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High-Altitude Banana Rum Cake Recipe

Vespa's recipes have appeared in "Midwest Living" and "Taste of Home". She belongs to Cook's Recipe Testers for "Cook's Illustrated".

High Altitude Bundt Cake

High Altitude Bundt Cake

Foolproof Banana Rum High Altitude Bundt Cake

I am no stranger to high altitude baking. In Cusco, at an elevation of over 11,000 feet (3.400 meters), I tearfully watched many cakes rise and fall, explode, and even implode. I was almost ready to turn in my oven mitts. Six years after finally mastering the art of high-altitude baking, we moved to Peru's coast. My first thought was, "Great! I can't wait to bake at sea level again!"

And now here we are again, almost ten years later, living at high altitude. This time the altitude is a little more reasonable: just 9,000 feet--1 1/2 miles high--up there with Vale, Colorado, and Kurush, Russia. But why is baking at high altitude such a challenge? Factor in a lower boiling point, low air pressure, and dry atmospheric conditions and you have a recipe for disaster, or at least an unpredictable outcome to your kitchen experiments.

So is baking at high altitude a hopeless proposition? Not if you're willing to do a little research, make adjustments to your recipes and measure ingredients like a scientist! Keep records of measurements so you can repeat those that work for you.

What's so special about this banana rum cake? Bananas strengthen the cake structure, making the recipe practically foolproof. Since high altitude baking tends to dry out cakes, bananas also add moisture while rum amps up the flavor. Finish it with a dusting of powdered sugar or a lightly flavored rum icing and you have the perfect high elevation cake.

Serve banana rum cake with a mug of steaming coffee or a tall glass of cold milk. Either way, you'll have a perfect dessert or midday snack. Take the stress out of high altitude baking and make this moist, flavor-packed cake today!


  • This recipe is for baking a cake at 9,000 feet. If you live at a different altitude, please check chart at the end of this page for adjustments.
  • This cake has a lighter texture and more tender crumb than banana bread.
  • Choose very ripe bananas for moist, sweet bundt cake.
  • It's important to whip egg whites just until soft peaks form so as not to over-inflate the cake. The whites will look foamy when ready.
  • Carefully follow mixer speeds indicated in instructions section.
  • If you don't want to use the rum, substitute 1/2 cup of whole milk.
  • For this recipe, use a 10-cup bundt pan so the batter doesn't overflow while baking.
  • Be sure to thoroughly grease and flour bundt pan so the cake doesn't stick.
  • Cool thoroughly before unmolding.
  • Wrap the cake while it's still slightly warm.
  • This cake is even better when served the next day.
  • Dust with powdered sugar or drizzle with a simple glaze before serving....
  • ...Or leave cake unadorned and serve for breakfast with a cup of hot tea or coffee.

Favorite High Altitude Cake

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

20 min

1 hour

1 hour 20 min

1 bundt cake, serves 10-12


  • 6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) salted butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 3 cups unbleached flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup dark rum*
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 very ripe bananas, thoroughly mashed

* If you prefer not to use rum, substitute 1/2 cup whole milk or try pineapple juice for tropical flavor.


  1. Thoroughly grease and flour a 10-cup bundt cake pan. Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C).
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat softened butter and sugars with a hand mixer or stand mixer until light and fluffy. Use high speed. Add vanilla extract and mashed bananas, blending until well combined.
  3. Add egg yolks, one at a time.
  4. Combine flour, salt and baking powder in a medium mixing bowl.
  5. Measure milk and rum in a large mixing cup.
  6. Reduce mixer speed to low. In 3 separate additions alternate adding dry ingredients and wet to the butter/sugar mixture, starting and ending with the flour mixture, until just incorporated.
  7. Beat egg whites just until foamy. It's important not to beat whites until stiff at high altitude to avoid over-inflating and collapsing the cake.
  8. Using a rubber spatula, carefully fold egg whites into cake batter.
  9. Pour batter into prepared bundt pan.
  10. Bake at 350F for 50-60 minutes, or until a tester toothpick comes out clean.
  11. Cool cake for at least 30 minutes, until cool enough to easily unmold.
  12. Wrap cake in plastic wrap while still slightly warm.
  13. Eat cake immediately or, if you prefer, wrap and eat the following day. Enjoy!

