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Mile High Club: Tips and Tricks for High Altitude Baking

If you’re live and baking more than 3,500 feet above sea level, you’re going to have to learn how to bake at high altitude. Even if you’re a professional at sea level, the casualties that can befall sweets with high altitude baking are many: flat-as-a-pancake cookies, cakes that bubble over the edges of the pan, cupcakes that puff up dramatically, only to sink once taken out of the oven.

Here, we’ll discuss why high altitude baking is so different, and offer helpful tips and tricks.

These ideas from Denver-based baker Porche Lovely, owner of Church of Cupcakes, will help you adapt your favorite recipes for high altitudes.

High Altitude Baking: Cartoon of Pies in Clouds
Illustration via CakeSpy

How the altitude affects baked goods

High altitudes are characterized by a low air density, low air pressure, and low humidity. The weight of air, measured in pounds per square inch, decreases nearly one third from sea level to 10,000 feet.

So how does this affect cake? In a few ways.

The decrease in pressure lowers the temperature at which water boils. Cake-wise, this means that more liquid will evaporate before a cake tester will indicate doneness. Since the liquid evaporates more rapidly, this leaves you with a higher ratio of other ingredients, including leavening, flour, fat, and sugar. In essence, the ratios that make baked goods “work” has been thrown out of whack. In essence, you have to adjust your recipe to compensate for the lost liquid, but maintain the ratio of other ingredients.

Leavening is another sticky point. As Porche Lovely shares,

“At sea level the air is heavier; it pushes against the air or carbon dioxide as it expands in the heat of the oven. A sea level formula has these two opponents equally matched. As this same formula is taken higher and higher in elevation, the air pressure puts up less and less of a fight against the leavening. Like a balloon that’s been blown up and had the air let out, a favorite cake or quick bread will rise gloriously in the oven but will shrink to a shadow of its former self as it cools. The lower boiling temperature of water also effects chemical leavening agents because less of the baking soda or baking powder is neutralized during baking which leaves a bitter, soapy, or metallic aftertaste.”

So how do you adjust recipes to work in high altitudes when so many that work perfectly at sea level go wonky at great heights?

Here are a few tricks for adjusting recipes.

Rows of Decorated Cupcakes
Cupcakes baked at high altitude by Church of Cupcakes, photo via CakeSpy

Baking temperatures and times

Simply adjusting your temperature and bake time may have a profound effect on your baked goods at high altitude.  You can adjust the temperature up to  but no higher than 25 degrees F higher than the recipe’s suggestion for cookies, pies, and “sturdier” desserts; for more delicate desserts such as cakes, err on the side of caution and adjust the temperature only about 15 degrees higher (example: if a recipe calls for 350 degrees F, bake at 365 degrees F).

Because a higher temperature will lead to more rapid browning, you’ll want to reduce the bake time to avoid over-baking. A good general tip is to check the baked good 8 minutes ahead of time for every 30 minutes of baking. So, if you have a batch of cookies that are supposed to bake for 30 minutes, check them at 22 minutes and monitor them for doneness from there.

Adjusting the ingredients

High Altitude Baking Chart

The above guide is the one suggested for high altitude adjustments by Johnson and Wales University. However, if you’re not quite so mathematical, we’ve made some simple swaps which can be found below.

Author’s note: Having lived in the high altitude of Santa Fe, New Mexico for a year, I have developed my own batch of high altitude adjustments, which were largely influenced by the advice of Porche Lovely of Church of Cupcakes. Keep in mind that this is more of a loose guide than an absolute; like snowflakes, each recipe is different, and will require different tweaks to come out perfectly.


Leavening agents

The decreased air pressure works differently with leaveners such as baking soda or powder. Reduce the amounts by 1/4 to 1/8 teaspoon per recipe.


The increased evaporation rate for liquids leads to a higher concentration of sugar. In terms of structure, this is a bad thing: it can make cakes gooey, and not in a good way. Decrease the sugar by 1 tablespoon per cup in recipes.


A little extra liquid can go a long way when the evaporation rate is more rapid. Increasing the liquid (milk, water, etc) by 1 to 2 tablespoons .

Eggs can count as extra liquid, too. Adding an extra egg to recipes at high altitude can help maintain structure and keep things from drying out.


