High Altitude Baking Tips for Cupcakes

Do you have problems baking cupcakes at high altitude? Look no further! I have all kinds of tips and tricks for high altitude cupcake baking success here!

I don’t bake cupcakes a lot.

It isn’t that I don’t like them, but perhaps due to the fact that I find recipes are very finicky here in Albuquerque at just over 5,000 feet elevation.

Cupcake recipes can often have unanticipated and most certainly unpleasant end results at high altitude.

Those which I have experienced: implosion, explosion, flat tops, and dry/coarse textured crumb.

high altitude tips for cupcakes

Pictured: Vanilla Bean Sour Cream Cupcake Recipe

Until now, I haven’t done much to investigate the cause of my high altitude baking problems.

But a few weeks ago with Madeline’s birthday party just around the corner I knew that it was time to nail down a white cupcake recipe that worked well at high altitude.

HIGH ALTITUDE CUPCAKE PROBLEMS

Most recipes are developed to be used at sea level.

Many problems can arise in high altitude baking:

Leavening gases expand faster at higher elevations.

The result: cakes rise too quickly.

Upon cooling, the cakes (or cupcakes) sink in the middle.

Moisture evaporates faster and higher elevations.

Baked goods also dry out faster than they would at sea level.

The result: cakes and cupcakes have a dry crumb.

It takes longer for recipes to bake.

High altitude baking problems begin to occur around 2,500 to 3,000 feet elevation and can require adjustments for satisfactory results in the recipe.

CUPCAKE HIGH ALTITUDE TROUBLESHOOTING

All recipes are different and certain troubleshooting tips will work for one and not the other.

It is certainly an experimentation process.

I went through a handful of cupcake tests before I was satisfied.

The final recipe was: Vanilla Bean Sour Cream Cupcake Recipe.

I recommend making only 1/4 of the original recipe so you aren’t wasting ingredients when you’re experimenting with tweaks.

The following are my general guidelines and tips for high altitude baking.

high altitude cupcakes

The same cupcake recipe prepared with a stand mixer and a hand mixer.

High Altitude Recipe Tips:

These high altitude cupcake recipe changes helped give the end result a nice, fluffy moist crumb.

Some suggest to use half All-Purpose and half Cake Flour vs. full Cake Flour in high altitude baking

Why? Because all-purpose has a higher gluten count which creates a strong batter.

Reduce the leavening in high altitude baking

Add acidic liquids to the batter in high altitude baking

Why? A more acidic batter gives a better rise and enables the cupcakes set more quickly in the oven.

  • I substituted part sour cream for the milk.
  • Buttermilk and yogurt are also acceptable substitutes.
  • Extra liquid can also be added to counteract drier air at high altitude. (Up from 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cup in my recipe)

Reduce the sugar slightly

Why? Less sugar strengthens the batter in high altitude baking.

  • In my recipe it decreased down to 1 1/3 from 1 1/2 cups

High Altitude Baking Tips:

The recipe changes coupled with these preparation changes produced a nice, fluffy moist crumb with an attractive domed appearance.

Increase the oven temperature.

Up to 5,000 ft. increase the temperature 15 degrees F. Over 5,000 ft. increase the temperature 25 degrees F.

  • Higher temperatures can also help the cupcake batter form a crust on top quicker, thus preventing the cupcakes from over rising and collapsing.

Don’t over-beat.

Too much air in the batter can cause a fast rise followed by a collapse.

  • Cupcakes made in my stand mixer rose quickly and collapsed, resulting in flat tops
  • Those made using a hand mixer did not have as much air beaten into the batter and stayed nice and domed on top.

What Readers are Saying about these High Altitude Cupcake Tips

“The stand mixer photo intrigued me so much I had to try it myself and compare. Wow. I feel like my already never used but loved Kitchen Aid just got its retirement notice. Making sponge cake at 4,700′ altitude and couldn’t figure out why it was always collapsing as I follow the directions to get “enough” air in the egg whites. Apparently too much. First perfect set of cupcakes I’ve made since moving to this altitude in 6 years.”

“Thank you SO MUCH for your advice! I am on a mission to create a high, moist, light, delicate white cake and I have had WAY more misses than hits. And all because I was doing exactly opposite of what I needed to do. I am at almost 6000 feet and 5% humidity and I came from the midwest at about 500 feet and 50% humidity. Until I read your suggestions, I thought I was just doomed to never make a good cake again. Thank you with all of my heart!”

“My cupcakes have fallen and they can’t get up. I am THRILLED to find your tips and my daughter even more so because now I will bake more cupcakes, no longer hiding my face in shame thanks to deflated cakes. THANK YOU for this post.”