High Altitude Baking: Mocha-marbled bundt cake with glaze (recipe)
February 2, 2017
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.
Like your favorite neighbor, this moist, mildly-sweet vanilla cake, with a hit of mocha, is welcome at any time. With a scoop of coffee ice cream and a drizzle of chocolate sauce or Kahlua, it's a fine way to end a dinner. Served during the day, it elevates a cup of coffee, and it makes any brunch feel special.
It's a straightforward recipe. There are just a few things to keep in mind: Measure the flour by gently spooning small amounts into the measuring cup until full and then running a knife blade across the top to level (if you scoop or compress the flour, you'll get too much and the cake will be dry). Make sure the butter, eggs and sour cream are at room temperature, and bake only until a tester comes out clean; overbaking will sap the cake of its moisture.
The cake can be made in either a 9-cup or 6-cup Bundt pan; if you use a 6-cup pan, you may have a little batter left over (6-cup pans differ slightly in capacity); don't overfill it and risk an overflow.
Like your favorite neighbor, this moist, mildly-sweet vanilla cake, with a hit of mocha, is welcome at any time.
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Mocha-Marbled Bundt Cake
(Adjusted for altitudes of 7,900 feet and higher. Make in a non-stick 9- or 6-cup Bundt pan.)
3 tablespoon superfine granulated sugar, preferably Baker's
1 tablespoon plus 1½ teaspoons instant coffee granules
1 tablespoon plus 1½ teaspoons unsweetened cocoa, preferably Dutch-processed
2 ¼ cups bleached all-purpose flour (spoon and level)
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (one stick), room temperature
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons superfine sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sour cream (light or regular), room temperature
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract or vanilla paste
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1-3 tablespoons whipping cream, room temperature or warm
½-1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 teaspoons filling mixture
With a rack in the center, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease the pan with a vegetable oil-flour spray (even if it's nonstick; cakes stick to the pan at high altitudes). Make the filling by whisking the three ingredients in a small bowl until well combined, and set it aside.
Make the cake batter: In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, and whisk to blend well; set aside. Cut the butter into 16 pieces, add them and the sugar to a larger mixing bowl, and cream with an electric mixer until light and close to fluffy. Scrape the bowl as needed throughout this step. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating at medium speed after each addition until well mixed. At low speed, mix in the flour and sour cream alternately (three additions of flour, two of sour cream), stopping as soon as each is absorbed into the batter. Stir the vanilla into the thick batter.
Remove two teaspoons of the filling to a small bowl (it will flavor the glaze). Spread one-third of the batter into the bottom of the prepared pan, level it, and sprinkle half of the remaining filling over it. Repeat with another third of the batter and the other half of the filling. Spread on the last third of the batter, filling the pan no more than two inches from the top, even if you don't use all of the batter. To marbleize it, use a thin knife and make loopy U-shapes through the batter, from the center to the outside of the pan and back to the center. Tap the pan on a counter several times to release any air bubbles and settle the batter.
Bake until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the batter comes out clean, about 30 to 38 minutes, depending on the size of your pan. Remove the pan to a cooling rack. After 20 minutes, invert onto a cardboard cake circle or a plate, carefully remove the pan, and let cool completely.
Make the glaze: In a small microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter in a microwave, remove and whisk in one tablespoon of the cream. Add about ¼ cup confectioner's sugar and one teaspoon of the reserved filling, whisking until well blended. Continue to add sugar, a little at a time, until the mixture is thick enough to drizzle. If too thick, thin with small additions of cream. Taste, and if desired, add more filling mixture. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake, let it set, and serve or store, airtight, at cool room temperature for up to three days. Serve slices warm for best taste and texture. (Warm slices in a microwave after cutting; don't let them get hot or the glaze will melt.)
Vera Dawson is a high altitude baking teacher and author of two high-altitude cookbooks, "Baking Above It All" and "Cookies in the Clouds" (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.