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Nutrition and Food Safety

University of Wyoming Extension


Altitude adjustments for food preparation in Wyoming becomes most apparent when you bake your favorite sea-level cake recipe. All steps in baking a cake, from selection of ingredients to baking temperature, become more critical.

Select ingredients carefully and measure accurately. Substitutions, such as using all purpose flour for cake flour, can cause undesirable results. Mixing directions must be carefully standardized and pan size should be correct for your recipe.



Cake recipes perfected for sea level usually need no adjustment up to altitudes of 3,000 feet. Above 3,000 feet, lower atmospheric pressure may cause the cake to rise too quickly. The cell structure overexpands before the cake "sets." At best, your cake may have a coarse texture. At worst, cell-walls may overexpand and break, causing the cake to fall. The cake batter may rise so high during this expansion that it spills over the top of the pan.

These problems can usually be corrected by adjusting baking temperature and one or more key ingredients: baking powder or soda, sugar, liquid and fat. Only one adjustment should be made at a time and only in the order given on the following table:


3,000 ft.
5,000 ft.
7,000 ft.
Reduce baking powder. For each teaspoon decrease
1/8 tsp.
1/8 - 1/4 tsp.
1/4 tsp.
Reduce sugar. For each cup decrease
0-1 Tbsp.
0-2 Tbsp.
1-3 Tbsp.
Increase liquid. For each cup add
1-2 Tbsp.
2-4 Tbsp.
3-4 Tbsp.

Another adjustment is to increase baking temperature 15o - 25o Fahrenheit. This helps "set" the batter before it overexpands. Increasing baking temperature also helps overcome the lighter crust color that occurs because of fast moisture evaporation.

This fast, excessive moisture evaporation leads to high sugar concentration which weakens the cell structure in cakes. To compensate for this, decrease sugar or increase liquid in the recipe.

Fat also weakens the cell structure of a cake. Rich cakes may need one or two tablespoons less fat per cup, called for in your recipe. Eggs strengthen cell structure. Adding an egg may prevent a "rich" cake from falling.



When baking cake mixes at high altitudes, follow altitude adjustments given on the box. Adjustments usually strengthen cells of the cake with addition of all-purpose flour, egg yolk, or liquid.



Angel food and sponge cakes present special problems at high altitudes. The leavening agent for these cakes is mostly air, but it is important not to beat too much air into the eggs. Beat eggs until they form a peak that falls over, not until they are stiff and dry. Overbeating expands air cells too much and causes cakes to fall. Using less sugar, more flour and a higher baking temperature will strengthen the cell structure of angel food and sponge cakes.

Source: Cooking and Baking it Up! Altitude Adjusters by Vicki Hayman, Phyllis Lewis, and Melissa Bardsley, University of Wyoming Extension Publication B-1310, 2018, with adaptations from UW Extension Cent$ible Nutrition cookbook.

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