Alright, so it’s not so much a sky high cake as it is a cake baked at a high altitude. I’ve started a new job in a new city, and (unsurprisingly) joined the workplace birthday baking committee and volunteered for the first birthday of the year. Between a new oven and a new altitude, this was a pretty stressful endeavour, but it turned out reasonably well. I have a few things I’d change next time, but it was generally well received!
The last few months have been a little crazy. In a spontaneous turn of events, I applied to a job in the USA. I got an offer I couldn’t refuse, and I upped and moved from Vancouver to Salt Lake City. There are several challenges to moving to a new place – no Social Security number, no credit, no friends – but the most challenging one is probably the altitude. I moved from a lovely sea level to ~4500 feet, which has significant implications on baking (and fitness I might add).
I found some good resources on high altitude baking, including this website and this website. There is quite a lot of information available, but these are some of the key points:
- Higher elevations have reduced air pressure, so there is less resistance against rising
- The air is dry, so the batter dries out quickly
- Baked goods tend to rise before there is enough structural integrity, so they collapse
- The boiling point of water is lowered (to 95.5 C to be specific), so things in general take longer to cook or bake
Some general tips it provides include the following:
- Raise the temperature 15-25 F so that the bake gains structure faster, and lower the baking time accordingly
- Add ~1 tbsp of flour to add structural integrity
- Remove ~1 tbsp/cup sugar to maintain the concentration with the faster evaporation rate
- Add 1-2 tbsp liquid to compensate for the faster evaporation rate
- Decrease the leavening agent by ~25 – 30% to slow the rising rate
I considered making my favourite chocolate cake recipe, and then remembered the birthday boy doesn’t drink coffee, so that was out. I decided on Sweetapolita’s Choco Choco cake instead since it is quite moist with all of the sour cream. I also wanted something a little more manageable for my first bake so I cut the recipe in 2/3. You can check the link for the original recipe. Below I’ve posted the reduced amounts as well as my altitude changes.
- 97g dark chocolate
- 173 g unsalted butter
- 210 g cake flour
- 16 g cocoa
- 1.33 tsp. (8 g) baking soda **** (I cut this down to 1.25 tsp.)
- 0.67 tsp. (3.3 g) baking powder **** (I cut this down to 0.5 tsp.)
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 2.6 eggs **** (I raised this to 3 eggs)
- 133 g granulated sugar
- 147 g packed brown sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 316 g sour cream
- Preheat oven to 350F, and line and grease 2 x 8″ cake pans. If you use the full recipe, grease 3 x 8″ pans.
- Melt chocolate and butter together. Set aside and let cool.
- Sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
- In a stand mixer, combine eggs, sugars, and vanilla until fluffy.
- Let chocolate cool slightly, and add into sugar mixture at low speed.
- Alternate adding flour mixture and sour cream in three parts, starting and ending with flour mixture. Don’t over mix.*
- Using a scale, spread the batter evenly into 2 pans.
- Bake cakes for 30 – 45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Let cakes cool for 15 -20 minutes, then invert onto cake racks.
The cake tasted reasonable, but the texture was crumbly and a bit dry. I ended up using a simple syrup to try add some moisture back. Next time I would cut the leavening agents down a hint more, reduce the sugar, and add more moisture.
GERMAN CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM
This was one of my pastry school recipes and turned out delicious. Most people don’t often encounter icing that isn’t obscenely sweet, since that’s the norm in North America. This one is very rich and not particularly sweet. If you wanted it sweeter you could use milk chocolate, but you would also need to add some cornstarch to allow it to set.
- 80 g full fat milk
- 120 mL whipping cream
- 2 egg yolks
- 60 g sugar
- 165 g dark chocolate
- 250 g butter
- 1 g salt
- Mix a small amount with the sugar, and then mix in the egg yolks.
- Put the rest of the milk and cream in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Add a small amount of the boiling milk mixture into the egg mixture while whisking continuously to temper the eggs. Add the tempered egg mixture back to the saucepan and boil.
- Once the mixture reaches 82 C, remove it from heat and stir in the chocolate.
- Strain the custard and set it aside to cool down, stirring periodically to prevent a skin from forming.
- Mix the butter and salt with a wooden spoon until smooth. Mix in the cooled custard.