High Altitude Baking: Dark chocolate gluten-free cake (recipe)
Editor’s note: High altitudes 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 that make baking in the mountains successful.
This isn’t only a good gluten-free cake; it’s a good cake, with no qualifiers. Everyone likes it — even folks who shun gluten-free baked goods. With a fine crumb, pleasingly dense texture and deep, dark chocolate flavor, it’s very satisfying. The key to its success is coconut flour, which absorbs liquids and assures a pleasing, moist consistency.
It’s more chocolatey than sweet, so serve it plain, with a sprinkle of powdered sugar or a dollop of whipped cream to those who favor a bittersweet hit of cacao. For others, it’s a perfect partner for sugared berries, rich glazes, frostings or sauces (try caramel — yummy!). Fancy it up for a dinner party or pack it, unadorned, in a picnic basket; it’s wonderfully versatile.
I’ve rarely encountered a cake that’s easier to prepare. With only about 10 minutes of active time and a few bowls and a spoon or whisk, it’s ready for the oven.
Dark chocolate gluten-free cake
Adjusted for altitudes of 8,000 feet and above. Make in a 7 3/8-inch-by-3 5/8-inch-by-2-inch metal loaf pan.
¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons coconut flour (spoon and level)
¼ teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
4 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Hershey’s Dark Chocolate cocoa or Dutch Processed
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons superfine sugar, preferably Baker’s
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips, optional
Warm sweetened strawberries, optional
¼ cup superfine sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 generous tablespoons strawberry jam
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoons Creme de Cassis, optional
1 heaping cup washed, hulled and quartered strawberries
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. Line the long sides and bottom of the loaf pan with nonstick or regular aluminum foil, extending it several inches beyond the sides to use as handles when removing the cake from the pan. Grease all unlined parts of the pan and the regular foil (if using) generously with a vegetable oil-flour spray. Set aside.
Combine the coconut flour and baking powder in a small bowl, and whisk vigorously to aerate and blend thoroughly. Set aside.
Cut the butter into pieces, place in a microwave-safe mixing bowl and melt in microwave. (Alternately, melt over medium heat in a saucepan on the stove.) Remove from the heat, add the cocoa powder and stir/whisk until smooth.
Stir in the sugar, salt and vanilla until combined. Add the eggs and egg yolk, one at a time, stirring/whisking until blended after each addition. The mixture should be completely smooth.
Toss the chocolate chips (if using) in the flour-baking powder until they’re coated with the dry ingredients (this will prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the batter). Add the flour mixture to the batter and stir/whisk until smooth. Don’t overmix. Scrape into the prepared pan, and smooth the top. Set aside for eight to 10 minutes so the flour can absorb the liquids.
Bake until the top is set (it may develop a few cracks), cake starts to pull away from the pan sides and a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove to a rack. Cool in pan for 25 minutes, use the foil handles to remove the cake from the pan and let cool completely on rack. Wrapped airtight, the cake can be stored at cool room temperature for a day or frozen for a month.
If using, make the warm strawberries (can make six hours ahead): Combine the sugar, water, jam and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring, until reduced and thickened (the juice from the berries, when added, will thin it, so let it get quite thick). Remove from heat, add 1 tablespoon Creme de Cassis (if using). Cool to tepid, add strawberries and stir carefully (don’t mash berries) until all are fully coated. Cover and refrigerate. Before serving, warm (microwave or stovetop) gently; don’t let berries cook.
Cut the cake into ½-inch slices, place two on each plate, top with warm sauce and serve.
This is a variation of a King Arthur Flour recipe. Vera Dawson, author of the high-altitude cookbook “Cookies in the Clouds” (available at The Bookworm of Edwards), is a chef instructor with CMC’s Culinary Institute. Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at email@example.com.