High Altitude Baking: Raspberry-lemon mini cakes bring spring flavor
High Country Baking
High elevation 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.
These pretty little cakes will make it feel like spring no matter what the weather is outside. Their tart lemony taste, light texture, berry topping and two-bite size will brighten your mood like a sunny day. With a light glaze instead of a thick frosting and a not-too-sweet flavor, they make a refined, somewhat sophisticated, impression. Skip the kid’s birthday parties and serve them to adults.
They come together in three steps: the lemon filling is made first, followed by the cake batter. The two are layered in the muffin cups and then baked. Lastly, the cooled cakes are topped with a lemon-raspberry glaze and a berry. The whole process requires about 45 minutes of active time.
Lemons produce juice of varying strength, so do some taste tests as you make both the filling and the glaze so you can adjust the flavorings to your liking.
The mini-cakes are best eaten on the day they’re made, but can be stored in the refrigerator for a day or two. Bring them to room temperature before serving.
Adjusted for elevations of 8,000 feet and above
Make in shiny metal mini-muffin pans with cups 2 inches across and 1-inch deep
Makes 16-18 mini-cakes
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons superfine granulated sugar
4 ounces cream cheese (don’t use non-fat), room temperature
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons bleached, all-purpose flour, spoon and level
¼ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (one stick), room temperature
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon superfine granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s
2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk, room temperature
1½ teaspoons vanilla paste or extract
1 teaspoon water
1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2-3 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam
¾ -1 cup confectioners’ sugar
One half-pint container fresh raspberries
Preheat the oven to 325° with a rack in the center position. Place paper cupcake liners in the pan. Spray the liners with a baking spray that contains flour. (At sea level, the paper liners would be sufficient. But, at elevation, I’ve had many a cupcake stick to the paper liners in which they’re baked. So, I recommend greasing the liners.)
Make the filling: Whisk the lemon juice and sugar in a small bowl. Cut the softened cream cheese into small pieces, add them, and whisk or beat with an electric mixer until combined into a smooth, lump-free cream. Taste and add more lemon juice and/or sugar, if desired. Cover and set aside, refrigerate if you’re not making the rest of the recipe immediately.
Make the mini-cakes: Combine the flour and salt in a small bowl, stir to mix and set aside. Cut the room-temperature butter into small pieces and place them in a medium bowl with the sugar. Beat them with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the room temperature eggs and the egg yolk, one at a time, beating well after each addition. At this point, the mixture may look curdled; it will come together once the flour is added. Add the vanilla and the water and mix until blended. With your mixer at low speed or by hand, gradually add the flour-salt mixture and stir until just combined. Don’t overmix at this point.
Spoon about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the cake batter into the prepared mini-muffin cups, place a generous teaspoon of the filling in the middle of the batter, then add more batter until the cups are about three-fourths full. Smooth and level the tops. Bake until the top of each cake is firm and slightly springy. In my oven, this takes about 20 minutes. Remove the cakes to a cooling rack. Leave them in the pan for about 10 minutes and then gently lift them out of the pan and place them directly on the rack to cool completely.
Make the glaze: Combine 1 tablespoon of lemon juice with 2 tablespoons of raspberry jam and stir to combine. Add about half a cup of confectioners’ sugar and whisk until completely combined. Add more sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the glaze reaches a spreadable consistency. Taste, add more lemon and/or more jam, if desired. If necessary, add more sugar to re-create the correct consistency. Top each cooled mini-cake with glaze and let it set. Just before serving, top each cake with a fresh raspberry.
The cupcake recipe was inspired by one published in Martha Stewart’s “Living.” Vera Dawson is a high-elevation baking instructor and author of three high-altitude cookbooks (available at The Bookworm in Edwards, Next Page Bookstore in Frisco, and Breck Books in Breckenridge). 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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