High Altitude Cake Baking

Learn how to adjust recipes for high-altitude baking.

Kentucky Butter Cake

Photo by waimea16

Why is high elevation a problem when baking?

Lower air pressure at high elevations causes 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.

So, what do I do?

  • You may need to change the proportion of ingredients in a recipe.
  • You may need to raise the baking temperature as well.

Most cake recipes need no modification 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. Butter, which melts in the oven, is considered a liquid; eggs, however, are not–they act as stabilizers in baked goods.

Baking

Avoid dry cakes and quick breads with these tips.

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 degrees 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 tips:

  • Cakes tend to stick more when they are baked at high altitudes, so always grease your baking pans well and 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.

Follow the chart below for more specific adjustments. 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 location.

Adjustment for 3000 feet:

  • Reduce baking powder: for each teaspoon decrease 1/8 teaspoon.
  • Reduce sugar: for each cup, decrease 0 to 1 tablespoon.
  • Increase liquid: for each cup, add 1 to 2 tablespoons.
  • Increase oven temperature by 25 degrees F.

Adjustment for 5000 feet:

  • Reduce baking powder: for each teaspoon, decrease 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon.
  • Reduce sugar: for each cup, decrease 0 to 2 tablespoons.
  • Increase liquid: for each cup, add 2 to 4 tablespoons.
  • Increase oven temperature by 25 degrees F.

Adjustment for 7000+ feet:

  • Reduce baking powder: for each teaspoon, decrease 1/4 teaspoon.
  • Reduce sugar: for each cup, decrease 1 to 3 tablespoons.
  • Increase liquid: for each cup, add 3 to 4 tablespoons.
  • Increase oven temperature by 25 degrees F.