I Need a High Altitude Baking Expert

I Need a High Altitude Baking Expert

Ask the Chef

I Need a High Altitude Baking Expert


Q.   I have a special sour cream, butter coffee cake that I used to make in Los Angeles. It is a favorite family recipe. I have tried making it in Denver, Colo., a few times and it sinks after I take it out of the oven. I have made changes to the baking soda, baking powder and I have raised the temperature 15 degrees and baked it 5 minutes less (it calls for 45 mins.). I haven’t changed the sugar, sour cream, eggs, vanilla or butter. Please help me. I need a high altitude baking expert and I will be forever grateful. 

A: Because there is a lack of pressure and moisture in the air, high altitude baking means cakes expand faster, which can result in your cake sinking, or the batter overflowing.

You need to strengthen the structure of your cake for high altitude baking, and adjust for the lack of moisture. Here are some tips we found courtesy of Yahoo!.

  • Use extra large eggs instead of large eggs, or add an egg to a recipe to give it more structure, as well as more liquid to help combat the rapid evaporation.
  • You can also add strength to the structure of your cake by making sure that any water or eggs that you use in the recipe are cold.
  • Replace margarine with butter or high-quality vegetable shortening if your recipe calls for such an ingredient. You can also substitute all-purpose flour for cake flour.
  • Lifting your cake pan filled with batter onto the counter from 2-3 inches above the counter may help rid the batter of excess air bubbles.
  • You can also get rid of excess air bubbles by zig-zagging a knife through the batter once it is in the pan. You will want to do either of these just before you put your cake in the oven.
  • To help prevent your cake batter from overflowing when high altitude baking you should increase your baking temperature 15 to 25 degrees to allow your cake to establish a crust.
  • You will also want to fill your cake pans 1/3 to 1/2 full rather than the typical 2/3 full since cakes rise higher when high altitude baking. Also, because high altitude cakes do rise higher, you will want to remove any oven racks above the rack on which you will be baking your cake.
  • Because you’ll be raising your baking temperature, you will need to cut your bake time down by about 20% to prevent your cake from becoming dry and brittle.
  • Using 20% more water is recommended when baking cakes to combat the lack of moisture in the air at high altitudes. This will help you avoid ending up with a dry cake.


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