Baking fluffy cupcakes in Eagle County
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 twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful.
Light as a cloud … tasting like flavored air. That’s how these little cakes have been described. The ethereal texture comes from the inclusion of softly whipped cream in place of butter, a standard ingredient in most cake recipes.
The result is a sponge-cake variation that would be almost too insubstantial on its own, but proves to be an excellent partner to sweet berries and fruit. Feel free to substitute blueberries, blackberries or raspberries for the strawberries called for in this recipe. Any sweet, colorful fruit accompaniment would work well.
Surprisingly, while the use of whipping cream may seem highly indulgent, it actually adds fewer calories to the batter than the equivalent amount of butter does. So, the recipe isn’t as decadent as you might think.
You can add either vanilla or almond extract to these delicate little cakes. Both go well with the strawberry sauce, so use which ever you prefer.
You may make the cakes ahead of time; they freeze very well. The strawberry sauce can also be prepared a day or two before serving. So, all you need to do is defrost the little cakes and slice and sugar the strawberries close to the time you’ll present the dessert.
Adjusted for altitudes between 8,000 and 10,000 feet
Makes 10 cakes (depending on size of cupcake pan)
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla or 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract (your choice)
1/2 cup of granulated sugar, divided
2/3 cup of cold heavy whipping cream
1 container of sweetened frozen sliced strawberries
1/2 cup of fresh strawberries
Granulated sugar to taste
Confectioner’s sugar, for serving
Preheat the oven to 350-degrees, with a rack in the center position. Line the cupcake pan with 10 paper cupcake liners. Spray the paper liners with a flour-vegetable oil spray. (While it won’t be disastrous if you don’t grease the paper liners with the spray, the cakelettes will be much easier to remove from the liners and will have a prettier shape and more golden color if you do.)
Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and whisk to mix well and aerate.
Combine egg, egg yolk, the vanilla or almond extract, and 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar (save the remaining 1/4 cup) in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until it gets quite pale and thick. Rinse off the beaters of your mixer. Combine the cold cream with the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar in a clean bowl and beat at high speed until the mixture holds soft peaks.
Gently fold the egg mixture into the sweetened whipped cream. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the top and fold it in until all of the flour is absorbed and a smooth, thick batter emerges.
Divide the batter among the lined cupcake tins, filling them about 2/3-to-3/4 full. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean. This took about 20 minutes in my oven. The cupcakes are so tender they won’t spring back much when touched, so use the toothpick to test for doneness. When done, place the pans on a cooling rack. After 10 minutes, remove the cakes from the pans and carefully peel off the paper liners. Let the cupcakes cool completely on the rack. If you aren’t serving them on the day you make them, you can wrap them airtight and freeze them.
To make the strawberry sauce defrost the frozen sweetened strawberries and puree them in a food processor or a blender or mash them with a potato masher or a fork until a thick sauce is formed. Taste the sauce and add more sugar if necessary. This can be done a day or two before you plan to serves the cupcakes. About an hour before serving, slice the strawberries and sugar them to taste (the amount will depend on the ripeness of the berries). Plate each cupcake and surround it with strawberry sauce and some of the sliced strawberries. Dust the top with confectioner’s sugar and serve.
This recipe is a variation of one from Gourmet Magazine.
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 Dawson with your comments about this column and/or your baking questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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A Nov. 30 to Governor Polis and the Eagle County Commissioners from Beaver Creek Resorts Company – as well as the towns of Vail, Avon, Eagle and Minturn – requests a variance program which would allow businesses to remain open.