High Altitude Baking: Sweet Caroline molasses cake (recipe)
Editor’s note: High altitudes 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.
Do you like gingerbread? If so, get out your scissors; this molasses cake is for you. It’s been a staple in Southern states for years; I first encountered it in South Carolina and was hooked by its moist texture, even crumb, sweet, brown-sugary flavor, and subtle hints of cinnamon and ginger. It won my favor even further when I started baking it. The batter requires only two bowls and a few utensils, comes together in a flash and rewards you with a heavenly aroma while it’s in the oven.
The cake is adaptable; it’s often served plain with a cup of coffee or dressed up for dessert with ice cream, warm caramel sauce, lemon sauce, apple slices sauteed in butter or whipped cream.
Little can go wrong as you prepare it. Just be sure to use a mild molasses, anything stronger will be overpowering. Measure the ingredients precisely (too much of any one of them may result in a disaster) and combine the wet and dry ones with a light hand.
Sweet Caroline Molasses Cake
(Make in a 6-cup Bundt pan, preferably nonstick and light-colored. Double the recipe for a large Bundt pan. Adjusted for altitudes of 8,000 feet and higher.)
1 1/2 cups plus 3 tablespoons bleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup superfine granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup light molasses
1 large egg, room temperature
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup boiling water
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, with a rack in the center position. Generously grease the pan with a vegetable oil-flour spray.
Step 2: Combine the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon and salt) in a large mixing bowl and whisk vigorously until thoroughly combined.
Step 3: In a smaller bowl, whisk the canola oil, molasses, egg, sour cream and vanilla until well blended. Continue whisking until the mixture is completely smooth. Pour it over the dry ingredients (use a silicone or rubber spatula to scrape every bit of the liquid mixture out of its bowl), add the boiling water and use your spatula to gently stir until mixed. Don’t overmix; it’s OK if there are some small lumps in the batter.
Step 4: Pour the batter into the prepared pan, filling it no more than two-thirds full. Level the batter and smooth the top. Tap the pan on a counter a few times to release any air bubbles in the batter. Place the pan in the oven and turn the temperature down to 340 degrees. Bake until the cake starts to pull away from the pan sides and a cake tester or toothpick inserted near the middle of the cake comes out with only a few moist crumbs on it, this takes from 30 to 37 minutes. (If you double the recipe and bake the cake in a 10 to 12-cup Bundt pan, start checking at 45 minutes.)
Step 5: Remove the pan to a rack and cool for 15 minutes. If necessary, run an offset spatula or knife around the pan sides to loosen the cake. Invert the pan onto the rack, remove it and let the cake cool completely. Once cool, it can be served or wrapped airtight and stored at cool room temperature for 48 hours or frozen for a month.
Vera Dawson, author of the new high-altitude cookbook “Cookies in the Clouds” (available at The Next Page Books & Nosh in Frisco), is a chef instructor with CMC’s Culinary Institute. Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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