Life is Sweet: High Country Baking
Living in Summit County 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 High Country successful. Each recipe has been tested numerous times in my home kitchen in Frisco and, whenever necessary, altered until it works. The holidays are over; we’re now feeling guilty about our indulgences and worried about their impact on our waistlines. We’ve entered that miserable period of time when we are either dieting or in the purgatory of not strictly following a weight-loss program but “watching what we eat” – it’s what I hate about January.Knowing how widespread this phenomenon is, I selected a recipe for my first column in the new year with it in mind. The cake that follows is significantly reduced in fat and calories. Non-fat yogurt moisturizes the batter and the recipe calls for fewer eggs and much less butter than most cakes. It is finished with a light glaze rather than a heavy, high-calorie frosting. And, in spite of all that it’s missing, it’s very good! It is light, tangy, well-textured, not-overly-sweet, with a lovely rum-raisin flavor.If you are really being austere, you can reduce calories even more by leaving out the raisins and pecans. The cake is still quite tasty. You need a springform fluted tube pan with a six or seven cup capacity to make this. Though I haven’t tried it, you can probably substitute a Bundt pan with the same capacity. You need to use a pan with a center stem that heats up and helps to bake the batter or the cake might collapse. This recipe is inspired by a yogurt cake in “The Joy of Cooking.”
Raisin-Pecan Yogurt Cake(Reduced fat)Ingredients1/2 cup raisins2 tablespoons dark rum or water1/2 cup toasted, cooled, and finely chopped pecans5 tablespoons butter1 cup sugar2 1/4 cups cake flour1/2 teaspoon salt1/4 teaspoon baking soda1/2 teaspoon baking powder1 large egg2 egg whites1 teaspoon vanilla1 cup non-fat plain yogurt
Have all ingredients at room temperature.Step one: Preheat the oven to 365 degrees, with rack in the center position. Grease and flour the pan. I use Baker’s Joy for this; it contains both oil and flour and really works. Do a thorough job since baked goods are hard to release from the pan at our altitude.Step two: Soak the raisins in the rum for about two hours or until soft. If you need to speed this up, combine the raisins and rum in a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap and microwave on medium heat for a few minutes, until they are warm and soft. Drain the raisins before adding them to the batter. Save the rum for the glaze.Step three: Combine the cake flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder in a bowl and whisk or stir with a fork until very well combined and without any lumps.Step four: Beat the butter with an electric mixer until creamy. Slowly add the sugar, beating on high, until light in color and fluffy.Step five: Whisk together the egg, egg whites and vanilla and gradually add them to the butter and sugar. Beat until well combined and smooth.Step six: By hand, add the flour and the yogurt alternatively. Start with one third of the flour, then half of the yogurt, another third of the flour, the remainder of the yogurt and the rest of the flour. Stir after each addition until the batter is smooth.
Step seven: Stir in the raisins and the chopped pecans.Step eight: Spread the batter in the pan, leveling it with a spatula. Lightly drop the filled pan on a counter to remove any air bubbles.Step nine: Bake about 40 minutes, though the timing will depend on your pan size and your oven. Bake until the sides of the cake start pulling away and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.Step ten: Place on cooling rack for ten minutes. Loosen the sides of the cake with a thin knife. Invert the cake, release the sides of the springform pan, and gently remove the pan’s tube. Let cake cool completely.Make a glaze for the cake by beating about one cup of confectioner’s sugar into three tablespoons of rum (use the rum the raisins soaked in and add either water or more rum), and a half teaspoon of vanilla. If necessary, add more water or sugar until the glaze is a consistency that is thick enough to dribble down the sides of the cake but not run off it. Drip the glaze off the end of a spoon in an irregular pattern all over the cake. Let the glaze set before serving or storing. I think this cake is at its best served warm, but it is also good at room temperature. If you decide to warm it, it is easiest to cut it into serving pieces first and then pop the cut pieces into the microwave or the oven. Now, don’t you feel virtuous?Vera Dawson lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. If your business or organization would like to sample and review a baked good for the Life Is Sweet column, contact Vera Dawson at firstname.lastname@example.org
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