Buttermilk corncake studded with blueberries and topped with streusel. Also, tips for baking at high altitude.

High Altitude Baking- Blueberry Buttermilk Corncake - The Wimpy Vegetarian

Today marks the beginning of a new series I’m calling High Altitude Baking, which until I can think of something shorter and catchier, can be found under a new tab fittingly called High Altitude Baking. We spend, on average, a week every month in one of the little towns that dot the shores of Lake Tahoe, arguably one of the most gorgeous places on earth.  The lake is roughly 6200 feet above sea level, and over the last three years of baking and cooking up there, and making more hockey puck cakes than I care to remember, my baking success rate has dramatically improved.  So I thought I would start to share some of what I’ve learned and share some of the recipes.

I’ll add high altitude baking details as time goes on, but today I’ll start with the three biggest general lessons I’ve learned:

  1. It’s really, really, really dry up at 6200 feet, which means you need a moister batter going into the oven.
  2. The air pressure is much lower at 6200 feet, so unless you like something over-rising, or exploding in an oven, cut way back on leaveners, and dramatically shorten yeasted breads’ rising time.
  3. Anything, and I mean anything, will take longer to bake in the oven at 6200 feet than at sea level.

My first High Altitude recipe is for Blueberry Buttermilk Corncake, adapted from this month’s Abby Dodge #Baketogether project for Buttermilk Corn Muffins. Each month Abby chooses a recipe from her arsenal of fabulousness and posts it on her blog site, along with tips and photographs. Then anyone who wants to participate puts their own twist on it, and posts a photo of it on her site. If we have blogs, we also blog about it, and the photo is linked back to our blog posting. I invite you to go check out what others have done with the recipe so far by clicking on the above link, and please join in the fun if you want to take a stab at it yourself.

High Altitude Baking: Blueberry Buttermilk Corncake

If you make a comparison of Abby’s original Corn Muffins with my High Altitude Corncake, you’ll see I made the following adjustments for altitude:

  • I changed the egg from a large to an extra-large egg.
  • I increased the buttermilk amount from 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup
  • Since I kept the dry ingredients of flour, cornmeal, and sugar the same, I further increased the moistness of the batter by adding 2 tablespoons of moist cheese. Any combination of ricotta cheese and cream cheese works very well in this recipe.
  • I cut the baking powder in half from 2 teaspoons to 1 teaspoon.
  • I doubled the baking time due to 1) switching from muffins to a single cake, and 2) the high altitude.
  • I also think that by switching from muffins to a cake style helped to keep it moister, but I’ll have to make them as muffins now to make sure. Darn, I guess I’ll have to make them again. And again. And again :-)

Blueberry Buttermilk Corncake

     by Susan Pridmore



  • 3/4 cup (3 3/8 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (1 1/3 ounces) fine grind corn meal
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1 extra large egg, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons ricotta cheese OR cream cheese; OR 1 tablespoon of each
  • zest from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 pint blueberries, washed

Streusel (Optional)

  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled


Position an oven rack in the center of the oven. Heat oven to 350°F. Butter an 8″ cake pan. Place the cake pan on a piece of parchment paper, and trace the pan. With a pair of scissors, cut the circle out, about 1/4″ smaller than the tracing. Place the parchment circle in the cake pan, and butter it too. This will make it much easier to remove the cake following baking, and is worth the extra prepping time.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt. Whisk until well blended.

Measure the buttermilk using a 2 cup glass measuring cup (if you don’t have one, measure the buttermilk and pour into a small bowl). Add the egg, oil, vanilla extract, whatever combination of ricotta cheese and cream cheese you choose, and the lemon zest. Mix with a table fork or small whisk until well blended. Pour the liquid over the dry ingredients and whisk together.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan.

Sprinkle the blueberries evenly over the top. Place the baking pan on a baking sheet to catch any drips as the cake rises in the oven.

Combine all of the streusel ingredients in a small bowl and mix together with a pastry blender, fork or your fingers until the butter is completely coated and broken down into pea sized pieces. Sprinkle over the top of the batter.

Bake for 40 – 45 minutes, until the top is a pale golden color, and a pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Move to a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Carefully run a sharp knife around the edges of the pan, and flip the cake out onto a plate. The cake will be upside down, so flip it again back onto the wire cooling rack. Note: much if not all of the streusel will have sunk into the cake creating little ribbons of streusel in the cake.

Serve immediately or cool completely and stow in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to 2 days. We agree with Abby that we liked it best warm so please reheat if needed before serving.

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24 Responses to “Blueberry Buttermilk Corncake” Subscribe

  1. Jayne May 13, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

    Goodness, high altitude baking takes some thought! I’ve never tried it before. I like that you made a big corncake and the streusel ribbon sounds wonderful!

    • The Wimpy Vegetarian May 13, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

      Thanks Jayne! Seriously, it’s been quite a learning curve, and yes it takes a lot of planning….:-) I love your savory version of Abby’s muffins too!!!

  2. The Wimpy Vegetarian May 13, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

    A very Happy Mother’s Day to you too, Suzanne!! I hope you’re not working today :-) Going to a cake instead of the muffins, helps ensure a moister result, which I just realized. I’m adding that to the list. Baking at altitude is more of a science lesson, that’s for sure.

  3. LiztheChef May 13, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

    This is a most useful column, Susan. I remember lots of weird recipes I used to turn out during ski vacations…

    • The Wimpy Vegetarian May 16, 2012 at 9:52 am #

      Thanks Liz!! I could write a cookbook just on my mistakes up there. I think what I’ll do is always make sure a ‘sea level’ version is linked to or provided on my site if it’s my own recipe.

