High Country Baking: Lemon cream mini cakes are sophisticated treats
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.
Cupcakes are for kids, right? Not these lemon cream mini-cakes. Reduced in size and sweetness, with a thin lemon-raspberry glaze rather than frosting, a firm, moist crumb, and a tart, lemony taste, they appeal to adults, not their offspring. In fact, one tester described them as closer to a madeleine (a sophisticated, cookie-sized French cake) than a traditional American cupcake.
These pretty pastries come together in three steps: a cake batter is prepared first, followed by a lemon cream filling. The two are layered in the muffin cups and then baked. Lastly, the cakes are topped with a lemon-raspberry glaze. The whole process requires about 45 minutes of active time.
Lemons produce juice of varying strength, so complete taste tests as you make both the filling and the glaze so you can adjust the flavorings to your liking.
The mini-cakes are best eaten on the day they’re made, but can be stored in the refrigerator for a day or two. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Lemon cream mini-cakes
Adjusted for altitudes between 8,000 and 10,000 feet
Make in mini-muffin pans with cups that are two inches across and one inch deep
Makes 16-18 mini-cakes
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of bleached, all-purpose flour, (gently spoon into measuring cup and level)
1/4 teaspoon of salt
8 tablespoons of unsalted butter (one stick), at room temperature
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s
2 eggs at room temperature plus 1 (one) egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla
1 teaspoon of water
2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons of granulated sugar,
4 ounces of cream cheese (don’t use no-fat), at room temperature
1-2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
2-3 tablespoons of seedless raspberry jam
3/4 -1 (three fourths to one) cup of confectioners’ sugar
One half-pint container of fresh raspberries
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees with a rack in the center position. Place paper cupcake liners in the pan. Spray the liners with a vegetable oil or vegetable oil-flour spray. (At sea level, the paper liners would be sufficient. But, at altitude, I’ve had many a cupcake stick to the paper liners in which they’re baked. So, I recommend greasing the liners.)
Make the mini-cake batter: Combine the flour and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Cut the room-temperature butter into small pieces and place them in a medium bowl with the granulated sugar. Beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the room temperature eggs and the egg yolk, one at a time, beating well after each addition. At this point, the mixture may look curdled; it will come together once the flour is added. Add the vanilla and the water and mix until combined. With your mixer at low speed or by hand, gradually add the flour-salt mixture and stir until just combined
Make the lemon cream filling: Combine the lemon juice and sugar in a small bowl. Cut the softened cream cheese into small pieces, add them, and whisk or beat until combined into a smooth, lump-free cream. Taste and add more lemon juice and/or sugar, if desired.
Spoon about one and a half tablespoons of the cake batter into the prepared mini-muffin cups, place a generous teaspoon of the filling in the middle of the batter, then add more batter until the cups are about three-fourths full. Bake until the top of each cake is firm and slightly springy. In my oven, this takes about 20 minutes. Remove the cakes from the oven to a cooling rack. Leave them in the pan for about 10 minutes and then gently lift them out of the pan and place them directly on the rack to cool completely.
Make the glaze: Combine one tablespoon of lemon juice with two tablespoons of raspberry jam and stir to combine. Add about half a cup of confectioners’ sugar and whisk until completely combined. Add more sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until the glaze reaches a spreadable consistency. Taste, add more lemon and/or more jam, if desired. If necessary, add more sugar to re-create the correct consistency. Top each mini-cake with glaze and let it set. Just before serving, top each cake with a fresh raspberry.
The cupcake recipe was inspired by one in Martha Stewart’s Living.
Vera Dawson, a chef instructor with CMC’s Culinary Institute, 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 her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact Vera Dawson with your comments about this column and/or your baking questions at email@example.com.