The Perfect Altitude Cake

After many failures.  After much crying and tears shed.  After near moments of sheer rage where I simply wanted to throw caution and my entire kitchen setup to the wind, I have FOUND it.  I have DONE it.  I have made the perfect Altitude Cake.  I have made an adapted chocolate cake for high altitude!

It is chocolaty.  It is delicious.  It is moist!  And it is NOT dense!  I made this cake once before, but it did not turn out as good as it did this time.  This won’t be something for which all of you get to joy and jump around the kitchen screaming praises to God, because all of you are not living at 12,000 ft above sea level, you lucky freaks.

For those of you who have to deal with falling cakes, well you will love me!

Alright, so I can’t take full credit for this cake recipe.  It is a tweaked recipe.  The original I found on All Recipes.  If you have never been to said site, you are missing out and need to head over there as soon as you are done reading this!   Dark Chocolate Cake is the name of the recipe that I found and tweaked.  If you live where altitude is no problem, then you can just click that link and make according to that recipe.  NOTE: I would highly suggest using the comments as a guide.  More often than not, you will find adjustments there that make all the difference.  

Here are my adjustments with notes provided with each ingredient as needed.

Dark Chocolate Perfect Altitude Cake

  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour PLUS 2 tbsp
    Note: Don’t measure the flour exactly.  The goal is to measure out more than needed.  Spoon the flour out into the cup and instead of scrapping off the excess flour that piles on top of the measuring cup, just pour it in.  Then, add two tbsp more of flour.  This gives the mixture more structure.  
  • 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
    Note: When you are baking at high altitude, leavening products become a huge challenge.  The idea is for each tsp of leavening called for reduce to a 1/4 tsp.  So, 2 tsp was the original amount so we reduce it to 1/2 tsp.
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
    Note: Again, more leavening.  Since there was so much, I cut this in half from the original amount which was 1/2 tsp.  
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, melted
    Note: Usually you would cream the butter and sugar together.  Instead, you are going to melt the butter and mix the sugar with it.  I’ll explain that later.    
  • 2 1/4 cups white sugar MINUS 1-2 tbsp
    Note: Baking at high altitude, sugar also affects the outcome of a product.  It’s necessary to take out a certain quantity of sugar.  I left out about 1-2 tbsp of sugar.  
  • 5-6 eggs
    Note:  The original recipe called for 4 eggs.  You will want to add more, this also contributes to the amount of liquid in the mixture and the out-coming structure.  The eggs we get in Peru are various in size, some are extremely small, so I used 6 eggs in my mixture.  If you have all pretty well sized eggs just use 5.     
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
How It’s Done
Note:
explanations and more in-depth directions are all in italics.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).  When baking at higher altitude, it’s necessary to increase the temperature of the oven.  It’s usually the basic rule of thumb to increase the temperature by 25 degrees.  You need the liquid in the batter to evaporate quicker so the overall structure will set before it can rise too much and then break and fall.  

Grease 3 – 9 inch round cake pans or one 9×13″ pan.  In a medium bowl, pour the boiling water over the cocoa, and whisk until smooth. Set aside and let cool.
In another bowl sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside.

Basic note for baking at high altitude.  Mixing and beating the batter by hand will give you more control over how much air is incorporated into the mixture.  I will explain as we go along why the amount of air in a batter is so important.  

All seems nice and normal until this point.  Here I did something that I thought was going to ruin my cake.  I melted my butter over low heat on the stove and added the sugar to this, whisking until well incorporated.  Now, the first reason I did this was because the Handicap Kitchen mixer caught on fire and is out of commission.
 The second reason is my theory for why this is necessary.  When you cream your sugar and butter together you are essentially creating pockets of air in your fatty product (butter).  Butter is not the only thing that does this in a cake batter, eggs also do this.  But, while a cake is baking at high altitude it’s important to not have TOO many air bubbles.  The leavening products react with the air pockets and cause them to grow.  This is their job!  But, at high altitudes this process happens a lot quicker and if there are a lot of air pockets and a lot of leavening product in your cake batter it will break and fall.  You will cry.  So, the challenge is to beat air into the batter in moderation with a reduction of leavening.  Make sense?  So, by melting the butter, I basically removed one more constituent of the danger of getting too many air pockets.  

Once you’ve mixed your sugar and butter together beat in the eggs.  It’s important to not beat the eggs in all at once.  However, you do want to be careful of beating the mixture too much.  I beat in two eggs at a time twice and then the rest of the times one egg at a time.  Does that make sense?  If you beat the eggs too much you will have to problem of too many air pockets.  You need to beat in the eggs just until they are mixed into the batter.  This should be approximately beating ten times for each (or pair) of eggs.  

Then stir in vanilla.

Add the flour mixture alternately with the cocoa mixture.  It’s important at this point that you stir instead of beat.  If you beat you may add too many air pockets.  Work carefully, folding the flour into the batter and mixing in the cocoa mixture.  

Spread batter evenly between the 3 prepared pans or into the 9×13″ pan.
Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Allow to cool.  I find that at high altitudes it takes a bit longer to bake cakes all the way through.  You may need more like 30-45 minutes.  

Please, if you have any questions, leave a comment and ask, or send an email to thehandicappedkitchen at gmail dot com.

Have you ever baked at high altitude?  What were your experiences?
Also, find me on Facebook and like the page to get updates about what I’m making and when!  Find me here.