High Altitude Friendly Chocolate Cake

Apr 16

A rich, moist chocolate cake that won’t sink at high altitudes and still bakes beautifully at low altitudes.

As I mentioned in my last post, “Six Reasons Your Cakes Are Sinking,” I’ve had some trouble with my favorite chocolate cake recipe that I adapted from Sweetapolita. Since moving to Utah a year and a half ago, the cake has been sinking during the last few minutes of baking and when I take it out of the oven. My heart breaks each time this happens and even more so when I hear it happens to some of you. I did love hearing that like me, you didn’t toss it, but instead filled in the middle with trimmed cake pieces from leveling the cake. We can’t waist perfectly good tasting cake!

I did a lot of research as to why my chocolate cake was sinking and tested each possible culprit.

I checked my oven temperature with an internal thermometer and it’s right on target. So that wasn’t the problem. I checked all the expiration dates of my leavening agents. That wasn’t the problem either. Then I started working on my ingredients. Most sources I read said for high altitude baking (anything over 3,500 feet above sea level), you’re likely going to have to adjust the ingredients. So, I started with my baking powder and reduced it a bit. I also reduced my sugar too, and added a bit of flour and an extra egg to help create a stronger foundation and stabilize it. I also increased my baking temperature just a tad.

I’m not getting a dome like I do with white or vanilla cakes, but this recipe, adapted from Ina Garten, still comes out nearly level and has the rich, dark chocolate flavor I love about the Sweetapolita recipe. If you were having the same problem as me, you’re sink hole was nearly half way down the height of the cake. This is a HUGE improvement, if you ask me.

I was also just given the suggestion a couple days ago by Si from Abountiful Kitchen to try “Laurie and Amy’s Amazing Chocolate Cake” from her website. I haven’t had a chance to make it yet, but I’m definitely planning on it. I’m always open to suggestions!

High Altitude Friendly Chocolate Cake

Yield 3 8-inch round cake layers

A rich, moist dark chocolate that won't sink!


Chocolate Cake

  • 1 3/4 cups, plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups, minus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cups good quality dark cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup hot water


  1. Preheat the oven to 360 degrees F. Spray three 8-inch round cake pans with nonstick spray. (You can also use four 6-inch pans). Line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper, then spray the pans again.
  2. Combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined.
  3. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, water and vanilla.
  4. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 16-18 minutes.  
  6. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
  7. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill until ready to use. You're still going to want to level your cake layers to ensure a completely even surface for frosting and stacking.

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