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Featured Baker • Greg Patent

Greg Patent spent years researching this marvelous collection, seeking out early American recipes and their histories. His book contains 250 clearly written recipes for both classic and creative sweet and savory baked goods. You’ll find fascinating history, antique gossip, cook’s profiles, and your favorite treats, everything from easy to make Parker House Rolls to Martha Washington’s Currant Cake.

For the high altitude baker, Greg has a special tip:
“When I bake at home in Missoula, Montana (3300 ft.), I need to make several changes to sea level recipes to get them to work. My most unusual trick, when baking a “puff” (sponge, angel, or chiffon) cake raised with whipped egg whites, is to prepare the batter in the usual way (but under-beat the whites slightly), set the pan in the cold oven, then turn the heat to 350”F – or the recommended temperature- and set a timer for the regular time; at the end, the cake has risen and baked perfectly!”

For Greg Patent’s Orange Puff Cake recipe,
Please scroll down.



Ask our team of experts your most puzzling high altitude baking question, and we’ll e-mail you back a response.


A Reader writes:
“I recently moved to New Mexico (7200 feet elevation) from Michigan and my favorite applesauce cake won’t work. When baked the top sinks and crusts over while the batter below remains wet and gooey. Should I increase the heat? Help!”

The Expert replies:
“Applesauce Cake has a heavy, dense batter and is usually baked in a loaf or square pan. Change to a tube pan (generously greased and floured) so heat can reach the middle of the batter, and your cake will rise again. At your altitude, strengthen the batter by cutting out 1/4 cup of sugar; if you are now using one large egg, try adding a second one along with a tablespoon of water or fruit juice. Bake at 350ºF for about 40 to 45 minutes; don’t raise the oven temperature. From 3000 to about 5500 feet, you can increase the oven to 375”F but cut the time to 35 to 40 minutes.”





By Greg Patent, author of More Big Sky Cooking (Eagle Communications, Inc. 1980)

This moist light sponge cake has a strong orange flavor. It is my adaptation of a sea level recipe from Mildred O. Knopf's "The Perfect Hostess Cookbook" (Knopf, 1950). I tinkered several years to “altitude” the recipe so it would work at my mountain home in Montana (elevation 3,250 feet). I adjusted ingredients and techniques, but my most important change, guaranteeing success, was to put the cake batter into a cold oven and then turning it on. The cake rises perfectly as the oven heats. Be sure to use a 10 x 4-inch aluminum angel-food cake tube pan with a removable bottom--not a Teflon-lined pan.

Finely grated zest of 1 large orange
3 tablespoons strained fresh orange juice
9 extra-large egg whites (1 1/4 to 1 1/3 cups), at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/3 cups sugar
2/3 cup water
7 or 8 extra-large egg yolks, about 1/2 cup (see Note)
1 teaspoon pure orange extract
1 1/2 cups sifted bleached cake flour

1. Grate the orange zest; squeeze and strain the juice, and reserve both.

2. Beat the whites and salt together until foamy. Strain the cream of tartar into the whites and continue beating until the whites form quivering, slightly curling, shiny, moist peaks when the beater is lifted. (Above 7,000 feet, beat whites to soft peaks, not stiff.)

3. In a 1-quart saucepan, bring the sugar and water to the boil, stirring occasionally. Stop stirring, insert a candy thermometer, and continue cooking--without stirring--until the temperature is between 234° and 238°F (soft ball stage). This will take about 4 minutes.

4. Start beating the whites on medium-low and slowly add the syrup in a thin stream to the whites. Do not add the syrup too quickly or you will cook the whites. Pour only what will come out of the pan without scraping the pan. Increase the speed to medium and continue beating until the whites form moist, peaks that curl slightly at their tips. Do not beat until the whites form absolutely straight, stiff peaks. (Above 7,000 feet, beat whites just to soft slightly droopy peaks.)

5. Beat the egg yolks on high speed until they are very thick and pale, about 5 minutes. Add the orange zest, orange juice, and orange extract. Beat again at high speed for 1 to 2 minutes.

6. Sift enough cake flour onto a sheet of wax paper to measure 1 1/2 cups when spooned into dry measuring cups to overflowing and leveled with a metal spatula. Resift the flour 4 times.

7. Pour the egg yolk mixture onto the whites and fold them together gently with a large rubber spatula. Sift about 1/4 of the flour onto the batter and fold it in gently. Repeat with the remaining flour.

8. Pour the batter into the un-greased cake pan. Run a clean knife in concentric circles all through the batter to remove any large air pockets, then smooth top of batter.

9. Adjust oven rack to the lower third position, and place the pan in the cold oven. Turn the oven on to 325°F. Bake about 55 minutes, until top of cake is a deep golden brown color, and it springs back when lightly pressed near the center.
Turn cake upside down and let it "hang" by its central tube over a narrow-necked wine bottle until completely cool, about 3 hours. Remove from the pan by running a sharp thin-bladed knife all around the side of the cake. Lift the cake out of the pan, and dislodge the cake with the knife from the bottom of the pan. Carefully invert the cake onto a wire rack. Cover with another rack and invert again so that the cake is right side up.

NOTE: On humid days, use 8 large eggs for a better rise.


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