Mel’s Perfected Yellow Cake (High Altitude Directions)

cakeI had to take one for the team this last week.  I had to test out a lovely Yellow Cake a few times to see what changes needed to be made for high altitude.  We ate cake.  We ate lots of cake actually, but I didn’t hear anyone complain.  My friend Mel at Mel’s Kitchen Cafe sent me a recipe and directions for a cake she has been perfecting for awhile now.  I believe her family ate 10 times more cake than we did or more!  It was after her 16th attempt that she felt like the cake was perfect.  My job was testing the recipe at high altitude.  I live in a lovely little mountain valley at approximately 5200 ft. above sea level.   Therefore I think you can consider me a High Altitude girl.

The original cake recipe actually made a very tasty cake, but it was super finicky.  It fell in the oven, it was hard to get out of the pan, and it was a little too moist.  I frosted it as a layer cake, but it wasn’t pretty.  Taste- AMAZING!  Look-pretty sad:(  So here’s where some minor tweaks for altitude came into play.  They worked magic, and created the pretty cake that Mel worked so hard to create.

My notes for high altitude:

  • -added 2 1/2 T. flour
  • -greased AND floured the cake pans and the parchment circles on the bottom of the pans
  • -bake time increased to 30 minutes
  • -DO NOT open oven door to peak!  Results in cake falling.
  • -weighing ingredients was a must.  I hate to say that because it is such a hassle sometimes, but weighing created the most consistent cake.
  • Results were a beautiful yellow cake that held together really well.  Slipped right out of the pans, and frosted perfectly!  And I will suggest using Mel’s Chocolate Buttercream.  It’s lovely.  So no matter where you live, you have no excuse to not make a perfect yellow cake.  

Mel’s Perfected Yellow Cake (High Altitude Directions)


  • 1 cup butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar (13 ounces)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 9 ounces cake flour + 2 1/2 T. for high altitude
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk (1% or anything higher fat than that), room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (light or regular), room temperature


Beat the butter in the bowl of an electric stand mixer (or with a handheld electric mixer) for 1-2 minutes.

Add the sugar and beat for 4-5 minutes, no less.

Beat in the vanilla.

Mix in the eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, mixing just until combined.

Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Whisk together the sour cream and milk in a liquid measure.

Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the batter and mix just until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Add 1/2 of the milk/sour cream mixture and mix.

Add another 1/3 of the dry ingredients, mixing just until combined.

Add the last 1/2 of the milk/sour cream, mix.

Add the final dry ingredients and mix just until combined.

Grease AND flour 2 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottom with a parchment round, grease AND flour the parchment.

Divide the batter evenly between the two pans.

Drop each pan from about 3-inches onto the counter to minimize air bubbles while baking.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-28 (28-30 for high altitude) minutes until lightly golden around the edges and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs.

Do not peek until the last minute or two. My cakes had a tendency to fall if disturbed:)


  1. Susie says

    Lisa: I am hoping you can help me with a baking dilemma. When I make brownies in a 13 x 9 pan I end up with an inch high crust all around the pan with the center somewhat concave. They taste ok but don’t look good, especially when I make the mint brownies with the green frosting and then the chocolate frosting over all. I live almost as high as you do. Could it be the high elevation? Any suggestions? I would love to make some nice flat, even brownies. It happens with both of my go-to brownie recipes.

    • Lisa says

      Susie!! Ok I totally know what you’re talking about with the high crusted brownies. I’ve had that problem a few times too. I’m going to give you a link to my favorite brownie that seems to turn out perfect every time. There’s a little bit of a lip on the crust but not the mile high. Compare it with your old stand by recipes and notice if there’s a difference. Also I was amazed at what 2 T. of flour did for Mel’s Yellow Cake. It seemed like such an insignificant amount, but it made a world of difference. Give one of your recipes the added 2 T. and see what it does. I’d love to take a look at your recipe if your feeling up to typing it out to see if I can see a big difference. Here’s the link to my favorite brownie and you can see in the picture there’s not much of a lip. Good luck and let me know how it turns out:) xoxo Lisa

  2. susan says

    I made this cake for G’s birthday! I added the extra flour and my cake turned out lovely and plump and didn’t fall at all! And I enjoyed the flavor. I good yellow cake is perfection.

    My only sadness is that in my old oven 30 minutes was a bit too much and it turned out a touch dry. Such sadness. But thats my oven! I will definitely be making it again, but I think I will start watching it close a pinch before that time.

