Baking cake from scratch at a high-altitude is tough stuff, some of the hardest really when it comes to high-altitude baking. But the great thing is, once you find a recipe that works, you can use it for a million other things, and you can dress it up any which way.
This cake is really simple actually, and the texture is perfect once baked. For the classic version, of course we’re flavoring it with vanilla extract, and otherwise just letting the butter flavor shine through. That’s what you really want in a yellow cake.
Think of this as your base for everything. I use this recipe, or some variation of this recipe, for about a million other cakes. Here’s some fun ideas:
You can use any extracts that you prefer here. You can also replace the milk with other liquids, like citrus juice, coffee, or even alcohol to make a cocktail flavored cake. Top with crumbs, fill it with chocolate chips, layer it between frosting, do just about anything with this simple, easy to whip up cake. Seriously.
I topped mine with a simple chocolate ganache for this post, but you can throw any kind of buttercream on top, or just dust it with powdered sugar. The options are endless, sorry I keep mentioning more!
This is the best yellow cake recipe if you live at a high-altitude. I hope this relieves all your cake woes, it definitely has fixed many of my own! Enjoy!
Perfect Yellow Cake
This recipe makes one 8-inch round cake. You can double or even triple it very easily for larger projects, and it adapts well to cupcakes also!
- 1/2 cup softened butter
- 1/2 cup sugar, heaping
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2 tbs. milk
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and grease an 8-inch round or square cake pan. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the vanilla, eggs, and sour cream until combined- the mixture will be lumpy. Then, add in the flour, baking powder, and salt, and beat until combined. Add in the milk, and beat for an additional 1-2 minutes, or until the mixture is very smooth.
The batter will be thick. Pour into your prepared pan, and spread it evenly. Bake for 25-28 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely, and top or use as desired!
Between baby screams and diaper changes, I’ve managed to finally get a little baking done since the little one has joined us. It’s been a struggle to try and feel a little bit normal everyday, but we’re gettin’ there!
So sponge cake. As with all cake, it gets tough when you’re at a higher altitude. One of the most common issues here is that sponge cake will rise too quickly in the oven, and then collapse in the middle once it’s cooked through. This is because things rise a bit faster during baking up here.
To fix the issue, the biggest change is how long you beat your eggs for. Or rather, what your eggs look like when you stop whipping them. You want the mixture to be pale and thick. When you lift your beaters from the mixture, it should drip off, and stand on top of the batter for just a minute before it kind of falls into the rest of the batter. (Normally, you’d want batter drips to stay on top for longer before incorporating).
Anyways, since we’ve got a swamp cooler in our house, it’s nearly impossible to whip eggs to anything stiffer than this, so it works well. For me it takes about 8 minutes in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment to reach this stage.
Sponge cake feels like magic to me. It’s really just eggs, sugar, and flour, and it bakes up into this fluffy, chewy, real life cake. Eggs you guys, they are the magic ingredient, no joke.
And so anyways, I’ve eaten literally this entire cake as a stand alone dessert (and also I’ve eaten the whole thing myself). That’s to say, it can definitely stand alone with just a dusting of powdered sugar. BUT, it’s also great with fruit and whipped cream piled on top, or frosted with chocolate buttercream, or drizzled with a simple icing.
Another super nice part of this cake is that it is self-leveling. Basically when it comes out of the oven, it should be domed like a normal cake, but as it cools, it will flatten out and should end up with a perfectly flat top and bottom. It’s super easy, make it today because why not have cake?
Vanilla Sponge Cake
- 5 eggs
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cups cake flour
- 2 tbs. instant vanilla pudding mix
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and grease an 8 inch round cake pan, and line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla until thick and fluffy. This should take about 8-10 minutes. When you lift out your beaters, the batter that drips off should sit on top of the batter in bowl for a few seconds before incorporating back in.
Over a medium bowl, sift together the cake flour and instant pudding mix. Then, sift the mixture again, this time directly over the whipped egg mixture. Using a spatula, gently fold in the flour mixture. Be sure to turn your bowl many times, and scrap through to the bottom of your bowl to ensure that you don't leave any pockets of flour.
Pour into your prepared pan, and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan before using a knife around the edges and turning it out. Garnish as desired. Enjoy!
First, if you want to read all the posts that I think have a specific value in high-altitude baking, you can find them in my High-Altitude section. This includes recipes for things that I have found are particularly difficult to bake at altitude, and also a post about common high-altitude baking misconceptions. I have found that there’s some easy changes when it comes to converting a recipe to work wherever you live, and this area is a great place to start!
So, onto today’s post. I know you guys have probably seen a lot of posts about best baking tools, or blogger’s favorite baking tools, and trust me, I’ve got some favs. But today I’m going to talk through some of the tools that I find most valuable for high-altitude baking.
Listen, I’m not going to lie, it’s NOT all about the tools. I think there’s some easy recipe changes that don’t involve specific tools to make your recipes work, but this list encompasses some of my favorite items that make it easier to make it work up way up here.
