Baking at Altitude

My baking ego took a few blows this weekend. I'm OK guys, don't worry. I'm confident I know why it happened and who the culprit was to blame. His name is altitude and he's a real a-hole. A group of friends and I were spending the weekend in Tahoe and all I wanted to do was satisfy them with a few tasty treats, but altitude had another thing coming: failure. Am I being too hard on altitude? Perhaps. Or perhaps he's 99.9% to blame.

So yes, apparently baking is a bit challenging when you're six-thousand feet up. I knew this, but thought it only really affected the baking time and temperature. Nope. Couldn't have been more wrong. After bombing two of my desserts that a few of my friends choked down as a courtesy, I had to redeem myself before I gave this blog a bad name (too late). I did some research the next morning on baking at altitude and found an abundance of confusing, frustrating information. Every kind of item you bake, whether it be cookies, cakes, bars, pies, etc. have different "rules" and suggestions. For example, if you're making cookies, one source says you need to:

• Decrease butter or shortening (2 Tbsp to 1/4 cup) if cookies spread too much
• Decrease sugar slightly if cookies spread too much (amount depends on size of batch and other ingredients)
• Increase liquid by 1 to 2 Tbsp only if dough is too dry and cookies don’t spread
• Increase flour (starting with 1 or 2 Tbsp) if cookies spread too much
• Increase bake time by 1 to 3 minutes
• Decrease bake time by 1 to 2 minutes


My studies concluded to this: baking in altitude is a complete crap shoot and you need to set aside a day for trail and error. I unfortunately didn't have the patience for this nonsense, nor did I have the time. I had to nail my next dessert on the first try.

Enter food blogger: Katie Goodman of Good Life Eats who lives at altitude. This dear has already done the hard part for me. Katie, thank you for saving my dignity and the tiniest (non-existent) reputation that I had. I made her Vanilla Bean Sour Cream Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting and luckily, they didn't suck.

Vanilla on Vanilla

Vanilla Bean Sour Cream Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting
Recipe from Good Life Eats
Yield: 18-20 cupcakes

Ingredients – Cupcakes
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
4 large egg whites, room temperature
seeds scraped from one vanilla bean
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Ingredients – Frosting
Side-note: this makes a ton frosting so don't be shy with it
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
seeds scraped from one vanilla bean
2 teaspoons clear vanilla extract (to maintain the bright white color)
1 ½ pounds (24 ounces) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream or milk

Directions – Cupcakes
1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the racks in the center position. Line cupcake tins with cupcake liners. Set aside.
2.  In a large bowl combine both flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine.
3.  In a medium bowl whisk together the milk, sour cream, and egg whites. Set aside.
4.  Fit a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, or use a hand mixer. Add the butter, sugar and vanilla to the bowl and beat at medium speed for 3 minutes, or until light. Scrape the sides as necessary.
5.  Add the vanilla extract and one third of the flour mixture while beating on medium speed, again scraping the sides as needed. Beat in half of the sour cream mixture. Alternately add the remaining flour mixture and sour cream until all the wet and dry ingredients have added, beating until the batter fully incorporated and smooth.
6.  Use a large scoop (about 3 tablespoons), evenly divide the batter between 18 lined muffin tins filling each about 2/3 of the way full.
7.  Bake for 15-24 minutes (Pro Tip: Mine took 13 mins), or until a toothpick inserted into the centers come out clean. Cool on wire rack.

Directions – Frosting
1.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the butter and vanilla bean seeds. Beat until fluffy. Turn the mixer to low speed and slowly add the confectioners' sugar while continuing to beat.
2.  Once well blended, add in the vanilla and 4 tablespoons heavy cream or milk. Mix on low speed until well combined and moist. If desired, an additional 1 to 2 tablespoons of heavy cream or milk until your desired consistency is reached. Beat at high speed until frosting is smooth and fluffy.

