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I’ve been trying to make pound cakes and things like it for months. I never had the discipline to keep copious, detailed notes until just recently. All my poundcakes were a flop. The looked like this:

High Altitude Lemon Cake Disaster

I tried adjusting recipes, tried different recipes, different oven temps, starting off in a warm, but not fully-preheated oven (my mother-in-law swears by it for her orange cake), but nothing seemed to work. The work went in fits and starts, I’d try for a day here, a day there, but kept giving up. I finally decided it was time, time to just go at it, do a marathon of baking if that’s what it took, to get something, anything, resembling a pound cake, baked here at Quito’s altitude of 9,000 feet.

After five attempts, we finally got something that works! The key points, who I must credit to user davidtmori of South Lake Tahoe, CA on egullet, were these:

“…cakes and cookies are the two items affected most by altitude. In cookies, the leavening needs to be reduced, by as much as 50%. Flour and eggs need to be increased by 8% and 13% respectively. Sugar, a tenderizer, needs to be decreased by 8%. Fat, such as butter, needs to be decreased by 7%, And liquid, such as water or milk, needs to be increased by 20%.
Of course, every recipe is different, and the best results are obtained by some experimentation and tweaking. These across the board percentages may need to be adjusted from one recipe to the next. Good luck.

I had made several different adjustments similar to these in one way or another, but still wasn’t getting results. But after applying these percentage adjustments to a scientific degree I finally got it right. The one adjustment that was even bigger than what’s recommended here was leavening, which I reduce by about 75%. Also, I did not increase the eggs from the original recipe.

I began initially with Joy the Baker’s Lemon Drenched Lemon Cakes recipe. The photo above is the first flop. After converting the entire recipe to grams, it was a lot easier to start making percentage adjustments here and there.

What finally brought success was the following:

195 g butter
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
190 g cream
515 g sugar
325 g flour
6 eggs
vanilla extract, powder or bean
2 Meyer Lemons
Juice of 2 lemons

Making the cakes:
Preheat a convection oven to 350 degrees F or a conventional oven to 375 degrees F. Butter and flour two 8 1/2-4 1/2-inch loaf pans. Place the pans on an insulated baking sheet.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Put the sugar and the lemon zest in a large bowl, working with your fingers, rub them together until the sugar is moist and the zest has released its oil and smell in the sugar. Add the vanilla bean seeds or vanilla powder and work them into the sugar. If you are using vanilla extract, add it later, after you have added the eggs.

Add the eggs and whisk them into the sugar, beating until they are thoroughly incorporated. Whisk in the extract (if using), then whisk in the cream. Continuing with the whisk, or switching to a large rubber spatula, gently stir in the dry ingredients in 3 or 4 additions; the batter will be smooth and thick. Finish by folding in the melted butter in 2 or 3 additions. Pour the batter into the pans, smoothing with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. As soon as the cake goes into the oven, make the syrup. After about 30 minutes in the oven, check the cakes for color- if they are browning too quickly, cover them lightly with tin foil.

Making the syrup:

Stir the water and sugar together in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the sugar melts, then bring to a boil Remove the pan from heat and stir in the lemon juice. Pour the syrup into a heatproof bowl and let cool.

When the cakes test done, transfer them to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes before unmolding them and turning them right side up on the rack. Place the rack over a baking sheet lined with wax paper and, using a thin skewer, cake tester or thin-bladed sharp knife, poke holes all over the cakes. Brush the cakes all over with the syrup, working slowly so that the cakes sop it up. Leave the cakes on the rack to cool to room temperature.

I skipped the syrup, it’s up to you. Thanks to http://www.joythebaker.com/blog/2009/01/lemon-drenched-lemon-cake/ and Dorie Greenspan, from which this recipe has been adapted for altitude.

Welcome to Destination Ecuador!

Welcome to Destination Ecuador! My family and I have been living in Ecuador for the last four and a half years. We’ve dealt with the worst kinds of red-tape, searched out or ended up making hard-to-find ingredients ourselves, imported equipment for making chocolate confections, learned the import-export business...Continue >>

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