A java cake re-make
Vail, CO, Colorado
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 column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful.
When did we become so enthralled with make-overs? Hairstyles, clothes, landscapes, make-up, furnishings, you name it … we’re re-doing it. And if we’re not, we’re attentively watching someone else progress from “before” to “after” in front of the TV cameras.
Whatever the reason for this fascination, I’ve joined the ranks of the renovators. A reader recently asked me to review the ingredients for a java cake that was published in this column about a year and a half ago. I decided to do more than that; I remodeled the whole recipe. And, after doing so, I’m hooked; it turned out to be a very satisfying process.
After researching and testing a number of recipes for cakes flavored with coffee, I modified the original java cake recipe in hopes of producing a better pastry. I was delighted when my testers confirmed my success, describing the new cake as “moist and tender, with a fine crumb and a definite coffee taste.”
The cake can be served several ways: with a simple coffee or vanilla glaze (recipes for these were included in the column published in January, 2006), plain, or, my favorite way: with a scoop of vanilla, chocolate or coffee ice cream and a drizzle of Kahlua. The java flavor is more pronounced the day after the cake is made, so plan accordingly if that’s what you’re looking for.
The cake freezes successfully as long as it is wrapped airtight in at least two layers of plastic and/or foil.
The recipe may be doubled if you’re feeding a lot of people. If you double it, bake it in two eight-by-four inch loaf pans. If you use a larger pan, the cake may sink slightly in the middle.
Bake in an 8X4 inch loaf pan
(one quart capacity)
Adjusted for altitudes between 8,000 and 10,000 feet
1/4 cup of whole milk
2 1/2 tablespoons of instant coffee
1 cup plus 2 (two) tablespoons of flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/8 teaspoon of salt
8 tablespoons (one stick) of unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
3/4 teaspoon of vanilla
3/4 cup of granulated sugar
Step One: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, with a rack in the center position. Line the long sides and the bottom of the 8X4 inch loaf pan with aluminum foil, allowing several inches of the foil to hang over the sides of the pan to be used as a handle when removing the baked cake. Generously grease and flour the entire pan, both the foil and the short sides.
Step Two: Heat the milk in a small bowl in the microwave until very warm but not boiling. Alternately, place the milk in a small saucepan and heat on the stove. Stir in the instant coffee until it is thoroughly dissolved and then set the mixture aside to cool to room temperature.
Step Three: Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and whisk until combined and free of any lumps.
Step Four: With an electric mixer, beat the butter, vanilla and sugar until fluffy and light, scraping the bowl as needed. This takes about three minutes-don’t shorten this time for it makes a big difference in the resulting texture of the cake. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until fully incorporated into the batter after each addition. Beat for two minutes after adding the last egg.
Step Four: With the mixer at low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the coffee-milk mixture (which will be added in two additions, starting and ending with the flour. Scrape the bowl when necessary and stir only until the batter is smooth.
Step Five: Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top. Spread the batter up the long sides of the pan, so that these sides are slightly higher then the center. Bake until the top springs back when touched and a cake tester comes out dry. Start testing after the cake has been in the oven about 40 minutes. The cake will develop a deep crack in the center; that’s expected, you will invert it, making the bottom the top, so the crack won’t show when you serve it.
Step Six: Remove the cake from the oven and place it on a cooling rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the short sides of the cake to make sure it isn’t sticking to the pan. Remove the cake from the cooling rack, invert it onto the rack and carefully remove the pan and the foil lining. Let the cake cool completely in this inverted position.
Step Seven: Once cool, you can glaze the cake, serve it as it is, or add ice cream and a drizzle of Kahlua.
Vera Dawson 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 Dawson with comments about this column and/or your baking questions at email@example.com.