Life is Sweet: Connie’s Chocolate Cake |

Life is Sweet: Connie’s Chocolate Cake

Special to the DailyConnie's Chocolate Cake

Better late than never. I hope my friend, Connie, believes that old adage. In February, she asked me to adjust her sea-level chocolate cake recipe for our altitude. Finally, I’ve gotten it done.

Experimenting with the changes needed to bake her cake above 8,000 feet turned into a labor of love for me; I became very fond of it. It’s not a rich, decadent chocolate show-stopper. On

the contrary, it’s almost understated, with a mild chocolate taste,

a loose crumb, and an appealingly-moist

texture. It’s the perfect match for a lush topping, so, if you’re searching for a cake to pair with your favorite thick, gooey chocolate

or vanilla frosting, look no further.

The cake in the photograph is a single layer, but, when doubled, the recipe works beautifully for a cake with two layers, a filling between them, and a frosted top and sides.

I often find that much sweetness can be too much of a good thing. But this cake is light enough in taste and texture to carry it well.

The batter comes together in a quick and unconventional method. The recipe abandons the usual creaming of butter and sugar and replaces it with a mixture of melted chocolate, butter, and water to which the rest of the ingredients are added. I was skeptical, but, it works!

I topped the cake in the photo with a simple confectioner’s sugar glaze flavored with vanilla and a little coffee. Choose your favorite adornment; the cake will go well with any topping with a strong taste and rich texture.

Vera Dawson, a Chef Instructor at the Culinary Institute of Colorado Mountain College, 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 Vera with your comments about this column and/or your baking questions at

Adjusted for altitudes between 8,000 and 10,000 feet

Make in an eight-inch cake pan with two inch sides

Double the recipe for a two-layer cake


1 1/4 (one and one-fourth) cups plus 3 (three) tablespoons of all-purpose flour (to measure: gently spoon flour into measuring cup and level the top; don’t compress the flour)

1/2 (one half) teaspoon of baking powder

1/4 (one fourth) teaspoon of baking soda

1/4 (one fourth) teaspoon of salt

2 (two) ounces of unsweetened chocolate

4 (four) tablespoons of unsalted butter

1/2 (one half) cup plus 1 (one) teaspoon

of water

1 (one) large egg

3/4 (three fourth) cup plus 2 (two)

tablespoons of granulated sugar, preferably superfine or Baker’s

1 (one) teaspoon of vanilla

1/2 (one half) cup of hot brewed coffee

Step One: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. Generously grease and flour the cake pan and line the bottom of the pan with a greased and floured circle of parchment paper. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and whisk vigorously to mix, aerate, and remove any lumps.

Step Two: Chop the unsweetened chocolate into small pieces, cut the butter into four chunks and set both aside. Bring the half-cup and teaspoon of water to a boil in a large saucepan over medium heat.

Lower the heat to medium-low, add the chocolate and butter and stir until they are melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside.

Step Three: Using an electric mixer or a whisk, beat the egg, sugar and vanilla in

a bowl until fully combined and creamy.

Stir this mixture into the chocolate mixture so the two are fully blended. Add the flour mixture, then the half-cup of hot coffee, and stir, gently, until thoroughly combined into a smooth batter.

Step Four: Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, (fill it a little more than half way to the top) distributing it evenly, and place the pan on a cookie sheet. Bake until the top of the cake springs back when lightly touched, the sides just start to pull away from the pan, and a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. This takes about 25-30 minutes in my oven. Remove the cake to a rack to cool. Invert the cake, remove the pan, and return it right-side-up. If the cake is domed, use a serrated knife to level it. The cake is now ready for a topping of your choice or can be double-wrapped, airtight, and frozen for up to a month. Defrost the frozen cake in the refrigerator over night before adding a topping and serving.

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