Methods

High Altitude Baking

Baking at high altitudes, 3,500 feet above sea level or more, requires some adjustments to standard recipes. Here are some general guidelines:

Because there is generally lower humidity at high altitudes, flour tends to dry out more quickly and may absorb more liquid in a recipe. Store flour in an airtight container.

At any altitude above sea level, the air pressure is lower. This lower air pressure allows baked foods to rise faster. Leavening agents such as yeast, baking powder and baking soda create large gas bubbles that expand rapidly. The large bubbles can weaken the structure of baked goods and cause cakes and breads to collapse unless recipe adjustments are made. In addition, too much sugar can weaken the structure of baked goods.

Water boils at a lower temperature in higher altitudes than at sea level (as elevation increases, the boiling point is reduced 2 degrees per 1,000-foot increase), so foods take longer to cook. Liquids evaporate faster at high altitudes so foods such as cooked frostings and candies will become harder more rapidly.

If no high altitude adjustments are given in a recipe, here are some suggestions to try:

Cakes

Use the chart below to adjust the cake ingredients listed. Try the smaller amounts first; make any necessary adjustments the next time you make the recipe. When baking a cake, increase the oven temperature about 20°F and decrease the baking time slightly to keep it from expanding too much. If given a choice, use the largest pan size suggested. For cakes leavened by air, such as angel food, beat the egg whites only to soft peaks. Otherwise, your cakes may expand too much (because the air pressure is less). If you’re making a cake that contains a large amount of fat or chocolate (a cup or more) you may need to reduce the shortening by 1 or 2 Tbsp. and add an egg to prevent the cake from falling. The leavening, sugar, and liquid in cakes leavened with baking powder or baking soda may need adjustment, too (see chart below).

Ingredient 3,000 Feet 5,000 Feet 7,000 Feet
Liquid: add for each cup 1 to 2 Tbsp. 2 to 4 Tbsp. 3 to 4 Tbsp.
Baking powder: decrease for each teaspoon 1/8 teaspoon 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon 1/4 teaspoon
Sugar: decrease for each cup 0 to 1 tablespoon 0 to 2 Tbsp. 1 to 3 Tbsp.

Biscuits and Muffins

Biscuits and muffins are more stable than cakes and need little adjustment at high altitudes. If you feel it is necessary, experiment by slightly reducing the sugar and baking powder and increasing the liquid.

Cookies

Cookies usually need little adjustment at high altitudes. Try increasing the oven temperature about 20°F and slightly decrease the baking time. This will keep your cookies from drying out. For cake or bar-type cookies, reduce the sugar called for in the recipe by 3 Tbsp. per cup. If given a choice, use the largest pan size suggested.

Yeast Dough

At high altitudes, flours tend to be drier and therefore may absorb more liquid. If dough seems dry, add more liquid and reduce the amount of flour the next time you make the recipe. Yeast breads will require a shorter rising time and should rise only until double in size to prevent them from collapsing during baking. Allow unshaped dough to rise according to recipe directions; punch dough down. Repeat rising step once more before shaping dough.

Quick Breads

Quick breads often need 2 to 4 Tbsp. additional flour and a higher baking temperature.

Further Information

For more information on cooking at high altitudes, contact your county extension agent.