Posted by Amy Andrews

Categories Cakes & Frostings, Sweets

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High Altitude White Cupcakes with Blackberry Italian Meringue Buttercream


My daughter loves to bake almost as much as I do, and cupcakes are her favorite.  I’ve got several decades on her, and I’ve learned a thing or two over the years, mostly from trial and error, but also from the Bakers Dozen and one of my favorite bakers who’s really good at chemistry, Shirley Corriher (check out her books Bakewise and Cookwise).  My biggest baking flop, was the batch of cupcakes I made for my daughter’s tenth birthday, the year we moved to Montana.  I had years of practice with the recipes from Magnolia, and we were hopeful when we removed this batch from the oven, then turning our attention to making frosting.  When we looked over next, our tray of puffed cupcakes had transformed themselves into donuts!   Each one sporting a perfectly round, quarter-sized sink hole right in the center.  Thus the beginning of my High Altitude phase.


It’s really pretty simple to adapt cake recipes for altitude, thanks to King Arthur Flour and their handy chart.  You basically tweak six dimensions in an attempt to deal with the reduced air-pressure you get as you climb up to the sky:  more liquid, more flour, less sugar, less leavening, higher baking temp, less time.  I’m writing this recipe for Bozeman, which sits at approximately 5000 feet.  If you’re out in San Francisco, or anywhere else really, that’s not in the mountains, use ¾ cup milk, 1 ¾ cup flour, don’t take out the tablespoon of sugar,  2 teaspoons baking powder instead of 1 ½, and 350 degrees for 18 – 20 minutes, basically following Dede Wilson’s original white cupcake recipe from A Baker’s Field Guide to Cupcakes.  If you’re at higher elevation than 5000 feet, experiment with that King Arthur chart.


Our blackberry buttercream is based on Julia Child’s Italian Meringue Buttercream, recipe here.


High Altitude White Cupcakes with Blackberry Italian Meringue Buttercream

Yield: 12 cupcakes


  • ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¾ cup sugar, less 1 Tbsp.
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 ¾ cup flour, plus 2 Tbsp.
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking powder


  1. Preheat oven between 350 and 375, approximately 365 degrees F. Line a 12-cup cupcake pan with paper liners.
  2. Whisk together flour and baking powder in a bowl.
  3. In a 2-cup glass measuring cup (or bowl), whisk together milk, egg whites, and vanilla.
  4. Get your stand mixer fitted with the paddle, add the butter and mix a couple minutes until creamy. With mixer running, sprinkle in the salt then add the sugar in a slow stream. Continue mixing until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl once or twice.
  5. In 4 additions, add the flour to the butter, alternating with the milk/egg mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Mix briefly on low speed after each addition.
  6. Divide batter into the lined pan and bake for 14 - 16 minutes until center springs back when you touch it with your fingertip.
  7. Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then remove the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
  8. Sea level Adjustments: use ¾ cup milk, 1 ¾ cup flour, don't take out the tablespoon of sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder instead of 1 ½, 350 degrees for 18 - 20 minutes

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