And that my friends, is why it royally blows to bake at altitude. For those of you who want to try it, I recommend "cheating" and finding a recipe that has already been tested successfully. If not, I hope whoever you're feeding enjoys piss-poor desserts. : )

Recipe: Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes with Bailey's Buttercream Frosting

Don't ask me why, but I looked up the definition of "cupcake" and here's what I found:

cup·cake [kuhp-keyk]
1. a small cake, the size of an individual portion, baked in a cup-shaped mold.
2. Older Slang
a. a sexually attractive young woman.
b. a beloved girl or woman.

Well hello definition number two. Can't remember the last time I've heard someone call a chick a "cupcake," but I think we should bring this back. Discuss amongst yourselves.

My definition would be more like this:

cup·cake [just sound it out you yammo]
1. A three bite, pretty, miniature cake that tastes like happiness consumed often by a tall ginger.

I find it quite hard to say no to cupcakes. Especially these Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes with Bailey's Buttercream Frosting. I first made these for my Guinness-addicted friend's birthday a few years ago, and they were well received. I made these again for a work bake sale this week and apparently, they sold like hot cakes. The cake is super super moist and may I just say that chocolate and Bailey's just belong together. They're the loveliest of pairs.

Side Note: For transporting these beauties or other cakes/cupcakes, I use this cupcake/cake carrier. I'm kind of in love with it.

Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes with Bailey's Buttercream Frosting
Recipe from &
Yield: 24-30 cupcakes

Ingredients – Cake
1 cup Guinness
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup cocoa
2 cups superfine sugar
3/4 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Ingredients – Frosting
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 pinch table salt
4 cups confectioners' sugar (ProTip: I used 3 cups so they weren't overly sweet)
3 tablespoons Bailey's
1 tablespoon milk

Directions – Cake
1.  Preheat oven to 350°F Grease cupcake tins, or fill with paper liners.
2.  Pour the Guinness into a large saucepan and add the sliced butter. Heat until the butter is melted and remove from the heat. Whisk in the cocoa and sugar.
3.  In a separate bowl, beat the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla.
4.  Add the sour cream mixture to the Guinness mixture in the saucepan.
5.  Beat in the flour and baking soda.
6.  Divide the batter evenly amongst the cupcake cups. Bake 19-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cake comes out mostly clean.
7.  Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

Directions – Frosting
1.  In a bowl of stand mixer, cream butter until very light and fluffy. On low, add salt, and slowly add confectioners sugar. Add a couple of spoonfuls at a time until it has all been absorbed into the butter.
2.  Add Bailey's and milk until spreadable consistency is achieved.

Recipe: Chocolate Orange Tarts with Olive Oil Crusts

Know what really strikes my fancy? Discovering a dessert that's easy, impressive looking and delicious. A triple threat if you will. Sadly, I rarely find these gems, but was lucky enough to come across one recently at a cooking class my family and I took. We made "chocolate orange tarts with olive oil crusts."

At first I was perplexed that we were baking with olive oil vs butter, but let me tell ya, it was phenom. We used two different types of olive oils: a tangerine one and a rich, buttery one. I’m definitely a believer in the power of baking with olive oil now. Butter, you've got some competition friend.

Chocolate Orange Tarts with Olive Oil Crusts
12 tarts

Ingredients – Pie Crust
2/3 cup We Olive Mission Olive Oil (any buttery olive oil)
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon of salt
2 cups All Purpose Flour

Ingredients – Chocolate Filling
2 tablespoons of Tangerine Olive Oil (Blood Orange Olive Oil works too)
2 teaspoons of Sea salt
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/4 cup cream Pro Tip: For a lighter recipe, use vanilla almond milk. Tastes just as good!
Raspberries to garnish

Directions – Pie Crust
1.  Whisk 2/3 cup of Olive oil and 1/3 cup of water with fork for 2-3 minutes until emulsified. You will know it is ready when Olive Oil and water have become one and created a cloudy appearance.
2.  Add salt and flour continue mixing with fork. Spread on floured cutting board to finish combining by hand. Once mixture becomes tacky and well combined wrap in plastic wrap nd place in fridge for 10 minutes. Pro Tip: We skipped the fridging and it rolled out just fine.
3.  Roll out with floured rolling pin until it's roughly 1/8–1/4" thick.
4.  Cut into circles with a mug or glass. Press into greased muffin tin and bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Pro Tip: We were very "rustic" with this and didn't spend too much time on the pressing.