Challenges of High Altitude Baking

If there's anything we've learned about high altitude baking after all these years of living in the Andes mountains, it's that you must measure like a scientist....and take plenty of notes. Attach a sticky paper to your recipe and jot down the measurements you use each time. Even though high altitude baking is a science, unfortunately, it also takes experimentation to create the perfect recipe for your location.

Why? Daily barometric pressure and humidity varies and that affects the outcome of your baking. But once you've come up with a general recipe that works for your location, you will turn out beautiful cakes time after time.

Adjust just two or three ingredients on your first attempt. We recommend starting with less sugar, fat and leavening. Fat includes either butter, shortening or oil. Those adjustments often work for us. If not, we increase liquid and flour on the next attempt. Liquid can include water, milk or even eggs. (One large egg is equivalent to 3 Tablespoons, so at 7,000 feet or higher you can add one whole egg to the cake. At slightly lower altitudes, try adding one egg yolk.) All liquids add strength to the structure of your cake.

Most recipes need no adjustments up to 3,000 feet but then the need for adjustments increases exponentially as altitude increases. See the following chart for more information. Most importantly relax, take your time and have fun as you perfect your high altitude baking technique.

How to Make High Altitude Adjustments to Sea Level Recipes

AltitudeIncrease Flour By:Increase Liquid By:Decrease Fat or Sugar By:Decrease Baking Powder By:

4,000 feet

1/2 Tablespoon

1/2 Tablespoon

1/2 Tablespoon

1/4 of original quantity

5,000 feet

1 Tablespoon

1 Tablespoon

1 Tablespoon

1/4 of original quantity

6,000 feet

2 Tablespoons

2 Tablespoons

1 1/2 Tablespoons

1/4 of original quantity

7,000 feet

3 Tablespoons

3 Tablespoons

2 Tablespoons

half of original quantity

8,000 feet

4 Tablespoons

4 Tablespoons

2 1/2 Tablespoons

half of original quantity

9,000 feet

5 Tablespoons

5 Tablespoons

3 Tablespoons

half of original quantity

10,000 feet

6 Tablespoons

6 Tablespoons

3 1/2 Tablespoons

half of original quantity

"High Altitude Baking Is A Science"


Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on January 07, 2014:

DeborahNeyens, thanks for taking the time to comment.

Deborah Neyens from Iowa on January 07, 2014:

I love banana cake and this sounds delicious. Thanks for including the chart for low altitude baking.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on January 07, 2014:

Deborah-Diane, bananas and run is a flavor combo that's hard to beat. It's nice to hear from you! Thanks for the share.

Deborah-Diane from Orange County, California on January 07, 2014:

I love rum cake and I love banana bread. This seems like the perfect marriage of both of them! Thanks for the recipe. I plan to share this. :)

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on January 01, 2014:

GlimmerTwinFan, high altitude baking isn't so difficult if you have the right tools. I'm glad you like the chart. Thanks for coming by.

Claudia Mitchell on January 01, 2014:

Seriously good looking recipe! I loved looking at the chart with the different cooking alternatives for different altitudes. I had heard about people having issues, but never really thought about it. Shared.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on December 23, 2013:

Mylindaelliott, high altitude baking can be a challenge, but this chart has been a big help to me. Thanks for your comment.

mylindaelliott from Louisiana on December 22, 2013:

Yummy, I didn't realize the altitude would make so much difference.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on December 20, 2013:

Peachpurple, high altitude baking can be tricky. You need a good oven that radiates some heat from the top and not just the bottom of the oven. You might try baking at a slightly higher temperature or baking the cake on a rack a little higher in the oven. Thanks for your question.

peachy from Home Sweet Home on December 20, 2013:

my cake never looks so brownish like yours. Mine is always pale. Is it due to different egg sizes? I like your cake outlook.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on December 10, 2013:

CraftytotheCore, I'm glad you found this recipe useful. Enjoy!

