High-Altitude Double Chocolate Cake with Italian Meringue

by Dec 12, 2013

Moist, chocolatey, and fantastic on its own, even without frosting, Miette’s double chocolate cake (see Meg Ray’s beautiful book!) tweaked for high altitude is my new favorite. Another thanks goes to the people at King Arthur flour, without whom we’d have a much more difficult time making scrumptious cake in the mountains!


I’ve included below a recipe for Italian Meringue/Marshmallow Frosting. It is an egg white frosting, stiffened with a sugar syrup cooked to the soft ball stage (225°–230°F, adjusting for 5000 ft. elevation (sea level target is 235°–240°F).




High-Altitude Double Chocolate Cake

recipe adapted from Miette; makes two 6-inch cakes or a couple dozen cupcakes


  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • cups + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour 8 ounces
  • cups unsweetened cocoa powder 4.5 ounces; Valrhona
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 cup plus 3 tbsp whole milk (or buttermilk, see note) room temperature
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar (do not use if using buttermilk, see note)
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs room temperature
  • ½ cup vegetable oil canola or safflower
  • cups less 2 tbsp granulated sugar 14 ounces


  1. Prepare two 6-inch cake pans by brushing inside with very soft butter and dusting with cocoa powder. Preheat oven to 375° F.

  2. Put chopped chocolate in small bowl and pour over the boiling water; set aside to melt and cool.

  3. Sift together into bowl: flour, cocoa, baking soda, and baking powder. Sprinkle with the salt and set aside.

  4. Add cooled chocolate and vanilla to the milk and stir to combine.

  5. Using whisk attachment on standing mixer, whisk eggs for a couple minutes on high speed, until foamy. Add the oil and whisk a minute on medium, then gradually add sugar and whisk a couple more minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low, then add the cooled chocolate and milk alternately with the sifted dry ingredients—aim for about four cycles, mixing just until incorporated.

  6. Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake until tops spring back when lightly touched with the tip of your finger or a tester inserted in the centers comes out clean, about 40–45 minutes.

  7. Cool in pans for 20 minutes, then carefully run a knife or thin metal spatula around the edges of the cakes to loosen them, invert onto cooling racks and remove the pans. Let cool about 20 minutes longer, then either serve, or wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to frost and/or decorate—at least 1 hour or for up to 3 days. (You can pop the wrapped cake in a freezer bag and freeze for up to 2 months.)

Recipe Notes / Tips

  • You can use either milk with the teaspoon of apple cider vinegar or buttermilk in this recipe.
  • Use unsweetened cocoa instead of white flour to dust the pans when you're making chocolate cakes - works great and looks a lot better on the finished product!
  • This recipe makes great cupcakes. Bake 375°F for 20-25 minutes until top springs back with a gentle finger touch.

Italian Meringue/Marshmallow Frosting

makes enough to frost a double layer cake or two dozen cupcakes


  • 3 egg whites
  • ¼ tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup water


  1. Whisk egg whites until foamy, using whisk attachment on a stand mixer. Sprinkle in the cream of tartar, vanilla, pinch of salt, then gradually increase speed to high and whisk until egg whites hold soft peaks. Turn the speed to low as you make the sugar syrup (next step).

  2. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and set on the stovetop over medium heat. Cook, without stirring, until sugar is dissolved and temperature reaches soft-ball stage on a candy thermometer (225°–230°F at 5000 ft. elevation). Slowly dribble the boiling sugar syrup into the egg whites while the mixer is running on low, doing your best to aim the syrup between the whisk and the side of the bowl for best incorporation. When all the syrup has been added, increase mixer speed to medium-high and beat until mixer bowl is cool and egg whites form "stiff, shining, upstanding peaks" (thanks Julia Child!) which will take about 8 minutes. Use immediately to frost a cake, top a meringue tart, or make meringue cookies.




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