Directions – Chocolate Filling
1.  In a large bowl, combine chocolate, olive oil and Sea salt.
2.  In a small saucepan, bring cream to a bare simmer over medium-high.
3.  Immediately pour cream over chocolate and let stand 1 minute.
4.  Whisk gently until chocolate melts and mixture is completely smooth.
5.  Pour chocolate into cooled pie shells and refrigerate until set, 30 minutes.
6.  Slide out with a fork or knife and garnish with raspberries and mint for extra flare.

We had extra choco filling and each of my family members (mostly me) kept going back for a spoonful or five. It. Was. YUM. Special shout out to Chef Lauren for introducing me to this recipe!

Recipe: Vanilla Cupcakes with Raspberry Buttercream Frosting

I whipped up some birthday cupcakes for my friend's very, very and I mean very belated birthday dinner (her birthday was in early November, oops). I wanted to attempt to recreate these cupcakes she raved about that my sister made several years ago: white cupcakes with raspberry buttercream frosting. This dessert had me at butter-cream, so I was up for the challenge. I ended up going with a vanilla cupcake recipe I found on and a raspberry frosting recipe on These were easy as pie to make (sidenote: pie isn't that easy to make phrase coiner!) You basically throw all the cupcake ingredients in a bowl, blend, done, and same thing for the frosting. Even a lightly trained monkey can make these.

Vanilla Cupcakes with Raspberry Buttercream Frosting
Makes 12 servings

Ingredients – Cupcakes
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon table salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature
½ cup sour cream
1 large egg, room temperature
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Ingredients – Frosting
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 -8 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
milk (if needed)

Directions – Cupcakes
1.  Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line standard muffin/cupcake tin with paper or foil liners.
2.  Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add butter, sour cream, egg and egg yolks, and vanilla; beat at medium speed until smooth and satiny, about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula and mix by hand until smooth and no flour pockets remain. Pro Tip: Just use a regular mixer, no need to get fancy with this.
3.  Divide batter evenly among cups of prepared tin. Bake until cupcake tops are pale gold and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 20 to 24 minutes. Pro Tip: Always start with the lower time range to avoid overcooking. Mine took 20 mins on the nose.
4.  Remove the cupcakes from tin and transfer to wire rack; cool cupcakes to room temperature before frosting.

Directions – Frosting
1.  Cream butter and jam until well incorporated, about 2 minutes.
3.  Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time until you reach desired consistency. Note: I used about 4 cups.
4.  If frosting gets too thick you can add a little milk to thin it out.

Recipe: Irish Whiskey Chocolate Cake

image courtesy of

As a ode to St. Patrick and my ginger hair, I made an Irish Whiskey Chocolate Cake yesterday. It was fairly easy to make and I was pretty happy with the outcome. The cake was majorly moist and the whiskey gave it a nice "wang" <insert joke here>. If I were to make this cake all over again, I would add 2 cups of semisweet chocolate chips for a nice crunch and I'd make a side of whip cream to offset the richness (hint: you should do the same if you are wise). Here is the recipe lowdown, found on Epicurious.

