How to Cook a Carrot Cake at High Altitude - Delishably - Food and Drink
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How to Cook a Carrot Cake at High Altitude

I've been a freelance writer for over 9 years. I write about everything from Ecuadorian culture to home cooking.

Thought you couldn't cook at high altitude? Think again! Here's an easy way to do it.

Thought you couldn't cook at high altitude? Think again! Here's an easy way to do it.

Introduction

I began cooking when I was seventeen and became enamored with creating culinary pleasures. I was always up to a challenge. When someone told me that a particular dish would be difficult, then that was what I wanted to tackle. Souffles, wellingtons, and puff pastries became my forte. There were failures, but nothing tested my culinary skills for long.

My greatest challenge, however, came when I moved to Quito, Ecuador, and had to confront cooking at high altitudes. The changes that were necessary to produce a moist, properly cooked product were substantial, especially when it came to baking. The lower atmospheric pressure at 9,000 ft. (2,800 m) resulted in correspondingly lower boiling temperature. That 212o F (100o C) had been reduced drastically to a paltry 196o F (91o C). This change meant increased evaporation and longer cooking times, which compounded the problems with the loss of moisture.

Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake

High Altitude Recipe Changes

There are three actions that need to be implemented when baking at altitudes above 3,000 ft. (1,000 m). First, increase fluids to counteract the increased evaporation. Second, reduce the amount of sugar, as this will produce a grainy texture to the pastry. Finally, reduce the amount of leavening. The low atmospheric pressure will result in sizable bubbles produced by the agent and could result in a cake to fall.

Carrot Cake is a wonderful choice for a high altitude dessert owing to the increased moisture provided by the hearty orange root. It is simple to make and delicious to eat with a hot cup of coffee. I normally prepare everything in my Kitchen Aid Pro Line food processor. All ingredients fit nicely into its 16-cup bowl and clean up is simplified due to the preparation of everything in one vessel. I prefer a rectangular dish but round cake pans can be used to make a multilayer delight.

Carrot Cake

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 ½ cups cooking oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground allspice
  • 3 ½ cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup chopped nutmeats
  • 1 cup raisons

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350o F.
  2. Grease and flour baking pan.
  3. In large bowl, beat sugar and eggs until thick and creamy yellow.
  4. Add vanilla and oil, beating well.
  5. Mix all dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and allspice.
  6. Add dry ingredients slowly to egg mixture, mixing thoroughly.
  7. Fold in carrots, nutmeats and raisons.
  8. Pour into prepared pan.
  9. Bake about 45 minutes or until cake center springs back when pressed with fingertip.
  10. Cool.
  11. Frost with Cream Cheese Frosting

Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

  • 6 oz. cream cheese
  • 4 tbsp cream (milk can be substituted)
  • 2 tbsp soft butter
  • 3 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Directions

  1. In large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, cream and butter until fluffy.
  2. Gradually add powdered sugar, adjusting sugar and cream until reaching desired consistency.
  3. Add salt and vanilla.

Conclusion

This is a very rich dessert and, for me, is best enjoyed relaxing in an overstuffed chair sipping a steaming cup of coffee. However, for breakfast with a tall chilled glass of milk is a great way to start a day. Regardless of preferences, this cake is a great addition to anyone’s recipe box. 

Questions & Answers

Question: Is this carrot cake recipe a high altitude recipe or does it need to be adapted using your tips?

Answer: Yes, this is a high altitude recipe. I used it between 8000 and 9000 feet with great results

Question: What size pan should I use when making a carrot cake? Would 9x13 work?

Answer: A 9 x13 would be fine, that is my normal pan size

Question: Is this recipe for a single layer (sheet cake) carrot cake?

Answer: I normally make a sheet cake, but you could use it to make a layer cake, using the cream cheese frosting between the layers.

Question: This looks amazing. My friend made this (she thanks you for a great recipe). I need to do a BIG cake for 35 for tomorrow. Can I double this recipe for carrot cake?

Answer: You should have not problem doubling the recipe, just be careful that you don't use too deep a pan or you may have problems with the center not cooking correctly.

Question: On what rack in a gas oven in high altitude should I cook the carrot cake in this recipe?

Answer: I always use the center rack.

Question: What are nutmeats?

Answer: Nutmeats are the edible portion of the nut without the shell. You can use walnuts, pecans or any other nut that you prefer, but make sure they are unsalted.

Question: If I half the recipe what size pan would be best?

Answer: An 8x8 pan would be approximately half the size of a 9x13.

Comments

Cat Larsen on March 27, 2020:

Thank you so much for this amazing recipe!! I moved to Denver 4 years ago and have only baked a few times with success. I was wondering if you have any other high altitude recipes you could share? You should write a book!

Franz on March 15, 2020:

Hi, looks like a great recipe, do you find allspice in supermaxi? Does it have a different name here in Ecuador?

BeverlyH1288 on March 01, 2020:

Made this cake today ...AMAZING!

Suzy Sundance on February 09, 2020:

I made this cake for my daughter’s birthday 2 days ago at 5,200 ft altitude. Everyone loved it and wanted more! Today, my daughter’s husband asked me to make it again for our weekly dinner get-together! It’s a winner!

Lisa on November 28, 2019:

I made this today in Denver and it was absolutley perfect!

Sue on September 19, 2019:

I live at 9300 ft elevation, is your recipe adjusted for altitude? Seems like 1.5 cups of oil and baking powder is a lot

ColibriPhoto (author) from Quito, Ecuador on October 01, 2018:

Thank you for the feedback. I have also used almonds and I imagine coconut would work well also. Glad you enjoyed.