So, let’s jump in- here are the best tools for high altitude baking:
- Instant Read Thermometer: These are pretty cheap, and they make a lot of things easier. Whenever you’re making a Swiss meringue buttercream and need to get the temperature of those egg whites, or if you’re making candy. But where it really shines for baking at altitude is in bread making. You need to make sure your yeast is bloomed at the right temperature to start, and you also may need to check the temperature of the bread once baked to make sure it’s done. Regardless, the absolute easiest choice is an instant read thermometer. I have this one, and it’s simple, affordable, and gets the job done.
- Non-Stick Baking Spray: I’ve recently started using this Pam Baking Spray, and it’s seriously impressive. It’s the only spray I’ve ever found that actually works for cakes, even intricate bundt pan cakes. This isn’t something I’ve tested, but there’s a lot of rumors out there that cakes are more prone to sticking to pans in high-altitude areas. Whether it’s true or not, AND whether you’re at altitude or not, cakes that stick to the pan are a serious bummer.
- Oven Thermometer: I put off buying this for a long time, thinking it didn’t really matter. But once I started to get down to the details with high-altitude baking, it became clear that oven temp is a big deal. You may need to adjust your oven temperature to adapt certain recipes, plus some ovens are CRAZY wrong! In my case, I found that my oven does reach the right temperature, but it takes way longer than it says- about 10 minutes longer than when the preheated ding goes off. Good to know you guys, seriously.
- Flavor enhancers: Baking at higher altitudes often presents flavor problems. I find this is most relevant to chocolate flavors, but it carries through to other areas as well. You want to make sure you’ve always got some flavor enhancing ingredients in your pantry and ready to go- here’s my most used:
- Vanilla extract: This is an easy one- of course vanilla is probably the most used extract out there. But it’s good to note that it enhances the flavor even in non-vanilla centered recipes, like chocolate cake for example. Also, since there’s a lot of fluctuation in the vanilla market today, it can be a big deal to find something affordable and flavorful!
- Instant espresso powder: Again, I use this to enhance the flavor of chocolate desserts on a regular basis. It won’t make things taste like coffee (unless you want it to) and it just gives recipes a bit more depth of flavor sometimes. It’s great in oatmeal cookies, chocolate cake and frosting!
- Dark cocoa powder: Seriously, did I mention chocolate cake issues? It drives me insane! Here’s what I’ve found when it comes to cocoa powder- this option from Hershey’s can be used to equal-swap regular cocoa powder in recipes, so it’s simple, and it offers a lot more flavor. The way I see it, this is how you achieve that strong chocolate flavor you’ve seen in bakeries and boxed mixes when you’re baking from scratch up high.
- Correct measuring tools: Okay, okay, I know this tool isn’t limited to just baking at high-altitude. BUT, it can be really important to measure correctly here, and small adjustments in leavening agents, flour, and liquids can make a big difference in what you end up with. Here are my favorites for each type:
- Liquid measuring cup: This is a basic, and you want something that is big enough to easily hold most measurements that you’ll need. That being said, I own them in a ton of sizes- one cup, two cup, four cup, and eight cup.
- Dry measuring cups: I also own multiple sets of dry cups because okay, maybe I bake too much. Because flour alone is such a big factor in baking at altitude, you gotta get those dry measurements right guys!
Alright, that’s my list. Baking at altitude doesn’t have to be complicated, but having the right tools can make a big difference!
***This post contains affiliate links.
I don’t know about where you are, but we’re having a solid warm, summery weekend here in Colorado, and while I still don’t trust that summer has completely started, I think we’re getting there.
We’re working with pound cake today, which is tough one for high-altitude baking. Pound cake has such a specific texture and light flavor, and it’s always been hard for me to achieve. You want it to taste just lightly sweet (even though somehow it has a ton of sugar in it??) and the crumb should be very tight- it’s a sturdy cake. And of course, you want that sugared crust on top.
I typically run into a couple of problems with pound cake- first is that it’s too sweet. I think that while in some cases it’s harder to bring out flavor in recipes at altitude, the sugar really pops for pound cake, sometimes so much that it makes the cake bubble over.
I find the best way to address this is to simply reduce the sugar in the recipe, by as much as half or one full cup. I know that sounds like a lot, but it typically works for me when it comes to pound cake recipes, though this does NOT apply to normal cake recipes.
Next, the texture. This is a simple fix that does apply to many other cake recipes- it’s the leavening. When it’s not right, I usually find that it’s got lots of air bubbles, and the texture isn’t tight enough. If you reduce the baking soda or baking powder just slightly, by 1/8-1/4 teaspoons, you should see a big difference in how it bakes.
Now, onto the recipe at hand. This is a classic pound cake with a swirl of cinnamon cake running throughout, and the results are SO GOOD. Just lightly sweet, cinnamon-y and the perfect texture. To make the cinnamon swirl, you simply add cinnamon to a portion of the original cake batter, and layer it on it.
Pound cake is a simple favorite, and I’m a fan of all variations. This one is great with morning coffee, or afternoon tea, or as a midnight snack. All of the above. Enjoy!
