Baking cupcakes at high altitude

Vera Dawson answers a cupcake baking query in the Vail Daily:

Times are hard ... shocking gas prices, a devastating invasion of pine beetles, and, if that isn’t enough to send you into a funk, we now face a cupcake crisis in the mountains!

In the last two weeks, at least four readers have contacted me describing cupcake disasters — rock-hard textures, soggy centers and deflated tops. Each pleaded for immediate help. I doubt FEMA will respond, so I’m doing what I can to mitigate the situation.

I must admit, cupcakes are not easy at altitude. In my opinion, they are one of the hardest cakes to master. It took me numerous tries before I was satisfied with this recipe. And, it’s not like this one results in some fancy, gourmet dessert. On the contrary, this is your birthday party, lunch box, picnic basket cupcake.

It’s a straightforward, sturdy little thing with a firm but tender texture and a pleasing taste of vanilla and butter. Given the difficulties of mountain baking, another one of its assets is its reliability. The recipe works, and, I’m relieved to say, it does so each and every time I make it.

I am equally impressed with its versatility. Though I chose a chocolate-peanut butter frosting for the cupcakes in the photo, frost it with whatever you like or cover it with berries and whipped cream. It stands up well to any topping you choose.

Read on to get her recipe for Golden Mountain cupcakes