how baking powder reacts under pressure

To illustrate how baking powder behaves in the pressure cooker, we need three cooks to bake a cake.  One lives at sea level, the other in a high-altitude location, and the last one in a low-altitude location – we’ll get to them in a second.

How Baking Powder Reacts under pressure

If all three chefs, follow the same cake recipe, the chef at sea level will get a perfect cake. The high-altitude chef’s cake is going to over-expand, and the low-altitude chef’s cake will remain a solid disk. That’s because the atmospheric pressure is different for each location. As the altitude rises, the pressure decreases, and as the altitude lowers the pressure increases. And, just in case you haven’t already guessed, the low-altitude chef represents the high-pressure conditions inside a pressure cooker!

High-altitude cooks already know that they need to decrease the amount of baking powder in a dessert recipe to get the same results as a cook at sea level. That’s because there is less resistance for the cake to rise.

So, following this logic, and testing pressure cooker desserts over, and over and over… I found that giving the baking powder a boost, by increasing it, for desserts cooked under pressure will turn the solid, rubbery-brick of a cake batter into a fluffy, spongy dessert.

How Baking Powder Reacts under pressure

And, you’re going to see this in action in the Lava Cake recipe later in this lesson.

But first, let’s get to the cheesecake!


How Baking Powder Reacts under pressure


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  1. Thanks for the cheesecake recipe – looks delicious and I must try it! I already have the silicone cooking container.

    As for your altitude model for cake baking, shouldn’t the low-altitude chef theoretically be at 16,400 ft below sea level, rather than 1,640 ft, to achieve a pressure equivalent to that in the Instant Pot? In any case, I assume you are saying I need to double the baking powder quantity for a cake baked in the pressure cooker.

    1. You are right – as I forgot to consider that the basic atmospheric pressure at sea level is already 14.5psi. I will update the graphics in this article. : )

      Yes, I double or nearly-double the baking powder for pressure cooker cakes and bread – though, I actually test per recipe and adjust as necessary.

      BTW, cutting the baking powder in half for high-altitude cooking in this graphic is a dramatization to illustrate the point – it’s actually only reduced by a 1/4 or 1/3 teaspoon. But high-altitude cooks already know the reductions to make. ; )



  2. Would I also need to increase baking soda?

    1. You don’t have to increase baking soda because is not heat-activated. It is activated as soon as an acidic element is added to the ingredients. But if you do get a doorstop, then consider increasing both the soda and the acidic activator for the recipe.

      I, personally, have not had to do this.



  3. Next time you board an airplane, hope the pilot knows the difference between altitude and elevation.
    I have heard that football players in Denver, play at altitude and that Peruvians grow potatoes at
    15,000 feet altitude. Really ?

  4. I live at high altitude and don’t bake for several reasons — including that I DON’T understand how to adjust recipes for high altitude, so folks like me would appreciate any specificity you can give us!

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