A Discussion of Chocolate Cake

This article assumes that youíve already read about how to use the Outback Oven, because that article covers important information about high altitude baking that is not included here.


Iíve got a reasonable amount of experience baking cakes in the city, but in the wilderness I prefer the simplicity of unfrosted chocolate brownies with walnuts. That said, I do have some ideas that you can put to use if youíre prone to fiending for chocolate cake with brandy-laced custard filling when youíre out in the wilderness.

I have this evil chocolate cake recipe that is so neurologically overwhelming that I havenít made it in since 1991. Take any recipe for chocolate cake, and replace the water with double-strength espresso. If you use any less coffee, its flavor wonít stand out from the chocolate. For backpacking you could use gourmet instant coffee at the rate of 2 rounded Tablespoons per cup of wateróMount Hagen is a good brand. Try this at your own risk, one slice will have you pinned to the ceiling if youíre indoors.

In the city I bake my cakes from scratch, but in the wilderness itís probably best to use a mix. The chemistry of scratch-based and mix-based cakes is very different. For one thing, the latter type of cake has considerably more sugar. The rules for adapting the recipes to high altitude are also different. With scratch-baked cakes you reduce the amount of egg at high altitude, but Iíve seen mixes where the high altitude instructions call for adding an extra egg. When you add extra flour to the mix at high altitude itís a good idea to use cake flour or pastry flour rather than all-purpose flour.

You can slice your single layer of cake horizontally into two layers and spread brandy-laced pudding between them. In addition to the pudding, you could spread a thin layer of seedless raspberry jam between the cake layers. If you wanted to, you could also frost the cake. There are dry frosting mixes in the baking section of your supermarket, as well as premixed frosting. Many of the premixed frostings are shortening-basedóalbeit with partially hydrogenated soybean oilórather than water-based. This might make them attractive for backpacking, as most of the weight contributes calories to your diet, which water wouldnít do.

For a pseudo-custard filling you can use Jello Instant Pudding mix in the 3Ĺ ounce size. One of these is enough to fill one box of cake mix if you mix it with 1 Ĺ cups of milk, as for pie filling. I once tried mixing powdered milk into the pudding mix so that I could reconstitute it with water, but it didnít set. Mix up your milk first and add that to your pudding mix. If you donít like non-fat powdered milk or Milkman brand powdered milk at Ĺ% butterfat, you can get full cream powdered milk (3% butterfat) imported from Australia and New Zealand. In the US it can be found in Indian and Pakistani markets.

Use a third of a box each of cake mix and instant pudding mix for each batch of cake in the 8 inch Outback Oven. To each third box of pudding mix add Ĺ cup milk and 1 Tablespoon brandy. I recommend Kirschwasser, an unsweetened distillate of fermented cherries. Hiram Walker makes a decent Kirschwasser that costs about $6 for a 200 ml bottle. Avoid Arrow brand Kirschwasser like the plague; it has hideous added flavorings. Nalgene makes 60 ml (4 Tablespoons) Lexan bottles that are just right for flavorings such as brandy, vanilla, or almond extract.

I donít recommend drinking liquor at high altitude, or bringing along mixers if you do choose to drink, but let me tell you about a truly amazing mixed drink of 4.1% alcohol that you can enjoy when youíre in the city. Mix 1 ounce of Kirschwasser with a 10 ounce bottle of Martinelliís Sparkling Apple Juice. You could also mix up a 51 fluid ounce punch bowl at 4.4% alcohol. To do this combine 5 ounces of Kirschwasser, a 12 ounce can of frozen Apple Juice Concentrate, and a 1 liter bottle of Club Soda. Youíd better buy a 750 ml bottle of Kirschwasser if youíre planning to try either of these!