cocoa-buttermilk birthday cake

I’m crossing my fingers that I don’t have high altitude problems with my baking now that I live at just over 3000 feet. It’s right at the margin of where some cookbooks recommend making adjustments. I conducted one little test, comparing chocolate chip cookies made at sea level with the same recipe made at 3000 feet, and the results were identical, so at this point I’m hopeful.

But it does leave a kernel of doubt in my mind when I’m unhappy with how a recipe turns out. Is the recipe or the altitude at fault? Fortunately, if I made the recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie, I have several hundred other bakers to compare the results to.

In this case, my cake was a little dry. Not terrible – it was still chocolate cake, and it was covered in cream cheese frosting – just not as good as other chocolate cakes I’ve made. I’ll have to read what others have said to see if those results were typical. I’m kind of hoping we all had dry cake this week, because having to constantly adjust recipes for my altitude sounds like such a pain in the butt.

This cake (along with Tarte Tatin, which I didn’t get a chance to make this week) was chosen by vote (sort of). Laurie, the founder of TWD, has posted the recipe.

One year ago: French Pear Tart


  1. I love the white frosting and sprinkles on this cake.

  2. Your cake is lovely. I love the little sprinkles on top. Its exactly what I think of when I think birthday cake. Fab job babe. Thanks so much for baking along with me all this time. xo

  3. Your cake is decorated so perfectly.

    I made the tarte. It was fabulous.

  4. That’s such a perfect looking cake! I occasionally see stuff here and there about high altitude baking and it sounds like such an enormous pain! Hopefully you won’t have to start changing all your baking recipes… but of course dry cake is always a good excuse for liquor-filled syrup!

  5. ooh, good call on skipping the frosting. It was grainy! Love the little sprinkles- those are my favorite!

  6. The simplicity of the decoration is perfect. And I think we have twin cake stands!

    Having just moved from the frigid Midwest to SoCal, I was surprised by how many small tweaks I had to make for humidity and such. Fingers crossed for you!

  7. That cake looks perfectly delicious.

  8. Those sprinkles bring back a rush of fond memories. I made the tarte tartin, so I can’t speak to the dryness of the cake–sorry it wasn’t great for you. Hopefully it’s not the altitude though!

  9. Oh my goodness that looks like the cutest cake I have ever seen. There is something so whimsical about the sprinkles. Yum!

  10. The cake looks gorgeous and tasty even if you didn’t care for it that much!

  11. What a pretty and simple cake 🙂

  12. Wow, you’ve really got a knack with frosting – that cake is decorated perfectly! I can never get my frosting that smooth. I made the cake too, though I went with cupcakes, and thought it was really good. It wasn’t incredibly moist, but I didn’t think it was dry either.

  13. treewhisperer says:

    now i want chocolate cake…

  14. What a pretty cake! I use that cocoa powder too, I really like the taste, though I’m usually one of those snobby fancy chocolate people. :p

  15. bridget says:

    codfish – Ah, me too. Hershey’s cocoa is a product of my new small-town grocery store. I don’t have all the options I’m used to! I’m glad to hear a good review of it!

  16. What a LOVELY little cake!!!

  17. i’ve made this cake before and agree that it’s not my favorite…it’s dry and a little flat on the taste in my opinion. i love the little colored sprinkles around the edge!! so simple and cute!

  18. Love, love love the sprinkles on your cake! 🙂 I thought mine was a little dry too but my husband didn’t…

  19. I love the white frosting and sprinkles..nice! I made the wasn’t to pretty but so good!

  20. it is so beautifully and simply decorated– i love it! sorry to hear it was dry…something to watch out for when i get around to making it. good luck figuring out all your baking tweaks..sounds very fiddly.

  21. Mine was a wee bit dry, but frosting makes up for it 😛 I’m not a huge fan of butter cakes anyway. Love the sprinkles (and *ahem* the comment on the “voting”)

  22. The cake looks gorgeous! Sorry it was dry.

  23. What a pretty cake!
    I also live in New Mexico, though at a higher altitude (5000 ft.), so I make high-altitude adjustments for my baked goods. It’s a pain at first, but you get used to it, and by now, I do it without even really thinking about it–less baking powder, less sugar, slightly more liquid, etc.
    Something else that might be affecting your baked goods is the dryness of the air here–with breads, for example, I tend to add less flour than called for, because most recipes assume that there will be at least a little moisture in the air!
    If you haven’t already, I recommend that you check out the book “Pie in the Sky,” a cookbook devoted to high-altitude baking. As I recall, she has adjustments for 3000 ft, 5000 ft, and 10,000 ft above sea level.

  24. junecutie says:

    Yes! I brake for cake! This one looks wonderful! I am also at high altitude (Denver area about 6500 ft.); and I also use “Pie in the Sky” recommendations. I have learned that it sometimes helps to use half butter-half oil (butter for taste, oil for moisture), adjusting the liquid measure for the oil. BTW, I love your blog. I especially love the recipe comparisons. I always walk away with information I can use for the next recipe adventure. Wizard is watching football, I’m reading your comparisons and recipes, and a good time is had by all! I hope I can subscribe by my email address. Thanks.

  25. Sorry to hear this cake was dry, but that aside…the photos are simply gorgeous. The finished cake looks truly amazing (especially the “cut” piece shot) and if I didn’t know it was a bit on the dry side, my palate would lust after the photos alone. Hopefully that makes you feel better! 🙂