Baked Sunday Mornings: Wintermint Cake & a Lesson in High Altitude Baking


We moved to Utah from the East Coast in July, and I was so excited to bake this week's Baked Sunday Mornings recipe of Wintermint Cake - I had a piece at the Baked Occasions book release party last October and was AMAZED!!

I followed cake portion of the recipe to a T.  And this is what happened.


I then realized that it wasn't until I lived at sea level that I was actually able to bake a decent cake.   As any baker knows, baking is a science and even the slightest deterrent can leave you with a pile of sugary garbage.  One of the factors that can seriously affect your baking is altitude.

Lower air pressure at high elevations causes air bubbles trapped in the batter to rise at a faster rate. When this happens, cakes rise very fast and high...then fall. As a result, you end up with a dense, dry cake. 

Don't know what your altitude is?  There's an app for that!  It's called "My Altitude." Here's mine in my kitchen:
 Anything over 3,000 ft. is considered "High Altitude".

So to all my friends in high places, make sure to take these things into consideration when baking:

*** I found my high altitude tips at King Arthur Flour and ***

OVEN TEMPERATURE:  When baking at high altitude, leavening and evaporation advance quicker than at sea level.  Therefore, you need to up the temperature by 15-25 degrees.  I set my oven at 340.

** NOTE!  Make sure you invest in an oven thermometer.  Mine is simple, cost about $6, and has a magnetic back.  I discovered that my oven is 25 degrees too low...NO BUENO!

Wintermint Cake

Kitchen scales are also great for baking, as using the metric system is much more accurate.  My scale is digital, I think I paid $15-20 at Costco.

BAKING TIME:  Because of the increased oven temperature, the time needed to bake the cake is lower.  Take off 5 minutes per 30 minutes of baking time.  I baked mine for 32 minutes.

SUGAR:  The increased evaporation also increases the concentration of sugar.  So you need less.  I decreased each white and brown sugars by 1 Tablespoon (-20 g).

FLOUR:  Additional flour helps strengthen the structure of what you're baking.  I added 2 tablespoons plus 3 teaspoons to mine (+16 g).

LEAVENING AGENTS (baking powder and baking soda):  again, something to do with bubbles - hehe.  I decreased each by 1/4 tsp.

LIQUID:  Extra liquid helps to keep cakes from drying out at the higher temperature and evaporation rates.  I added 1 tablespoon plus 3 teaspoons of water to mine, taking it from 300 ml to 340 ml.

Now, onto the fun part - THE CAKE!!

Combine the cocoa, hot water, and sour cream in a 2 cup pyrex (like mine?).  The recipe recommends Valrhona cocoa, but I was so scared of messing up that I used a less fancy brand (Ghirardelli {still kind-of fancy, though, right?}) instead.

Grease your pans, cut out 8" parchment circles, grease the parchment, and dust pans with flour.  I know this part is super tedious, believe me.  If you have pre-cut parchment circles, use them!...I have yet to fail with this method - it's awesome and worth the extra time.  Do NOT NOT NOT use Pam.  Trust me!

Beat the room temperature butter and shortening for 5 minutes.  Should be "ribbon-like."

Wintermint Cake

Beat in the sugars until fluffy...another 5 minutes.   Scrape down.

Wintermint Cake

Beat in eggs one at a time, add the vanilla, then you're going to alternate adding the flour mixture and cocoa mixtures. Your batter should look like this...

Wintermint Cake

Distribute evenly among pans (I also weigh these to make sure they're all about the same).  Bake, rotate 1/2 way thru, toothpick test, take them out and let them cool in pans for 20 minutes.

No sinking!
See?  No sinking!!!

The next step was the chocolate peppermint ganache,


Peppermint chocolate Ganache

made with real peppermint extract and creme de menthe.


For the buttercream, I packed frozen vegetables underneath my mixing bowl as the recipe help cool it down more quickly.  I beat my icing for longer than the 7-9 minutes suggested...more like 20 minutes.

Ready to ombré!

I also enjoy a challenge and decided to go for the ombre look.  I used Americolor Gel in Soft Pink.  Although I think it turned out more day-glo pink ;)


Ombré!  Only I wish I hadn't used so much frosting in between layers...I was stretched really thin when adding the light pink at the top as you can see...Props to Mark at Neufangled Desserts for the snowflake sprinkles idea ;)


The peppermint buttercream icing was just the right amount of mint and sweet - it was light and fluffy and didn't overpower the cake.  The cake itself was moist, and the chocolate peppermint ganache gave it a nice little chocolatey boost.  My kids loved it, and the sky's the limit when it comes to decorating - check out all the other entries of this week's Baked Sunday Mornings Roundup!


Anonymous said...

Despite the altitude mishaps, your cake turned out gorgeous!! Your ombré shades are just perfect-- I did mine in blue, but my three shades were so close to each other that you can barely see a difference. Awesome job! :)

Littlebakerbunny said...

Wow, your ombre frosting looks amazing! Fabulous cake!

kristen @ just-iced cookies said...

Thank you!

Pinar said...

Absolutely beautiful cake! It sounds like high altutide baking really adds a bunch of other variables to keep in mind, that's awesome you were able to work around it and get such a great cake!

Have Apron....Will Bake said...

Wonderful looking cake!
What an ordeal having to change baking instructions due to high altitudes. I've never had to deal with that.

Create Amazing Meals said...

Wow, Kristen - it looks like all you effort & research paid off! I like your ombre icing & I really need to make this one up based on all the great reviews.

I'm looking forward to baking through another year with you! Happy New Year!