High Altitude Baking Recipes

Randi Levin shares recipes from her cookbook, Baking at High Altitude.

High Altitude Baking

Christopher Amundson

Randi Levin had a free place to stay when she moved to Colorado from Philadelphia to attend the University of Denver. In lieu of rent, all she had to do was bake a steady supply of chocolate chip cookies for her housemates.

It was a sweet arrangement, but there was a snag. Though she used her time-tested recipe, the cookies came out of the oven in Denver looking like they had been trampled by a herd of bison. Due to Colorado’s low atmospheric pressure and low humidity, recipes that worked at sea level wouldn’t work a mile high. Through trial and error – “playing with food,” as Levin calls it – she adjusted the ingredient levels to get the cookies looking and tasting like they should. Since that first cookie experiment, Levin has come up with hundreds of high-altitude recipes.

Levin was born to bake. As a toddler, she would climb up the drawers of her family’s kitchen cabinets to sit on the counter and watch her grandmother cook. But Levin’s first career was in the classroom, not the kitchen, as a special-education teacher in Denver-area schools.

Her life changed in 1991 when she was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. Though Levin has since recovered, it kept her out of the classroom. A friend suggested she start selling her baked goods to make ends meet. Within a few months, Levin was selling her treats to places like The Tattered Cover Book Store and Wild Oats Markets. People in Evergreen, where she lives, started calling her “the Muffin Lady.”

Levin opened a bakery and deli in Evergreen. During the year it was in business, people were eager to learn her secrets – one woman blocked Levin’s car in a parking lot to get a recipe from her.

This demand prompted Levin to write her first cookbook, Baking at High Altitude. On a whim, she entered the cookbook in the Gourmand Awards contest, not realizing it is basically the Oscars of cookbooks. To her surprise, she won the 2004 Gourmand Award for the best first cookbook in the world. Since then, Levin has written another high-altitude cookbook, Sharing Mountain Recipes, as well as Love More Feed Less, a collection of healthy recipes for children.


People loved the blueberry muffins Levin’s grandmother made, but in the fall they always requested cranberry muffins. Levin substituted cranberries for blueberries in her family recipe and added a pinch of orange zest to make this autumn favorite.


                1/2         cup (1 stick) melted margarine

                1 ½         cups sugar

                4              eggs

                2              cups milk

                1              Tbsp vanilla

                4 ¼         cups flour

                2              Tbsp baking powder

                1              tsp baking soda

                1              tsp orange peel or orange zest

                4              cups fresh or frozen thawed cranberries

                3/4         cup chopped walnuts (optional)


Heat oven to 375°. 1. Thoroughly mix the melted margarine, sugar, eggs, milk and vanilla. 2. To the egg mixture, add the dry ingredients and orange peel alternately with the cranberries. 3. Grease 9-10 large muffin pan sections or 16-18 regular-size muffin pan sections or 36 mini muffin pan sections. 4. Fill muffin sections 7/8 full with the batter. 5. Bake at 375° for 15-35 minutes (depending on the size of the muffin sections – bake longer for larger muffins), until firm to touch or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Add 1 extra egg when doubling or add 2 extra eggs when tripling this recipe.

Add your comment: