High Altitude Baking: Impress guests with this classy, easy cake
July 18, 2018
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.
Deep, dark chocolate flavor enriched by hints of raspberry makes this thin, one-layer cake very European in style. Topped with fresh berries and whipped cream, it's elegant and sophisticated, a fitting end to an adult dinner party. But don't let its classy looks fool you, in truth it's down-to-earth and eager to please. It relies on readily available ingredients and, once they're assembled, it'll be in the oven in about 15 minutes. If you replace the whipped cream and berries with a border of sliced almonds and serve it with chocolate sauce, it'll accompany you on a picnic and become a favorite with the kids.
The success of the cake depends on high-quality semisweet chocolate (the kind you'd eat out of your hand) and a thick raspberry jam with a true berry flavor. It must not be overbaked; its moist texture is a big part of its charm.
If you want to prepare the whipped cream or even pipe it onto the cake several hours before serving, add 1 teaspoon of non-fat instant dry milk to the cream, let it soften/dissolve, then add the other ingredients and whip them. The dried milk (1 tablespoon per 1 cup of heavy cream) stabilizes the whipped cream, letting it hold its shape for a longer time. Store the stabilized whipped cream in the fridge.
Adjusted for altitudes of 7,900 feet and above. Make in an 8-inch springform pan
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2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon bleached all-purpose flour, spoon and level
A little less than 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 pinches salt
2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (one stick), cut into 16 pieces
5 tablespoons superfine sugar, preferably Baker's
1/2 cup raspberry jam, preferably seedless
1 tablespoon crème de cassis
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons raspberry jam, preferably seedless
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream, cold
2 teaspoons confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. Unlock the pan, flip over the bottom, so the lip faces down, and re-lock it in place (this will make cutting and serving the cake easier). Grease the pan with a baking spray or flour. Line the pan bottom with a circle of parchment or waxed paper and grease the paper.
2. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and whisk to blend. Set aside. Add the chopped chocolates and butter to a microwave-safe bowl, place it in the microwave and heat at a low temperature (I use No. 3 out of 10) until only small lumps remain. Remove from the oven and stir until smooth and shiny. If quite warm, cool slightly.
3. Using a whisk or an electric mixer, beat the sugar, jam, crème de cassis and eggs in a large bowl until they are completely combined. Add the chocolate mixture and stir to blend well, then the flour mixture and stir only until a batter forms. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth and level the top.
4. Bake 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Don't overbake or the cake will be dry. Remove to a rack and cool for about 15 minutes. Take off the pan side but leave the cake on the pan bottom and cool completely. If the top is domed, trim it so it's flat. Invert the cake, remove the paper liner and place the cake (still inverted, the bottom is now the top) on a cardboard cake circle. At this point you can cover it airtight and refrigerate it for a day or freeze it for a month. If frozen, defrost the cake before continuing.
5. Top the cake: About two hours before serving, place the bowl you'll whip the cream in and the beaters for your electric mixer in the freezer to chill (this helps the cream whip quickly). Stir the jam until smooth and liquefied. If necessary, warm it slightly in a microwave. Spread it over the top of the cake and set it aside to thicken until it's only slightly sticky. Just before serving, whip the cold cream, sugar and vanilla in the chilled bowl with the chilled beaters until stiff peaks form. Pile fresh raspberries in the cake's center, spoon the whipped cream in a pastry bag with a closed star tip, and pipe a border of stars around the cake's edge. Serve at room temperature. Store leftovers in the fridge.
Vera Dawson, author of the high-altitude cookbooks Baking Above It All and Cookies in the Clouds, (available at The Bookworm in Edwards and Next Page Bookstore in Frisco), is a high-altitude baking teacher. 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. This recipe is a variation of one published by Pillsbury.