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Tips for High Altitude Baking

Did your cake fall flat even though you followed the recipe exactly? The problem just may be with where you live.

This is because that at higher elevations, there is lower air pressure. This causes air bubbles trapped in the batter to rise at a faster rate.

When this happens, cakes rise very fast and high, and since they are not baked enough to hold that structure, they fall. The result is a cake that is very dense and dry, and sunken-in.

If you live in an area below 3000 feet, your recipe shouldn’t need any altering. But as you get higher up in elevation, you may need to adjust the recipe slightly by decreasing the amount of sugar and/or leavening, as well increasing the liquids*.

Higher elevation causes air bubbles trapped in the batter to rise at a faster rate-if the cake isn't baked enough to hold that height, it will fall

Increasing the baking temperature will also help, as the faster cooking time prevents the batter from rising too much.

When adapting a recipe to where you live, always start out with the smallest adjustment then make more as needed. Be sure to keep notes of what you did!

Recipe Adjustment for 3000-4000 feet:

  • Increase oven temperature by 25°F
  • Reduce baking powder by 1/8 tsp for every tsp called for
  • Reduce sugar by 1 Tbsp for each cup called for
  • Increase liquid by 1-2 Tbsp for each cup called for

Recipe Adjustment for 5000-6000 feet:

  • Increase oven temperature by 25°F
  • Reduce baking powder by 1/8-1/4 tsp for each tsp called for
  • Reduce sugar by 1-2 Tbsp for each cup called for
  • Increase liquid by 2-4 Tbsp for each cup called for

Recipe Adjustment for 7000+ feet:

  • Increase oven temperature by 25°F
  • Reduce baking powder by ¼ tsp for every tsp called for
  • Reduce sugar by 2-3 Tbsp for each cup called for
  • Increase liquid by 3-4 Tbsp for each cup called for

 

Note: Baking soda is a single-action leavener: once wet is added to dry ingredients it reacts and makes bubbles (CO2). Baking powder is a double-acting leavener: it contains baking soda so reacts as above, but also contains a heat-activated leavener (2 weak acids). So it has another rising action once the batter gets heated in the oven.
In the case of baking at high altitudes you still want the initial rise (baking soda), but want to reduce that extra (over) expansion in the oven that the baking powder would give you.

*Liquids include butter, but not eggs  

2 Responses to Tips for High Altitude Baking

  1. Sharyn February 6, 2018 at 4:25 am #

    Should baking soda also be reduced for altitude?

    • Marla Hingley
      Marla Hingley February 6, 2018 at 8:48 am #

      Great question! No, it doesn't. Baking soda is a single-action leavener: once wet is added to dry ingredients it reacts and makes bubbles (CO2). Baking powder is a double-acting leavener: it contains baking soda so reacts as above, but also contains a heat-activated leavener (2 weak acids). So it has another rising action once the batter gets heated in the oven.
      In the case of baking at high altitudes you still want the initial rise (baking soda), but want to reduce that extra (over)expansion in the oven that the baking powder would give you.

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