  4. CJ at Food Stories May 13, 2012 at 3:32 pm #

    Yum … this looks amazing :-)

    • The Wimpy Vegetarian May 16, 2012 at 9:53 am #

      Thanks CJ!! Abby’s recipes are just wonderful to begin with, so I can’t take any credit there :-)

  5. Lynda - TasteFood May 13, 2012 at 5:31 pm #

    What a great idea for a series. Another good incentive to go to the mountains!

  6. abby dodge May 14, 2012 at 8:30 am #

    This is sensational! Not only is this a terrific and useful series but this cake.. oh this cake looks amazing and the ricotta is genius!

    • The Wimpy Vegetarian May 16, 2012 at 9:55 am #

      Your recipe is sensational, Abby!! And thanks – I’m excited about the series :-)

  7. Suzi May 14, 2012 at 11:18 am #

    Wow, I have never thought about high altitude baking, here is FL we are about 100 feet above sea level. Very helpful series you’ve started. I really like the twist on cornbread with the addition of blueberries, looks delish.

    • The Wimpy Vegetarian May 16, 2012 at 9:56 am #

      Thanks Suzi! I think I’ll always have a link to a ‘sea level’ version too, but it’s still all really in the early stages. But I’m excited about it :-)

  8. Hester @ Alchemy in the Kitchen May 15, 2012 at 12:14 am #

    The concept of H.A.B. hardly ever crosses my mind as what we have here in Ireland barely qualify as mountains however this moist cornbread would be a delicious treat at any altitude.

    • The Wimpy Vegetarian May 16, 2012 at 9:57 am #

      I’ve been to your gorgeous, gorgeous country and yes, HAB is really not an issue. But if you take a vacation to the mountains, now you’ll be armed! Thanks for stopping by, Hester!

  9. Terra May 15, 2012 at 5:46 pm #

    I am a big fan of anything with corn. I wish my hubby liked corn bread more, LOL! This really sounds lovely, a perfect breakfast treat! Hugs, Terra

    • The Wimpy Vegetarian May 16, 2012 at 10:05 am #

      Thanks Terra! It was gone in 24 hours with a brief skirmish with my husband over who got more of it. It strikes me you could make it for yourself – it comes together really quickly – cut into slices and freeze them. Just microwave or heat in the oven for your breakfast :-)

  10. The Wimpy Vegetarian May 16, 2012 at 9:54 am #

    Thanks so much Jen! And thanks for stopping by :-)

  11. Hannah May 17, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

    I love your creation, Susan! Blueberries and cornmeal pair so well together. What a lovely cake (and helpful column).

    • The Wimpy Vegetarian May 18, 2012 at 5:04 pm #

      Thanks so much Hannah. I really think this recipe would be right up your alley. You would love it (but maybe the sea level version on Abby’s site).

  12. Barbara | Creative Culinary May 18, 2012 at 4:11 pm #

    I live at high altitude in Denver. Not as high as Tahoe but I deal with 5280′ every single day. I have good days and some not so good days (I just made the most horrible, terrible, no good, very bad angel food cake ever!) but one thing I’ve learned and share with newbies is that I think one measure of success at high altitude is knowing when to punt! Depressions might get more frosting or maybe some fruit in them, cracks a glaze and if all else fails…gotta laugh at yourself a bit too.

    I’ve lived here a long time and not sure why I didn’t try this before but I’ve been raising my oven temp a bit and using the convection oven and have seen some great results. My thinking was that a higher temp might help to more quickly set the risen dough and not allow it to rise and then deflate. So far, so good…so time to test that theory on angel food cake, huh? Nice info…and good luck!

    • The Wimpy Vegetarian May 18, 2012 at 4:59 pm #

      Hi Barbara! Yes, you deal with this on a daily basis, and am so sorry to hear about your poor angel food cake. Maybe a lot of fudge would help?? :-) I made the multilayered chocolate cake from the cover of one of Dorie Greenspan’s cookbooks a couple of years ago and it turn out like 3 hockey pucks instead of the 3 fluffy layers I was hoping for. I should add that I’m quite certain the problem was not with Dorie’s recipe as it was probably one the most baked cakes across the country when the cookbook came out. The icing, however, was perfect. Nice and creamy, making it perfect for the layers to all slide in different directions when we tried to cut it. For a good friend’s birthday. At a party. Sigh. But you’re right, you have to punt, figure it out, and not take it too seriously. I’m interested in your idea of raising the oven temp a bit. I’ve been concerned about doing that in case it dried stuff out more since I’m dealing with such a dry environment. But I’m going to try it. Would love to hear how it works on the angel food cake if you try it! It’s all a learning curve, and I know my experiences at 6800 feet above sea level may not be the same as at 5280 feet.

      • Barbara | Creative Culinary May 22, 2012 at 10:13 am #

        I will let you know but if I recall, those boxes of cake mix I used as a kid did indicate a higher temp as part of their high altitude revisions, didn’t they (I’m checking next time I’m at the grocery).

        What I’ve done with success so far is to increase the moisture too; mostly because of how the dryness dries out ingredients, and then shorten the cooking time a bit to balance that higher temp. Now…the angel food cake would be a good test, I’ve just got to remember to buy a dozen extra eggs when I’m at the grocery!

        You know if you can master baking at that altitude you might have to rethink the ‘wimpy?’ :)

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