A Mile High Pain In The Cake

It almost common knowledge that when you are in a higher altitude, that baking and cooking is effected. Starting my first lab at JWU Denver, I knew that this would be a big part of any baking that I did in class. I suppose it was a little naive of me to just assume that our teachers would give us the formulas AND the conversion information.

When I walked into the ‘Intro To Cake Decorating’ class I was so excited.Cake decorating is what I have the most experience in, and I knew that I would excel in this class.The first day was similar to any class.Mostly introductions and explaining the syllabus etc.After our long lecture was done, we were to experiment using convenience products. We made an easy ‘just add water’ type cakes and used pre-made chocolate icing. After cleaning the lab, our teacher informed us that the next day and all the classes after were going to be much harder.

Are You All Idiots?!
The next day we were told to convert a chocolate and vanilla sponge cake recipe from the 28 pound formula in our textbooks to a manageable 8 pound batch (enough for four cakes per table).I felt so prepared when I came to class, I had my formula all ready and was really looking forward to getting going.Our Chef basically just said hello, and go make your cakes!I was surprise in the lack of direction from our teacher.I was used to highschool when everything is meticulously explained, several times, just to make sure you got it.I loved that I could just start doing my own thing without feeling like I was being baby-sat.

Our table were the first to get out cakes done and onto the speed rack to go into our large rotating oven. About a half hour later I heard a disappointed shouting coming from the other side of the room, near the oven.

“Stop what you are doing right now and come over here!”

My teacher, even though she was a barely 5′4″ 100 pound woman, had a very intimidating voice as she shouted to us.

We all shuffled over to her, with wide eyes like bewildered deer.Tip-toeing over the heads of the rest of my class (I am only 5′4″ and usually the shortest girl in the room), I saw what was making my Chef so upset.

Every cake in the oven had completely spilled over their pans and looked like some sort of brown experiment gone wrong, stuck the to hotel pan and burning.

“Are you all idiots or something?!”

My chef asked in a sarcastic tone that no one understood was a joke because of how petrified we were.

Everyone in the class had forgotten to change the formula for baking at a high altitude.Because there was too much leavening agent in the cakes, instead of rising just enough to form a nice cake, the batter spilled over the edges.Unfortunately she didn’t allow us to remake the cakes and we were all stuck with this strange spongy mass, and somewhere under there, there was a cake pan.

Well, I’ll Never Make That Mistake Again
After a good long shaming from our teacher, we all went home with our heads hung low.From than on, no one in the class EVER forgot to adjust the formula.

We were even tested on it in class and everyone had it memorized.Being from Michigan its hard to remember to change my recipes on everything that I do, but even just after a short time of using the conversions every day it has become second nature.

If you are planning on doing some baking at high altitude, here is the conversion information for you.And even if you don’t live in the mountains, its always good to have handy in case you need it!

This is for5000 feet above sea level (If you live in Denver this is what you would need)

Baking Powder Decrease by 40%
Flour Increase by 4%
Eggs Increase by 10%
Sugar Decrease by 6%
Liquids Increase by 15%

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