If your baked good is a house, flour is the foundation. Strengthen your foundation at high altitude by adding 1 tablespoon flour per cup called for in the recipe.


Slightly reducing the fat may help baked goods such as cookies from spreading too much. Reduce by about 1/2 tablespoon per stick of butter.

Baked Goods
Photo via CakeSpy

Notes on other aspects of baking

Because of the lowered temperature at which water boils, recipes for puddings, custards, and cream fillings may require added cooking time. Since the boiling temperature is lower, they may come to the point of bubbling before they have had a chance to set up properly.

That boiling temperature affects candy-making, too. The general rule is this: for every 1,000 feet above sea level, reduce the temperatures in a recipe by 2 degrees Farenheit. So, if you’re 8,000 feet above sea level and your recipe calls for 250 degrees F, you’ll adjust that to 236 degrees F.

Watch out for recipes which include yeast, such as homemade bread or yeasted coffee cakes. The rising time will likely be reduced at higher altitude, so if a recipe calls for resting the dough until it has doubled in size, look for visual cues rather than relying on a specific amount of time.

Do you have any high altitude baking tips to share?


Karinna Delany

Great tips, Jessie!

Mary Ellen Weyenberg

Are the above tips also good for coffeecakes? I live at 5000 ft. and wish to make my Heathbar coffeecake. Help!!


How do I adjust meringue shell recipe as I live one mile up from sea level in Arizona?
Your tips are invaluable!
Thank you very much.

Margie Cameron

They bake the same as at sea level. Don’t worry about it and leave the light on in your oven so you can keep a visual eye on them.


I know this is an older article, but I just wanted to say that I used your tips to adapt a white cupcake recipe with spectacular results! I have searched for years to find a white or vanilla cupcake that is moist but not too dense and not too airy and that will dome slightly on the top rather than fall flat. I finally did it!! I’ll be using these tips to adapt many of my favorite recipes. Thank you! BTW – I live in central New Mexico at about 5500 feet above sea level.


I want to eliminate the math. Where can I find baking recipes for altitude of 7500 feet in Colorado?
Hope you can help.
Thank you in advance.


Hello Mary,
I bought the Pie in the Sky cook book, it has the recipes altered for several different altitudes. Afraid I could not find it the other day, so again I did a German Chocolate cake that sunk in the middle!!! I tried to wing it. 🙁 Oh well. The book has a beautiful apple pie against a gorgeous blue sky. Happy baking!!! 🙂


HI Pixie,
Thanks for the recommendation.
I got back on this site tonight as I just pulled out (a boxed mix recipe for Chocolate Brownie cake) of the oven a beautiful Bundt cake which promptly fell in the middle. I had added extra flour for altitude but did not help. I will go to my ” go to” whipped cream center. I can remember as far back as the 1980’s Bundt cakes just always collapse in the middle so I fill them up..they look and taste great!

Julia Champenois

Is it good use all of these tips together, tempurture, time and ingredient adjustments or just adjust time and temp or adjust ingredients? Also I am in Los Alamos at around 7300 feet any additionally info would be great.


Get the book Pie in the Sky. The author tested a large group of recipes at various elevations until she got each one right, and the published them in the book with a list of ingredients for each elevation.


I was so angry when Costco quit selling my sister’s favorite style of caramels. I moped around up here at 6400 feet in Colorado until I literally bounced my head on my desk. I know that sea level boiling point is @ 212 and that boiled candies are all about boiling at certain temperatures. ( Geography class had taught me about higher altitudes having different numbers plus just baking my mother-in-law’s heart of chocolate cake looking like brownies up here really reminded me that baking at altitude takes attitude! Plus possibly doing homework before serving anything.) Getting back to my caramels epiphany- I took out my candy thermometer and boiled some water. I noted that it boiled @ 199 so I didn’t start any dropping into water until I’d passed that. Also one needs to boil pasta here nearly twice the time @ sea level. I thank you so much for the visuals and the temperature and timing charts. I’ve not been adventurous enough to see how many times and how much eggs and butter I’d go through to again have them again.


*very nice post, i certainly love this website, keep on it


WONDERFUL Post.thanks for share.


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