High Country Baking: A tasty, low-fat dessert
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.
It’s January, our annual month of remorse. After weeks of holiday indulgences we enter the new year guilt-ridden and repentant, seeking fewer late nights, more regular exercise, and food that is lower in fat and calories.
That third goal, when applied to desserts, can be difficult to reach. I’ve tried, and rejected, numerous reduced-fat recipes that result in something that looks like a dessert but doesn’t taste like one … real disappointments. I’d rather forgo the last course entirely than end a meal with one of them.
This recipe is a pleasant surprise; it produces a tasty and satisfying dessert that is pretty enough for a dinner party and has less than 3 grams of fat per serving. In spite of its lack of butter, milk, or cream, it yields a tender, moist cake with a nice vanilla flavor that can be rolled around a filling without cracking.
The cake is so versatile, it’s almost a blank canvas. You can pair it with any number of fillings, accompany it with no-fat frozen yogurt, fat-free chocolate sauce, or anything you choose. When I fill it with raspberry jam, as I suggest in this column, I like to serve it in a pool of raspberry sauce with a few fresh raspberries.
Rolling the cake is much easier than it sounds; don’t let it intimidate you. Even if your roll is less than perfect, once you cover the cake with powdered sugar and cut it, the imperfections won’t show.
Adjusted for altitudes between 8,000 and 10,000 feet
Bake in a 15- by 10-inch jelly roll pan
2/3 cup plus 4 teaspoons flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/8 teaspoon of salt
4 large eggs at room temperature
3/4 cup of granulated sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla
1/2 teaspoon of lemon rind, grated
1/4 cup of powdered sugar, separated
10 ounces of seedless raspberry jam
Fresh raspberries, optional
Raspberry sauce, optional
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, with a rack in the center position. Line the jelly roll pan with Reynold’s Release aluminum foil, parchment or wax paper. Generously coat the paper liners with a flour-vegetable oil spray.
Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and whisk until well mixed. Using an electric mixer (high speed for hand-held mixers, medium speed for standing mixers), beat the eggs in a large bowl until they are pale and fluffy. This takes several minutes. Gradually add the sugar, vanilla and lemon rind and continue to beat until the mixture is pale and thick (several more minutes). Strain or sift half of the flour mixture over the egg mixture and mix on low speed only until combined. Repeat with the rest of the flour.
Spoon the batter into the jelly roll pan, leveling and smoothing it. Gently drop the pan onto a counter from a height of about 4 inches to eliminate any air bubbles in the batter. Bake for 9 to 12 minutes, until the cake springs back when you touch it in the center. While the cake bakes, place a clean dish towel on a counter and dust it with about two tablespoons of powdered sugar.
When it’s done, remove the cake from the oven and, using a thin-bladed knife, loosen it from the pan sides. Invert it onto the kitchen towel and GENTLY peel off the liner it was baked on (I do this by starting at a narrow end and carefully rolling it up). Let the cake cool on the towel for a minute or so and then, starting at a narrow end, roll up the cake and the towel as tightly as you can without forcing it. Place the roll on a cooling rack, seam side down, and let it cool completely.
Carefully unroll the cooled cake and remove the towel. If necessary, soften the raspberry jam by warming it in the microwave until it is a consistency that will spread easily. Spread the jam all over the cake, leaving a half inch border on all sides. Reroll the cake and place it on a platter, seam side down. Shower the top with the remaining powdered sugar, shaken through a strainer. Let the cake sit at room temperature until the jam thickens and sets. If you aren’t serving it immediately, cover and refrigerate it. Let it come to room temperature before serving. Cut it on the diagonal into eight slices and serve. Fresh raspberries and raspberry sauce are a nice accompaniment.
The cake recipe is a modification of one from the “Cooking Light Cookbook.”
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.