This article and recipe is contributed by Amy Andrews, author of the blog Amy's Food Room.
Have you ever tried baking a cake while vacationing in Tahoe (6000 ft.)? Or Park City (7000 ft.)? Or actually living in Denver, the official “mile-high” city (5280 ft.)? Nothing wipes the smile off my domestic goddess face faster than when a kid of mine won’t eat a cupcake I baked. No denying the facts: high altitude + regular (aka “sea level”) recipe = one crumbly, dry cake. Frosting anyone?
It’s all about air pressure. The higher up you go, the less air pressure, so the faster water evaporates, and the faster things bake. Make adjustments to the leavening, flour, liquid, sugar, oven temperature and baking time and you should have a delicious, made-by-you cake to share.
TIPS: In general, you want to use a tiny bit less leavening to delay the “poof” of your cake (1/8 teaspoon less per 1000 feet or so), about a tablespoon more flour per 1000 feet (to provide more structure during the “poof”), a couple tablespoons more liquid for moisture, a tad higher oven temperature to set the “poof”, and a shorter baking time to preserve just the right amount of moisture. Speedy evaporation also concentrates sugar, so don’t use as much (drop a tablespoon per cup). King Arthur Flour has a handy chart, which I used to adjust Magnolia Bakery’s chocolate cupcakes here in Bozeman, Montana (4820 feet), with kid- approved success. Here’s to better baking while you’re enjoying the mountains!
Chocolate Cupcakes (Bozeman Style) Makes 12 cupcakes
1/2 cup organic unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated cane sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown cane sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature
3/4 cup organic buttermilk, at room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup unbleached all-purpose wheat flour
7/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher salt
- Preheat oven to 365 degrees F. Line a 12 muffin cup pan with cupcake papers.
- Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix thoroughly after each. Mix in the cooled, melted chocolate.
- Stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Add the vanilla to the buttermilk in the measuring cup you use. Add the flour to the butter-sugar-egg mixture in thirds, alternating with the buttermilk- vanilla. Mix just to combine.
- Portion batter into pan and bake for 13 - 15 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Do not overbake, or your cupcakes will be dry. Let cool 15 minutes in pan, then remove cupcakes to wire rack to completely cool before icing.
Recipe adapted from Magnolia’s Chocolate Cupcakes in More from Magnolia by Allysa Torey.