal, granulated sugar and salt in a bowl, and whisk vigorously until well mixed and free of any lumps. Add the egg whites and almond extract, and mix until fully combined and smooth. Use a silicone or rubber spatula to stir in the Crème de Cassis, followed by the browned butter. If there is any sediment at the bottom of the skillet containing the butter, don’t include it. Set the bowl aside for about 15 minutes.
Step 4: While the batter rests, if it’s necessary, drain the dark cherries and dry them on paper towels. They should be moist but not wet.
Step 5: Spoon about one tablespoon of batter into each paper-lined cup of the muffin pan. Place a cherry on the batter, pushing it into it gently, and then add more batter to cover the cherry and fill to about one-quarter inch from the top of the paper liner. Smooth and level the batter in each cup. Bake until the tops of the cakes are set and golden; this takes from 11 to 15 minutes in my oven. Don’t overbake or the cakelettes will be dry.
Step 6: Remove the pan from the oven, and as soon as they’ve cooled enough to touch, remove the cakelettes, in their paper liners, from the pan. Place them on a cooling rack to cool completely. Top with a swirl of sweetened, Crème-de-Cassis-flavored whipped cream before serving.
This recipe is inspired by one from “Martha Stewart Living.” Vera Dawson, a chef instructor with CMC’s Culinary Institute, lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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