Cinnamon Swirl Bundt Cake
- 1 cup softened butter
- 2 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 cup sour cream
- 6 eggs
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 3 1/4 cups flour
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda (scant)
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tbs. cinnamon
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees, and generously grease the bundt pan of your choosing, standard size.
In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, and sour cream until fully combined. Beat in the eggs one at a time, and then the vanilla extract.
Add in the flour, baking soda, and salt, and beat until completely incorporated. The batter will be fairly thick.
Remove about 1/3 of the batter into a separate bowl- this does not have to be exact. In the smaller portion of batter, stir in the cinnamon until combined.
Pour about half of the original cake batter to your bundt pan. Then add about half of the cinnamon batter in dollops around the pan. Using a butter knife, swirl the batter together. Repeat the process with the remaining original and cinnamon mixtures.
Bake for 75-80 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool for about an hour in the bundt pan, and then turn it out to slice and serve! Enjoy!
Happy Easter everyone!!
I hope that amongst many egg hunts and a very sweet breakfast this morning, you’re also thinking about dessert, like me! After all, Spring desserts are full swing now, and there’s some really fantastic things you could be baking today. Or any day this week.
If you’re looking for inspiration but angel food cake isn’t really your thing, I’ve got a pretty Spring Baking board all up and ready for you here!
Anyways, over at my house today we are finally putting in new flooring upstairs to help us get ready for baby. Our house hasn’t been in this kind of disarray since we moved in, but now that the first few boards have been installed, I’m starting to get really really excited about the whole thing. (BTW, aren’t fresh eggs like, the coolest thing ever? I got these from a friend’s family farm, and I’m obsessed with all the pretty colors).
We’ve randomly decided to take on this huge project of replacing the flooring, painting, changing baseboards, and putting up an accent wall in our house before this little bundle comes into the world, and her bedroom is gonna be a lot nicer than mine! Also I’m pretty sure I’m going to feel like the rest of my house is complete garbage after this haha.
Anyways, back to cake, where we belong. Angel food cake is a tough one, especially at high altitude. You want it to rise and stay risen, and to have that signature chew and fluffy texture. Couple of things to note here- first is that you really want to watch those egg whites while you’re whipping. Because we’re at altitude, beating them past a soft peak will cause the batter to rise too quickly in the oven, and then fall back down. We’re looking for soft peaks, like this:
Another thing to note is that if you’ve made my other angel food cake recipe, this strawberry version isn’t going to rise quite as high, and that’s because we’re adding some weight with the freeze dried strawberries. Not to worry though, it’s still super delicious and it has that lovely texture, I promise.
Speaking of the strawberries, I’ve decided to add them right into the cake this time around. I don’t know about you guys, but normally I serve fresh strawberries with angel food cake, and don’t get me wrong, that’s a winner. But I’ve really been wanting to play around with freeze dried strawberries, and infusing the strawberry flavor right into the cake is something sweet you guys. I love it.
We’re crushing up the freeze dried strawberries into a powder here, and sifting them right alongside the flour and powdered sugar. Freeze dried strawberries weren’t the easiest thing for me to find in grocery stores by the way, but when they are in stock, they should be near the snacks in your store, like popcorn and beef jerky. Grab em up when you see them!
Onto the cream- I’ve also really been wanting to try a method of making stabilized whipped cream by beating in whipped cream cheese. The results you guys, are too damn good. It’s like this fluffy, whipped cheesecake dip that I could (and have) just eat with a spoon. The cream cheese stabilizes it, but it also adds the perfect tang to it, and it’s seriously fantastic!
Anyways, I hope you guys love this one as much as I do, Happy Easter!
Strawberry Angel Food Cake
For the angel food cake:
- 1 cup cake flour
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 3/4 cup powdered freeze dried strawberries
- 1 1/2 cups egg whites (about 10-12 eggs)
- 1 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3 tbs. water
For the cream:
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/2 block cream cheese room temperature
For the angel food cake:
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees, and have a fluted pan ready to go, ungreased.
Over a piece of parchment paper, sift together your cake flour, powdered sugar, salt, and freeze dried strawberries.
Move your sifter over a large bowl, and pour the dry ingredients over it. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat together your egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy. Increase your speed, and slowly add in the sugar as you continue to beat the eggs, until they have reached soft peaks.
Sift about half of your dry ingredients right into your egg whites, and gently fold everything together until combined.
Sift the remaining dry ingredients, and continue to fold until mostly combined. Then add the water, and continue folding until completely combined. It's a labor of love, GO SLOW.
Spread the batter into your fluted pan evenly. Bake in your preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the cake has risen. Cool completely in the pan before removing by running a knife along the edges.
For the cream:
In a large bowl, beat together your heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla until soft peaks form.
In a separate bowl, beat the cream cheese until fluffy.
Add your cream cheese to your heavy cream mixture, and beat for several minutes until completely combined, and stiff peaks have formed. Serve with your cooled cake!