Editor's note: Living in the Colorado high country 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 mountains successful.
Like a chat with a dear friend, a bite of this band of chocolate bundt cake adds a little pleasure to your day. No, it isn't decadent or dazzling; it won't be served as the finale to a presidential dinner. Instead, it's good in a homey, relaxed way. The crumb is tender, the taste buttery, with hints of vanilla and almond, and the streak of chocolate chips adds a little crunch and richness. The overall experience is an enjoyable mixture of complementary flavors and textures.
I've topped this one with a brown sugar glaze but I like a chocolate glaze just as well and have also served the cake plain, with ice cream and chocolate sauce.
Please note that this recipe is for a six-cup Bundt pan. If your pan has a 12-cup capacity, you can successfully double the recipe and use it.
Band of chocolate bundt cake
(Adjusted for altitudes between 8,000 and 10,000 feet. Make in a six-cup, non-stick Bundt pan.)
Chocolate chip band
1⁄4 cup flour
11⁄2 (one and a half) tablespoons light or dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1⁄8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1⁄4 cup mini chocolate chips
11⁄2 cups plus 3 tablespoons bleached all-purpose flour
1⁄4 teaspoon baking powder
A pinch salt
3 large eggs
11⁄4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1⁄4 teaspoon almond extract
12 tablespoons (11⁄2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese (regular or low fat) at room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Optional brown-sugar glaze
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
About 1⁄2 cup confectioner's sugar
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, with a rack in the center position. Generously grease the six-cup Bundt pan (yes, even though it's non-stick) with a vegetable-oil and flour spray. Make sure to grease the center tube as well as the pan's sides. Set the pan aside.
Make the chocolate chip band: Combine the flour, the two sugars and the cinnamon in a small bowl and stir until blended. Add the melted butter and knead or stir until all the dry ingredients are evenly moistened and crumbly. Stir in the mini chocolate chips until evenly distributed. Set the bowl aside.
Make the cake: In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt vigorously until aerated and well combined. Set this aside. Break the eggs into a small bowl, whisk to combine the yolks and whites, add the vanilla and almond extracts, whisk again, and set aside. With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the room-temperature butter and cream cheese until well combined. Add the sugar and beat until light in color and fluffy in texture. (Give this time, it's important to the cake's texture.) In three equal additions, add the egg mixture, beating well after each addition (about one-two minutes). Beat one minute more after the last addition. Using low speed on your mixer or by hand, add the dry ingredients in three additions, stirring only until the flour is blended with the wet ingredients.
Pour or spoon half of the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the band mixture evenly over it. Add more of the batter, spreading it evenly, until the pan is about two-thirds full and the batter comes to about one-and-a-half inches from the pan's top. You may have some batter left over (not all six-cup bundt pans are exactly the same size). Gently tap the pan on a counter to settle the batter and rid it of air bubbles. Bake directly on the oven rack until the cake starts to pull away from the pan sides, the top is light golden, and a tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. This takes about 45 minutes in my oven, but start checking earlier. Don't overbake or the cake will be dry.
Remove the cake to a cooling rack. Wait about fifteen minutes, then invert it onto the rack, remove the pan, and cool it completely. When cool, glaze it or serve it, unglazed, with a drizzle of good commercial chocolate sauce and chocolate chip ice cream. It can be stored for two days at room temperature if well covered.
Optional: Make the glaze: Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan until it's about half way melted. Add the light brown sugar and stir constantly until it dissolves and combines with the butter. Add the cream, continue to stir and simmer gently for one or two minutes. Remove from the stove, stir in the vanilla, sift in half of the confectioner's sugar and stir until well combined. Gradually add more, a little at a time, until slightly thickened. You may not use all the sugar. Let cool until it thickens a bit more and is a good consistency to drizzle over the cake's top and run down its sides.
The cake recipe is a variation of one by Elinor Klivens.
Vera Dawson, a chef instructor with CMC's Culinary Institute, 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 her at firstname.lastname@example.org.