Vail High Country Baking column: Chocolate raspberry mini-cakes
High Country Baking
Editor’s note: High altitudes make 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.
Like miniature desserts? Me, too, so I can’t resist these mini-cakes. They’re barely big enough to yield four bites of fresh raspberries and soft chocolate in a light vanilla cake, and they’re nothing decadent, just simple, fresh-faced goodness.
This recipe is all about minis. I once tried baking the batter in a larger pan, thinking more is better; the results were disappointing. So, if you want bigger servings, then put two on a plate rather than increase the size of the cakes.
Be sure to use good chocolate — the kind you’d eat out-of-hand, and chop it into very small pieces.
The baby-cakes should be served warm; the chocolate must be melted to be at their best. But, you can make them several hours ahead of time and reheat them before serving.
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Chocolate Raspberry Minis
Adjusted for altitudes of 8,000 and above
Make in a standard muffin pan
Yields 10-12 baby cakes
4 ounces (approximately) high-quality bittersweet, semi-sweet or milk chocolate — choose your favorite
2 large eggs, room temperature
¼ cup canned evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed milk)
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup superfine granulated sugar, preferably Bakers’
1 cup bleached all-purpose flour, spoon and level
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh raspberries, preferably small ones
About 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
Commercial chocolate fudge sauce or good quality chocolate sauce
Additional fresh raspberries
1. Preheat the oven, with a rack in the center, to 350 degrees (325 degrees if your muffin pan has a dark finish). Grease the cups of your muffin pan with a baking spray and with flour. Chop the chocolate into slivers or tiny chunks (no larger than ¼ inch square-they must be small enough to melt while the cakes are baking). Stop when you have ½ cup. Set the chocolate aside.
2. In a small bowl or a measuring cup, whisk the eggs, evaporated milk and vanilla until just combined. Set the mixture aside.
3. Beat the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Give this some time; it makes a big difference in the texture of the cakes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the egg mixture, one to two tablespoons at a time, blending completely after each addition. No worries if the mixture looks curdled.
4. Either by hand or at the mixer’s lowest speed, stir in the flour and salt just until they are fully combined. Don’t overmix. By hand, using a silicone spatula, very gently fold the chocolate pieces and the cup of fresh raspberries into the batter. Try to keep the raspberries intact. Lightly spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin, filling the cups no more than three-fourths full. I get twelve baby cakes from this batter; you may get more or less, depending on the size of the cups in your muffin pan.
5. Bake for about 20-24 minutes, until the tops are set but soft to the touch (they won’t spring back) and golden brown around the edges. Remove the muffin pan from the oven and cool it on a wire rack. After about 8-10 minutes, run a knife around the edge of each muffin cup to loosen the cake. Gently invert the muffin tin on a greased wire rack. If the cakes don’t fall out of the tin, tap it gently on the rack or the counter until they do.
6. Serve them after taking them out of the pan or cool completely, store covered, and, right before serving, reheat in a 300 degree oven until they are quite warm to the touch.
Serve the baby cakes warm, bottom-side-up. Sprinkle them with powdered sugar and accompany them with a drizzling of warm chocolate sauce and a scattering of fresh raspberries.
Vera Dawson is a baking instructor and author of two high-altitude cookbooks, “Cookies in the Clouds” and “Baking Above It All” (available at The Bookworm of Edwards). Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.