High Altitude Baking: ’Tis the season of gingerbread cakes
High Country Baking
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.
Gingerbread is as much a part of the holidays as mistletoe and eggnog, and this cake is a wonderful way to serve it.
It has all the warm flavors we love in traditional gingerbread, but the texture is lighter and the inclusion of fresh ginger provides a zing that takes it over the top. And, it’s best one to two days after baking, so you can make it ahead — no wonder it’s currently my favorite ginger dessert.
Unfamiliar with fresh ginger? You buy it by the knob, at most of our grocery stores, store it in the refrigerator, peel it as you would a carrot and grate it with a micro-grater (you want tiny, tiny pieces) right before preparing the cake batter — nothing to it.
It takes about as much time to assemble the ingredients as it does to get the cake in the oven. And, as long as you don’t overbake this baby, very little can go wrong.
Don’t omit the lemon whipped cream, it adds a lot. In fact, if you’re in a hurry, then forget the lemon glaze and serve the unadorned cake with the lemon whipped cream.
‘Tis the Season Gingerbread Cake
Adjusted for altitudes of 8,000 feet and above
Make in a 6-cup non-stick Bundt pan
1 ¾ cups bleached, all-purpose flour, spoon and level
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
Scant ¼ teaspoon baking soda
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
½ cup brewed coffee, boiling
½ cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup mild-flavored molasses
1 large egg, beaten to blend
2 teaspoons lightly packed, peeled and finely-grated fresh ginger
1 ounce cream cheese
Juice of half a lemon
½-3/4 cup powdered sugar, lump free
Lemon Whipped Cream
½ cup heavy whipping cream, very cold
2 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar
2-4 tablespoons lemon curd, homemade or commercial
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. Generously grease the pan (even if it’s non-stick) with a vegetable oil-flour baking spray. Whisk the flour, ginger, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium bowl until well blended and set it aside.
2. Put the cut-up butter in a large bowl, pour the boiling coffee over it, and stir/whisk until the butter is completely melted. Vigorously whisk in the sugar, molasses (measure in a greased measuring cup), egg, and grated fresh ginger until well combined and evenly distributed. Add the flour mixture and gently whisk to blend. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, filling it no more than two inches from the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the top is set but not hard, about 25-30 minutes. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then invert onto a rack, remove the pan, and cool completely. The cake can be frozen, wrapped air-tight, at this point, for up to a month.
3, Make the glaze: Cut up the cream cheese, place it in a glass one-cup measure, and microwave at high for about 20 seconds, until it soft and melty. Remove it from the oven, whisk in the lemon juice, then ¼-cup of the confectioner’s sugar. Continue to add sugar, a tablespoon at a time, whisking until smooth after each addition, until the mixture becomes opaque and thickens but is still quite pourable. If it’s too thick, then thin it with a little milk or cream. Pour it over the cooled cake and let it set. Put the cake on a plate or cardboard cake circle under a cake dome or an over-turned bowl, so it is airtight. Store for a day (it’s better the second day) before serving.
4. An hour or two before serving make the lemon whipped cream: Beat the cold whipping cream (easiest to do in a chilled bowl with chilled beaters) with the sugar until firm peaks are formed. Fold in the lemon curd, leaving visible streaks and swirls (use 2 tablespoons for a mild lemon flavor, add up to 2 more tablespoons, to your liking). Refrigerate, loosely covered. Plate slices of the cake and serve with a dollop of the cream.
This recipe is a variation of one from Bon Appetit Magazine. Vera Dawson teaches high-altitude baking classes and is the author of two high-altitude cookbooks, “Cookies in the Clouds” and “Baking Above It All” (available at The Bookworm of Edwards and Next Page Bookstore in Frisco). 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.