Elevate Your Baking

Contributor: Lindsey Congalosi. Lesson ID: 13115

Baking at high elevations is a tricky process. You could buy a ton of high-altitude cookbooks filled with modified recipes, or you can read this lesson and learn how to modify any recipe yourself!


Chemistry, Practical Life Skills

learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Beaver, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • Why is it so difficult to bake when you're located high above sea level?
  • Why don't regular recipes give us the same result at 6,000 feet as they do at 0 feet?
  • Why are there thousands of cookbooks written specifically for high altitudes?

The culprit, as you'll learn, is air. Understand how high-altitude air changes the process of baking and examine what can be done to correct this.

The Denver Bread Company is a very popular bakery. When you walk into this bakeshop, you're hit with the 'smell of yum' - cakes, croissants, donuts, and more. It looks similar to any other great bakery in the United States but with one big difference.


They don't use the same recipes.

The Denver Bread Company is located in Denver, Colorado.

Denver skyline

Denver is also known as the 'Mile High City' because of its elevation. It is located about 5,280 feet above sea level, which is exactly one mile!

Tip: To remember the number of feet in a mile, picture five tomatoes.

5 tomatoes

Say it out loud. "There are five tomatoes in a mile. Five tomatoes. Five toom ate oes. Five Two Eight Oh. 5,280!"

  • But what does Denver's altitude have to do with baking?

First, we have to look at what's different as we move progressively higher above sea level. For a review on the layers of the atmosphere, check out the Elephango lesson found under Additional Resources in the right-hand sidebar.

As we increase in altitude, there is less air pressure.

air pressure diagram


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air molecule diagram

Watch the video below to review air pressure and how it is affected by altitude.

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  • So air pressure decreases as you move higher up, but what effect does lower air pressure have on baking?

inside oven

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Most, if not all, of the issues with cooking at a high altitude are related to the effect of heat on water.

There are thousands of ways to cook or bake something, and most of them involve manipulating the water in food to change the flavor and texture. Because of this, altitude has a substantial effect on cooking and baking. A recipe that turns out perfectly at sea level may fail when made at a higher altitude.

burnt cake

  • What's the solution?

You can buy books that are specifically written for high-altitude cooking and baking.

There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of different cookbooks to choose from with recipes that are already modified to work at higher altitudes.

  • But what about other recipes?
  • If you move to a higher altitude, how would you make the beautiful cake you found online or your grandma's famous chocolate chip cookies?


These recipes will have to be changed. Head over to the Got It? section to learn about these changes. Then, you will be able to use any recipe you find - and save a lot of money on cookbooks!

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