CraftytotheCore on December 10, 2013:

Wow, this took a lot of thought. The cake sounds delicious. I like how you wrote out the information for different altitudes. This Hub is very useful.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on December 05, 2013:

Deborah-Diane, rum cake would make a perfect holiday treat. Thanks for coming by.

Deborah-Diane from Orange County, California on December 05, 2013:

Perfect holiday cake idea! Many people love rum cakes and similar treats over the holidays.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on December 05, 2013:

Suzettenaples, thank you for your cute anecdote from your student days. I didn't realize that Guadalajara was high altitude. I just looked it up and it's right at 5,200 feet. No wonder you had a problem baking the cake! There's nothing more disappointing than a flat cake. lol I'm glad the Señora helped you make the appropriate adjustments so you could have another chance at it.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on December 05, 2013:

Thelma Alberts, thanks for coming by.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on December 05, 2013:

PeggyW, how nice that you don't have to worry about the challenge of high altitude baking. Thank you for your support.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on December 05, 2013:

AliciaC, the rum and banana do go together well. Thanks for your comment.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on December 05, 2013:

anglnwu, high altitude locations definitely make baking more interesting! Hopefully, with this chart, results can be more predictable. Thanks for your comment.

Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on December 05, 2013:

Your recipes are always so great. This really looks and sounds delicious. I have to chuckle. When I was living and studying in Mexico I was living with a Mexican family. I was in Guadalajara which is elevated also and I baked a box cake for the family, thinking I would make a contribution to dinner one night. Oh my, it never rose because of the altitude. I was devastated and thought, they'll think I can't bake! Well, the senora was wonderful about it and showed me how to alter the ingredients so the cake would turn out. I baked one the next day to her specifications and it rose, was light and springy and a beautiful cake. Talk about learning the hard way! LOL Thanks so much for the lesson in cooking at elevations that some of us are not used to here in the U.S.

Thelma Alberts from Germany on December 04, 2013:

I do bake a lot, but it´s the first time I have heard of high altitude baking. Very interesting and informative. Thanks for sharing.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 04, 2013:

Although we live just a little above sea level in Houston, this banana rum cake recipe sounds delicious. Thanks!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on December 04, 2013:

This is a very useful hub, vespawoolf. I love the table! The combination of banana and rum sounds delicious, too.

anglnwu on December 04, 2013:

Didn't know it's challenging to bake at high altitudes. Your tips will definitely come in handy for those who live high up. The cake looks yummy! Voted up.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on December 04, 2013:

You're welcome for the recipe, epbooks. Thanks for your comment!

Elizabeth Parker from Las Vegas, NV on December 04, 2013:

I don't bake much, but this does sound delicious! Thank you for the tips and recipe!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on December 04, 2013:

I know exactly what you mean. We enjoy our slower-paced lifestyle in Peru. Our friends in Quito moved for that reason, too. About 5 years ago we had to return to the U.S. for two years because of a family emergency. We weren't happy returning to the lifestyle, either. I wish everyone could try it! I hope your plans come together for the trip next year.

Linda Chechar from Arizona on December 04, 2013:

vespa, we're moving to simplify life. We spent 3 years in Uruguay and returned to the States because of my husband's health. Now that he's feeling better than ever, we want to go back to a slower-paced lifestyle. We've been back in the States for 2 years and find we have not readjusted like we thought we would. Hoping to make an exploratory trip to EC some time in early to mid 2014. :)

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on December 04, 2013:

lindacee, I'm glad this recipe will be useful for you. How interesting that you're considering moving to Ecuador. We have friends in Quito...it's a beautiful city. Are you moving for work? I hope your plans work out well.

