Baking at High Altitudes

Baking at high altitudes requires some adjustments to standard cake, cookie, and yeast dough recipes.


General High-Altitude Issues

Water boils at lower temperatures, therefore:

Moisture evaporates more quickly.

Food can more readily dry out during cooking or baking.

Steamed or boiled foods will take longer.

Lower air pressure, therefore:

Baked goods using yeast, baking powder, baking soda, egg whites, or steam may rise excessively, then fall.

Adjustments for High-Altitude Baking

At high altitudes, bread rises higher and flour tends to be drier than at sea level. If you live in an area that is more than 1,000 feet above sea level, make these adjustments for cakes, cookies, and yeast doughs.

General Rules for High-Altitude Adjustments

  • Try smaller amounts first; make any necessary adjustments next time around.
  • Increase oven temperature about 20 degrees and decrease baking time slightly.
  • For cakes leavened by air, such as angel food, beat the egg whites only to soft peaks.
  • If the cake contains a cup or more fat or chocolate, you may need to reduce the shortening by 1 to 2 tablespoons and add an egg to prevent the cake from falling.

3,000 - 5,000 Feet Above Sea Level

  • Liquids: add 1 to 2 tablespoons for each cup.
  • Baking powder: decrease 1/8 teaspoon for each teaspoon.
  • Sugar: decease 0 to 1 tablespoon for each cup.

5,000 - 7,000 Feet Above Sea Level

  • Liquids: add 2 to 4 tablespoons for each cup.
  • Baking powder: decrease 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon for each teaspoon.
  • Sugar: decease 0 to 2 tablespoons for each cup.

Over 7,000 Feet Above Sea Level

  • Liquids: add 3 to 4 tablespoons for each cup.
  • Baking powder: decrease 1/4 teaspoon for each teaspoon.
  • Sugar: decease 1 to 3 tablespoons for each cup.
  • Cookies, biscuits, and muffins are more stable than cakes and need little adjustment at high altitudes.
  • If you feel it is necessary, slightly reduce the sugar and baking powder and increase the liquid.
  • For cookies, increase oven temperature about 20 degrees and slightly decrease baking time. This will keep your cookies from drying out.
  • If you find that muffinlike quick breads and biscuits develop a bitter or alkaline flavor, decrease the baking soda or powder slightly.
  • Because cakelike quick breads are more delicate, you may need to follow adjustment guidelines for cakes.
  • Yeast breads will rise more quickly at high altitudes. Allow unshaped dough to rise only until double in size, then punch the dough down. Repeat this rising step once more before shaping dough.
  • Because the drier flour found at high altitudes can absorb more liquid, watch the dough carefully as it mixes in the machine. If it seems dry, add additional liquid, 1 teaspoon at a time.
  • Reduce the yeast by 1/4 teaspoon. If your bread still rises too high, reduce the yeast by another 1/4 teaspoon the next time you make the recipe.
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