  3. Naomi says

    This didn’t turn out for me at all. I live at 9000 feet, so anyone thinking this will work that high up, it doesn’t. It was dense, didn’t rise, and had an eggy flavor to the cake. I had to throw it away and search for something else.

    • Lisa says

      Naomi, Dang!! I am sorry this didn’t work out for you. 9000 ft up!! You must live WAY UP! I’m in the mountains of Utah, but only half your elevation. Question for you. Do you have a rough time with most recipes, and what do you do to make them work out? I’m interested to hear what would work better for you. And again sorry for the wasted time and ingredients:(

  4. says

    I live at almost 6000ft and I followed this recipe to the letter with one exception: I added 1 extra teaspoon of vanilla and pulled out a teaspoon of milk. Not scientific. My cake was also super dense with an almost pudding cake consistency. The flavor wasn’t too eggy. In fact it was delicious and I would try this recipe again if I could figure out how to make it fluffier. BTW this was the first cake I’ve ever made in my life. Ever. Not even a box cake. I’m 54 years old, too. Yeah, I was that mother…always brought the napkins, plates, cups, and forks. Maybe I’ll make another cake in the next fifty years.

    • Lisa says

      Laura you are a doll!! Your comment totally made me laugh:) Let me know the next time you try a cake. I’d like to hear how it turns out:) Happy baking!

  5. says

    Made this today for my husband’s birthday — we’re at 6000 feet – and it turned out perfect. It takes incredible and the chocolate buttercream is perfect. I shared the link to your page in my group The Cookbook Junkies — you may see a surge in pins of the recipe. So good.

  6. kathy Harrington says

    I live at 8500 ft and it sunk in the middle. I’m not sure why. This is the first cake I made at this altitude and I’m disappointed as I thought using a recipe for high altitude would work. I think I will try using a regular recipe and adjusting it.

    • Lisa says

      Kathy, Dang!! I’m sorry!! 8500′ F is almost double my altitude. I’m at 4500′. You are at an “extra high” altitude:) What have you done to other recipes to help? I’d be totally interested to know and to add some notes to this recipe for other bakers.

  7. Amber says

    I’m at 6,000 ft and I’m going to make this for my daughter’s birthday. I think the cake will be a 3 layer 10 inch or a 2-3 layer 12 inch. Does this recipe multiply nicely? How many times would you multiply? Thank you!

  8. Lauren says

    If I’m making the cake in one deep cake pan do you know about how long it will take?! It’s an industrial deep cake pan! 3 1/2inches deep and 9 inches wide.

    • Lisa says

      Hi Lauren! First off, are you making this cake for something special, or are you just baking for you and your family? If it’s just to eat after dinner with your family- go for it! If it’s for a special occasion I wouldn’t experiment. It’s temperamental and if your altitude is higher than 4500′ above sea level it hasn’t had real great reviews. Some folks who live higher up than I do have had down right yucky results. And To help with the different pan, I’m not sure, but a good rule would be to add 10 minutes to the time and then check. Keep adding 10 minutes until the cake is set. Checking cakes isn’t usually the best idea, but if you barely jiggle the pan, and the middle isn’t set, give it more time. I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful! Let me know how it turns out:)

  9. Sara says

    Thank you for sharing! Is there a way to flavor the cake to lemon or strawberry without messing up the science?

  10. Lisa says

    I live at 6500 feet and this recipe did not work for me at all. It overflowed in my oven and started a fire! What was left in the pan was super dense and way too oily. Seems like way too much butter. It was also completely concave to the point of being flat as a cookie in the center. It was almost the same consistency too. Bummer! I loved to bake cakes when I lived at sea level. Have never had much luck at altitude whether I use a modified recipe or not. Sadly the only ones that ever seem to work are box mixes. It’s pies from here on…

  11. Latosha Britt says

    I’m at 5,500ft in Colorado & our cake came out perfect ! We let it cook about 5/10 min longer and it was cooked in a 13X9. My only question is can I add more sugar? It wasn’t that sweet.

  12. Zoe says

    Wow! I just wanna say THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!! I live at 8000 ft and I’ve tried at least 4 cake recipes, and each one collapsed into a bunch of crumbs as it came out of the pan! But this cake came out PERFECTLY and I covered it with lemon buttercream and fondant. Thank you so so much!!!

  13. Danielle Chavez says

    Is there a way to convert this to white cake recipe? I was thinking use 6 egg whites and replace half the butter with shortening? If not, do you have a high altitude white cake mix recipe? I tried this yellow cake and it was fantastic. I used it for a pineapple upside down cake and it was delicious and moist.

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