High Country Baking: Consider Raspberry Cheesecake Torte for Easter dinner
High altitudes make 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.
“Very good” and “everyone loved” are some of the notes I’ve scribbled on this recipe throughout the years. It’s a shell of soft vanilla cake that embraces tiers of cheesecake, raspberry preserves and an almond streusel. The layers of flavor and texture are beautifully complementary and the overall impression is luscious and complex. It’s festive enough to accompany celebration meals and light enough to serve any time of day, so consider it for an Easter brunch or a dinner party; it’s always a hit.
The only way you can ruin this beauty is to overbake it, so watch carefully.
Raspberry Cheesecake Torte
Adjusted for high altitude
Make in an 8-inch springform pan
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons bleached all-purpose flour, spoon and level
½ cup superfine sugar, preferably Baker’s, divided
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 24 pieces
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup sour cream
2 tablespoons whole milk or cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
1 extra-large egg, divided
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
Heaping ¼ cup raspberry preserves, preferably seedless
¼ cup sliced almonds
1-2 tablespoons cream
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼-½ cup confectioners’ sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. Flip the base of your springform pan over (so lip is on the bottom, which makes cutting the baked torte easier) and lock in place. Grease the pan generously with a vegetable oil-flour spray, spreading it with a paper towel so the pan is evenly covered. Set aside.
2. Place the flour and ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons of the sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the cut-up butter and pulse until small, moist curds form. Remove ½ cup of this mixture and set it aside (it will be the streusel topping). Add the baking powder, baking soda, sour cream, milk/cream, vanilla and almond extracts, and half of the egg (beat egg, spoon out 2 tablespoons; this is half an extra-large egg; save the other half). Process until a smooth batter forms. Pour it into the prepared pan, spread it over the bottom and push it up the sides, making the sides 1 ½ inches high and about ¼ of an inch thick. To spread the batter easily, use an offset spatula or your hands, frequently dipped in cool water (this keeps the batter from sticking to it). Put the filled pan in the ‘fridge.
3. Wipe out (or wash) the bowl of the food processor and its blade, cut the cream cheese into 4 pieces, add them and the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar to the bowl. Pulse a few times until the mixture is smooth. Add the remaining half of your extra-large egg and pulse again, only until well blended (if over processed, then this mixture may get watery). Pour into the batter-lined pan, smoothing and leveling (again, with an offset spatula dipped in water).
4. If your raspberry preserves are room temperature, then whisk them vigorously; if they’ve been refrigerated, then warm them a little. In either case they should be fluid (but not runny) and easy to spread. Drizzle the preserves over the cream cheese mixture and gently spread them so the cream cheese is covered. Stir the almonds into the reserved half cup of the flour-sugar-butter mixture and sprinkle over the preserves.
5. Set the pan on a cookie sheet lined with foil (to catch any drips) and bake until the cake shell is a deep golden brown and the cheesecake is set (the sides of the cream cheese mixture shouldn’t move but the center should wobble a little when the pan is gently shaken). This usually takes 40-50 minutes, but go by the looks of the dessert rather than its baking time.
6. Move to a rack. After cooling 15 minutes, carefully remove the pan side. Let the torte cool completely. To glaze, whisk 1 tablespoon cream, the vanilla and ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar until blended. Add a little more cream and/or a little more sugar until the mixture is opaque and a consistency that is thick but pourable. Drizzle decoratively over torte and let set. Serve slightly warm (I heat slices in a microwave at two-out-of-10 heat for about 20 seconds, until just warm to the touch) or at room temperature. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for two days.
This recipe is a variation of one published by Pillsbury. Vera Dawson is a baking instructor and author of two high-altitude cookbooks, “Cookies in the Clouds” and “Baking Above It All” (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.
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