Irish Whiskey Chocolate Cake
Makes 12 to 14 servings

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder plus 3 tablespoons for dusting pan
1 1/2 cups brewed coffee
1/2 cup Irish whiskey (or any whiskey that isn't too peaty)
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

1.  Place oven rack in the middle and preheat oven to 325°F. Butter 10-inch bundt pan well, then dust with 3 tablespoons cocoa powder, knocking out excess. Note: I only used 1 heaping tablespoon.
2.  Heat coffee, whiskey, butter, and remaining cup cocoa powder in a saucepan over moderate heat, whisking, until butter is melted. Remove from heat, then add sugar and whisk until dissolved, about 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and cool 5 minutes.
3.  While chocolate mixture cools, stir together flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together eggs and vanilla in a small bowl, then whisk into cooled chocolate mixture until combined well. Add flour mixture and whisk until just combined (batter will be delightfully bubbly). Pour batter into bundt pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes. Note: mine took 43 mins and the toothpick came out mostly clean.
4.  Cool cake completely in pan on a rack, about 2 hours. Loosen cake from pan using tip of a dinner knife, then invert rack over pan and turn cake out onto rack. Pro Tip: I garnished mine with confectioners sugar for flair.

Cheers to my fellow Irish lassies!

Recipe: Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookie Sandwich

The Girl Scout cookies have arrived...everywhere. Local grocery store: Girl Scout cookies in your face. Workplace: Girl Scout cookie explosion. Sports Basement: BOOM Girl Scout cookies. I somehow had the will-power to dodge buying a box or 5 and was instead inspired to make my own version of a GSC (Girl Scout cookie). The "Do-Si-Dos" have always been a contender for my favorite GSC, so I decided to give these a shot. I found a good looking recipe on called "Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookies III," meaning there is a I and II version of these bad boys out there too. Well played All-Recipes.

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookie Sandwhich
Makes 24 servings

Ingredients – Cookies
1/2 cup butter, softened                   
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup white sugar                            
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg                                                      
3/4 cup all-purpose flour                                      
1/2 teaspoon baking soda                  
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt                               
1 cup quick cooking oats

Ingredients – Filling
3 tablespoons butter, softened        
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter         
2 1/2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

1.  In a large bowl, cream together 1/2 cup softened butter or margarine, 1/2 cup peanut butter, white sugar, brown sugar and vanilla. Add egg and beat well.
2.  In small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add these dry ingredients to the creamed mixture. Stir. Add oatmeal and stir.
3.  Drop using a teaspoon (scoop should be overflowing) onto greased baking sheet or wax paper, and press each mound down with a fork to form 1/4 inch thick cookies. Pro Tip: put dough in fridge for a bit to make spreading easier.
4.  Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 8–10 minutes, or until cookies are a light brown. Pro Tip: when in doubt, take them out. Better to under-cook than over-cook these.
5.  To Make Filling: Cream 3 tablespoons butter or margarine with the confectioners' sugar, 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter and the whipping cream. Spread filling onto half of the cooled cookies, then top with the other half to form sandwiches.

Girl Scouts, c'est la vie!

Recipe: THE Cake

One of my sister's makes a dessert so delicious that there can only be one name for it: THE Cake. It's actually a pretty simple recipe, but it hits on all the right things: Chocolate? Check! Toffee? You betcha! Whip cream? Of course!

Luckily, I get to eat this at least once a year, due to the fact that someone in my family requests it for their Birthday cake (it's usually me). She was hesitant to share this recipe, but we agreed that true dessert lovers would be worthy enough. That said, here is the recipe in all it's glory. Note: full credit for this recipe goes to her mom who also knows a good dessert when she sees/eats it.

THE Cake
Makes 12 hefty servings, 15 wimpy servings

1 pint whipping cream
add sugar to taste (about 1/2 cup)
10 crushed Heath bars
1 box German chocolate cake mix

1.  Make cake according to recipe in greased 2, 8" round pans, let cool
2.  Crush Heath bars (leave 1 crushed bar aside). Pro Tip: my sister's technique is putting them in a plastic bag and hitting them with a hammer, but any kind of mallet will do
3.  Whip whipping cream until firm
4.  Fold all but the 1 crushed bar into whipping cream
5.  Once cake has fully cooled, frost first layer of cake with whipping cream/Heath bar mixture
6.  Place second cake layer on, frost
7.  Sprinkle remaining crushed Heath bar on top
8.  Keep refrigerated until ready to serve
9.  Cut a large and in charge slice for yourself and enjoy
10.  Contemplate eating another piece