Linda Chechar from Arizona on December 04, 2013:

These tips are great and the recipe sounds divine! I even had problems baking in Denver--at only a mile high. Can't imagine doing it at 11,000 feet! I will bookmark this one for future reference. My husband and I are seriously considering a move to Ecuador--chances are good we would initially settle in Cuenca or Quito, so I'll definitely need help with high altitude baking.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on December 04, 2013:

Suzanne Day, you're so right. Baking cakes at any altitude can be tricky at times. You'll have to add more leavening to this cake to be able to use it an sea level, though. Happy baking!

Suzanne Day from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on December 04, 2013:

Even without the high altitude I find that some cakes just don't want to rise correctly! Thank you for this very useful recipe, which will come in handy for me when I am expecting guests and need the cake to rise, pronto! Voted up.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on December 04, 2013:

DDE, thank you!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on December 04, 2013:

ChitrangadaSharan, high altitude baking presents its own challenges but can also be a fascinating and fun hobby. Thank you for your comment.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on December 04, 2013:

Ericdierker, I didn't realize you had been to Peru! How nice. I'm not sure how this cake would do over coals...would probably burn the bottom. But it sounds like your trip was fun. Thanks for your comment!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on December 04, 2013:

JackieLynnley, I agree about the light rum...dark rum is so much more flavorful. I hope you can get some soon! : )

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on December 04, 2013:

FlourishAnyway, I'm in agreement about rum desserts. Next week I will be publishing an XXXtra Rummy Rum Cake recipe you should watch out for. What a nice way to connect with your grandmother. That time spent together is priceless! I really appreciate the votes, stars, etc.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on December 04, 2013:

Phyllis Doyle, I'm glad you're going to bake this cake during the holiday season. Thanks for your kind words.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on December 04, 2013:

moonlake, thanks for paying me a visit!

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on December 04, 2013:

Wow! An incredible thought for such a recipe and looks so delicious the taste of rum and banana sounds a wonder thank you

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on December 03, 2013:

Your recipe is of course delicious and very well done but what I find interesting in this hub is the Altitude adjustments chart, which I had not heard about before. Makes sense to me---Very nicely done!

Thanks for sharing this interesting hub!

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on December 03, 2013:

VespaWolf there is love all around. We carry much these ingredients and make this on hikes at the top of the Grand Canyon -- only about 9,000,-- feet. We bake in a big dutch oven on coals. We barely make it "ripe" so we do not cook out too much rum.

Happy is good and fun is fun. My son got the recipe we use chasing Condors down Peru Mountain way.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on December 03, 2013:

I have used the light rum in some recipes and just don't like it, not going to buy anymore of it. It doesn't waste though, I have had this over two years and it is fine! lol

FlourishAnyway from USA on December 03, 2013:

Put rum in anything and I am THERE. I love this and am definitely trying this to share with my grandmother. I already have overly ripe bananas and this would be an excellent way to use them. She loves for me to experiment with new recipes I've found and try them out on her. It's one way we connect. Thanks for this! Voted up +++ , five stars, pinning, sharing.

Phyllis Doyle Burns from High desert of Nevada. on December 03, 2013:

This cake looks so good -- it will be added to my holiday baking list. Thanks for the great tips, photos and recipe. Very well done!

moonlake from America on December 03, 2013:

Your cake sure looks good. Great photos. Thanks for sharing. Voted up

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on December 03, 2013:

Jackie Lynnley, you can use the light rum although it won't be quite as flavorful. This is a great way to use up overly ripe bananas. Thanks for your comment!

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on December 03, 2013:

Sounds yummy. All I have is light rum so I will have to get some dark. Will take this recipe with me though and surely make it. Many times I get several bananas over-ripe and this would be perfect. Thank you so much! ^

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