High Altitude Baking Tips

I have lived at high altitude (over 7,000 feet) for nearly 40 years and baking can be tricky.

I have found often times that my cakes will rise beautifully, then fall in the middle about 2/3 of the way through baking, which is quite discouraging after taking the time, effort and costs to bake some yummy cake or treats. After years of searching I have found these tips:

  1. Lower air pressure at high elevations can cause air bubbles trapped in the batter to rise at a faster rate. When this happens, cakes rise very fast and high, then fall. As a result, you end up with a dense, dry cake that may be sunken in the middle.
  2. You may need to change the proportion of ingredients in a recipe.
  3. You may need to raise the baking temperature as well.
  4. Most cake recipes need no modifications below or up to 3,000 feet. Above that, it’s often necessary to adjust recipes slightly, by decreasing the leavening and sugar (or both) and increasing the liquids.
  5. Butter, which melts in the oven, is considered a liquid; eggs, however, are not, they act as stabilizers in baked goods.

For Cakes Using Baking Powder:

  • Don’t overbeat the eggs. Overbeating adds too much air to the cake.
  • Raise the baking temperature slightly; the faster cooking time will keep the recipe from rising too much. At elevations over 3,500 feet, the oven temperature for batters and doughs should be about 25°F higher than the temperature used at sea level.
  • Decrease the amount of baking powder slightly; this also prevents the recipe from rising too much.

For Yeast Coffee Cakes:

Yeast cakes rise more quickly at high altitudes, so watch your dough carefully and judge the rise time by the change in the dough’s bulk, not by the amount of time it takes. Proofing time for yeast cakes should be reduced.

More High Altitude Baking Tips:

  • Cakes tend to stick more when they are baked at high altitudes, so always grease your pans well with shortening, such as Crisco, then dust them with flour, or line them with parchment paper.
  • Fill pans only 1/2 full of batter, not the usual 2/3 full, as high altitude cakes may overflow.

High Altitude Baking Guidelines

Follow the guidelines below for more specific adjustments at different altitudes. When adapting a recipe for high altitudes, always start out with the smallest adjustment then add more adjustments later and only if necessary. It’s a good idea to keep notes of how you adjusted your recipes until you know what works best for your particular altitude.

Adjustment for 3,000 feet:

  • Reduce baking powder: for each teaspoon decrease 1/8 teaspoon
  • Reduce sugar: for each cup, decrease 0-1 Tablespoon
  • Increase liquid: for each cup, add 1-2 Tablespoons
  • Increase oven temperature by 25°F

Adjustment for 5,000 feet:

  • Reduce baking powder: for each teaspoon decrease 1/8-1/4 teaspoon
  • Reduce sugar: for each cup, decrease 0-2 Tablespoons
  • Increase liquid: for each cup, add 2-4 Tablespoons
  • Increase oven temperature by 25°F

Adjustment for 7,000 feet:

  • Reduce baking powder: for each teaspoon decrease 1/4 teaspoon
  • Reduce sugar: for each cup, decrease 1-3 Tablespoons
  • Increase liquid: for each cup, add 3-4 Tablespoons
  • Increase oven temperature by 25°F

For all high altitude adjustments, lower your baking time slightly.

If your recipe says to bake for 20 minutes, for example, try 12-15 minutes and check it. If it takes 40 minutes, check it after 30 minutes, etc.

2 thoughts on “High Altitude Baking Tips

  1. This is very helpful! We moved to high altitude (8,500 ft) from seal level 3 years ago. I’ve never had a problem baking until living at altitude, and I still can’t seem to get it right. LoL! The reduced leavening has helped a lot. I’m excited to try the rest of these tips!

    I have a couple questions. 1) Should I tap the cake pan on the counter before baking to release the air bubbles? 2) I’ve read that adding an extra egg can help. Would I need to decrease another ingredient to add an extra egg? Or is the extra egg not necessary?

    • Carol, I’m so glad you find this post helpful. Yes, you can tap the cake pan on the counter a couple times before putting it in the oven, it does help to release some of the air bubbles. And no, you don’t need to add an extra egg. You can try it, however, if you want, and see if that helps if the other tips need more tweaking. Let me know how it goes. Debbie

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