Chuck Roesel on September 30, 2018:

Thank you for this recipe! I live in Bogota and needed a recipe developed for high altitude. I baked this today and it was perfect and a big hit with my guests! I had trouble finding pecans or walnuts at the supermarket here, so used macadamia nuts. Great recipe!

ColibriPhoto (author) from Quito, Ecuador on September 27, 2018:

Hi Carla, No reason you can't make it in a tube or Bundt pan. You may have to adjust your baking time. Check it regularly after the first 35 minutes and see how it goes.

Carla Foster on September 27, 2018:

Can this recipe be baked in a tube pan or bundt pan? I see you have the option of a 9x13 or round pans, I just wondered if it could also be baked in a decorative tube pan. Thank you!

ColibriPhoto (author) from Quito, Ecuador on February 19, 2015:

Glad you enjoyed the cake, I'm making one now

Margaret on February 18, 2015:

I'm at 9100' in Colorado and am just ecstatic over this recipe!! I made it yesterday after a miserable fail at making chocolate cupcakes, and it turned out really well! (Even after forgetting to turn the oven down and cooking it at 400 for 35 minutes!) A little crispy on the outside (my fault- because of the high cooking temp) but overall very good. The cake was moist, rounded and flavorful. I did reduce the baking powder about ¼ tsp- after my earlier baking fail, I was leery of putting in a full 2 tsp of baking powder.

ColibriPhoto (author) from Quito, Ecuador on December 08, 2014:

For the backing soda, look in the cleaning products aisle at the supermarket. Look for TIPS bicarbonate of soda. Same stuff, and much cheaper. You can also get it at the pharmacy but in small packets that are overpriced. Hope you enjoy.

Alicia on December 07, 2014:

Thank you from Cuenca, Ecuador! The altitude continues to get me, as do the lack of ingredients (baking soda, etc). This recipe solves all my problems!

ColibriPhoto (author) from Quito, Ecuador on November 30, 2014:

Yes, although you could use two 9" round pans and stack the layers.

Linda on October 29, 2014:

Do you use a 9x13" glass baking pan?

ColibriPhoto (author) from Quito, Ecuador on September 23, 2014:

Baking is always a challenge at 9,000 ft but with a little patients you will get the hang of it.

Yvette Alcivar from Guayaquil, Ecuador on September 23, 2014:

Thank you for sharing this! Moving to Quito from Guayaquil, and I am so excited that baking is doable there! Will definitely try this recipe as soon as I get there, baking is also a business for me. I will have to tweak all my recipes with your tips. Thanks again!

ColibriPhoto (author) from Quito, Ecuador on August 26, 2014:

Yes, that is what you need, but it is optional.

Eden on August 26, 2014:

what are nutmeats? do you mean chopped nuts?

Missy on October 21, 2013:

Thanks for this! I live in Quito too and having been missing my carrot cake, especially this time of year. I am excited to make it!

Baking in LA Paz on June 17, 2013:

I am at 13,000 ft here in La Paz Bolivia going to try this recipe Hope it comes out :) Also it will be my first carrot cake too

ColibriPhoto (author) from Quito, Ecuador on December 10, 2012:

Thanks Gabi, I am sure you will enjoy it.

Gabi on December 06, 2012:

Thanks a lot I am from Quito and I am a beginner at this baking thing. And I was wondering why my cakes where looking so silly if I was following all the instructions. I will try your carrot cake

ColibriPhoto (author) from Quito, Ecuador on October 06, 2012:

Hi Bobbisue, I use flour without the baking powder added. Otherwise you will use too much and the cake will fall. Since I do not know how much they add to their flour, I prefer to be able to regulate it myself.

Bobbisue on September 27, 2012:

Im also in Quito and have found it very hard to bake as well. The other day I tried Carrot Cake for the first time and lets just say it was a disaster! Hahahahaha Out of curiousity what brand of flour do you use here? The kind with baking powder already added?

ColibriPhoto (author) from Quito, Ecuador on August 12, 2012:

Yes Jana, I am at 8300 ft and I have never had any problems. Have also receive emails from people who have made it and they expressed success. Not sure what may have happened. (The recipe calls for baking powder rather than baking soda. This can make a difference.)

Jana on August 12, 2012:

Is this carrot cake recipe actually altitude adjusted? I assumed so, but at 8000 feet mine fell flatter than a full-on flatlander recipe. I had thought 2 tsp of baking soda seemed like a lot...

ColibriPhoto (author) from Quito, Ecuador on June 01, 2012:

Hi Billie Jo, I have found the 350F works fine but what is important is that you check for doneness after 35 to 40 min and adjust your time accordingly. This is an extremely moist cake so the main concern is drying out the outside of the cake before the inside is done.

Billie Jo on June 01, 2012:

Hello! I'm at 6,800ft. I'm thinking, if this recipe is for 9,000ft, it should work all right. I do have a question though. Typically, I bake at 375F, but your recipe says 350F.

Thanks for the recipe. I hope to make it tomorrow.

Cheers!

ColibriPhoto (author) from Quito, Ecuador on April 10, 2012:

Thanks for the comment Anna. I am sure you will enjoy it.

anna on April 09, 2012:

hi and thank you for this post i am going to denver to visit my family and im going to make my very own special carrot cake and ive never baked there so this is great hope it all turns out:)