Great British Bake Off is back, and so is the Altitude Cake

With heavy hearts, the country’s culinary masterminds and closet bakers have been tuning into the new Channel 4 series of Great British Bake Off (GBBO), which started on Tuesday 29 August. On Twitter, the British public couldn’t conceal their reluctance to engage with the new programme; furious commentators admonished the 16 minutes of advert breaks, and sassy slights towards the new softly-spoken Noel Fielding were interspersed amongst a barrage of Mary Berry appreciation tweets.

Dramatics aside, the programme held fast to its winning formula and kicked us back into baking mode this autumn. GBBO serves as a reminder to the foodies amongst us at Heaven Publicity, that it’s not long now until we can tuck into a buttery French pastry on the side of the piste.

Amongst the programme’s wide-ranging fan base, are the ’dough-eyed’, soon-to-become chalet hosts, who will be setting off to the slopes in December. Most chalet hosts are expected to serve afternoon tea each day, with a large cake acting as the pièce de résistance. By watching the show hosts can gather inspiration for their 5’oclock gateau, as well as picking up helpful baking hacks. Second and third season chalet hosts know there is a lot to be learned from the weekly kitchen disasters that are so frequent among the amateur bakers in the GBBO tent.

Leftover cake is the currency for seasonaires, and for hosts that master the altitude cake, a slice can land them friends and discounts across the resort. Just imagine the ski gear a showstopper might buy!

But one feat that has never been attempted in a GBBO technical challenge, is the staple chalet host recipe: the Altitude Cake. Bakers who don’t adapt their recipes to suit the higher altitude and reduced air pressure of ski resorts, will face overflowing batter and fallen sponges.

A good altitude cake recipe will not only slow the rise of the bake and loss of moisture, but must be really quick and simple to maximise time on the slopes. So fast is this bake, that skiers making the switch from catered to self-catered accommodation might just consider giving it a go too.

A chalet cook’s course at Orchards Cookery, and a season in Morzine later, I am more than familiar with the successes and pitfalls of altitude baking. I am also an expert in devouring a carrot cake. Here is a fabulous chocolate cake recipe to use next time you are in the mountains and craving an afternoon treat. It uses one extra egg and one extra tub of flour than would be used in a Victoria sponge, or lemon drizzle. These extras are needed to offset the bitterness of the cocoa powder.

Megan’s Altitude Cake

Tip: The recipe requires natural yoghurt to add moisture. Use a single natural yoghurt pot (from a pack) in the mix, and then re-use the pot to measure out the rest of the ingredients into the bowl. This technique massively speeds up the process.

The Ingredients
The cake:
1 tub natural yoghurt (roughly 125mls)
2 tubs sugar
3 tubs plain flour
1 tub vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 sachet baking powder
1 tub chocolate cocoa powder

The icing:
110g/4oz softened butter
170g/6oz icing sugar
55g/2oz chocolate cocoa powder
1-2 tbsp milk

The Recipe

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 160c fan/180c conventional
  2. Line a baking tin with grease-proof paper
  3. Mix all ingredients together. Using the empty yoghurt pot to measure out the ingredients into the mixing bowl.
  4. Bake for 35-40 minutes and test with a skewer to check that it has been baked through. If the skewer comes out clean then it is cooked, but if not the cake must be returned to the oven for a few more minutes.
  5. Leave to cool before attempting to ice
  6. To ice the cake, beat the butter together with the icing sugar
  7. Once combined add the cocoa powder and milk to loosen. Continue to beat until smooth and creamy.