March 2020 – this is the last time we had friends over for dinner. Since then, I only cook for two people: my husband and me. So I narrowed down a lot of the recipes and looked for smaller ones when I found some. This chocolate cupcake is a good example. It makes a 6-inch one-layer cake that makes four servings, or six if I cut it into small slices. With a dense texture that plays well with a velvety whipped ganache topping, it’s quite good and a perfect size for us. We get a nice dessert for two or three meals, and we don’t have to worry about leftovers.
The cake comes together quickly and is easy to prepare. Just be sure not to overmix the batter once you’ve combined the wet and dry ingredients, and remove the cake from the oven the minute it’s ready. At high altitudes, just a little extra baking time can make a cake’s texture dry and unappealing.
Don’t want to whip the ganache? No problem, just let it thicken for 5-10 minutes after making it, then spread it on top of the cake and put it in the fridge until the ganache has firmed up. Even if you can’t poach it, it will be just as delicious.
Four-serving chocolate cake
Adjusted for altitudes of 7,800 feet and above. Bake in a 6 inch shiny metal cake pan with 2 inch sides.
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose bleached flour, spoon and level
- 1/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon mild vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup super fine granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup sour cream or buttermilk
Chocolate ganache Ingredients
- 4 ounces high quality semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup heavy whipped cream
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the middle position. Grease the pan with cooking spray containing flour, line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper and grease the paper. Set the pan aside.
Whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking soda powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl until well combined. In a smaller bowl, whisk the oil, sugar, egg, vanilla and sour cream/buttermilk until well combined, then add the mixture to the dry ingredients. Whisk or stir gently (try to avoid air bubbles) until a smooth paste forms. Do not overmix or the cake may be tough.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and level it. Bake until the top is set, the sides just start to pull away from the pan, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 26 to 30 minutes. Overcooking will result in a dry cake, so watch carefully. Move the cake to a wire rack and let it cool completely in the pan. It can be frozen, packed tightly, at this point.
While the cake is cooling, prepare the ganache as it needs to cool before using. Put the finely chopped chocolate into a 2 cup measure or bowl. Pour the heavy cream into a microwave-safe container and heat in the microwave on medium heat until very hot, just before boiling. Take it out of the oven, pour it over the chocolate, dipping it all in the liquid and leave it aside for 3 to 4 minutes so that the chocolate starts to melt. Stir gently (do not make air bubbles) until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth and glossy. Set aside the ganache to thicken and cool completely, at least 2 1/2 hours. Equip your electric mixer with a whisk if you have one and whip on medium-high speed for 4-5 minutes, until the mixture whitens and holds peaks when you lift the whisk/beater.
If your cake is domed, gently shave the top with a sharp knife until even, then flip it over so that the bottom is now the top, which is the flattest, smoothest surface to icing. Pipe the whipped ganache decoratively all over the top of the cake. Give the cake several hours or, if possible, a day for the flavors to meld before serving. Store it in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for three days. Serve it at room temperature.
Editor’s Note: This recipe is a variation of the one posted on the Sally’s Baking Addiction website.
Vera Dawson’s “High Country Baking” column appears bi-weekly in the Summit Daily News. Dawson is a high altitude pastry instructor and author of three high altitude cookbooks. Her recipes were tested in her kitchen in Frisco, where she has lived since 1991, and tweaked until they worked high. Contact her at [email protected].