The different between baking powder/soda and baking powder
As any baker knows, baking soda and baking powder are both leavening agents, which means that you can use them to make cake batter rise during baking. Once in the oven, both baking soda and baking powder produces bubbles of carbon dioxide that expand in a hot oven, lightening the texture of your cake and making it fluffy and delicious.
Baking soda, also known as bicarbonate of soda, is pure sodium bicarbonate: a chemical compound with a slightly salty, soapy taste. It is sold as a fine powder. Combined with a liquid and an acidic ingredient in your batter or dough (such as buttermilk or cocoa powder) it releases carbon dioxide. For this reaction to occur, the batter needs to reach a temperature of about 80°C/175°F.
In other words, for baking soda to function properly, you need to make sure:
- that your batter contains a liquid ingredient (such as water or milk)
- that your batter contains an acidic ingredient (such as yogurt, buttermilk or lemon juice)
- that you heat the batter to a temperature of 80°C/175°F
Baking powder is a mixture of a carbonate or bicarbonate, usually sodium bicarbonate (or baking soda), and an acid salt, usually cream of tartar or a combination of two different acid salts. On top of that, it usually contains a neutral starch such as corn-starch to absorb moisture (and thus prolong shelf-life by preventing the chemicals from reacting together before the reaction is required) and to make accurate measuring possible for home users. The corn-starch does not affect the leavening chemicals. In other words, baking powder is basically baking soda with an added acidifying ingredient that causes the baking soda to react even if your batter lacks an acidic ingredient like buttermilk or natural cocoa powder.
WHAT ABOUT SINGLE ACTING VERSUS DOUBLE ACTING BAKING POWDER?
There are two kinds of baking powder: single-acting baking powder and double-acting baking powder. Single acting baking powder only contains one kind of acid salt, usually cream of tartar. The cream of tartar in single acting baking powder reacts with the sodium bicarbonate as soon as the baking powder comes into contact with water or another liquid. It reacts upon hydration and it does not need to be heated in order for the chemical reaction to occur. This means that if you’re using single acting baking powder, you need to get the batter into the oven as soon as you’ve mixed it, or you risk ending up with a deflated cake.
That makes sense, right?
Here’s how that works: once you mix single acting baking powder with a wet ingredient, the baking powder is activated and starts to release bubbles of carbon dioxide gas. For your cake to rise properly, the carbon dioxide bubbles need to get trapped inside the cake and expand. The bubbles get trapped when the liquid batter bakes (aka: solidifies) in the oven. However, if the carbon dioxide gas escapes before the batter turns into cake (which happens in the oven), the cake won’t rise.
So single acting baking powder = get that cake in the oven!
Double acting baking powder contains two acid salts, contains sodium aluminum sulfate (cream of tartar) and calcium acid phosphate which react with the sodium bicarbonate at different temperatures. The cream of tartar in the baking powder reacts with the baking soda at room temperature, causing an initial rise, but the bulk of the leavening action occurs at a higher temperature, when the cake, muffins, or cookies are in the oven. This, double acting baking powder ensures that, even if you leave the batter on the counter for a couple of hours, the cake will rise.
So double acting baking powder = no need to rush…
Luckily for us most baking powders sold in stores today are double acting, so no need to panic.
WHEN DO I USE BAKING SODA?
You only want to use baking soda if it’s going to be mixed with an acidic ingredient. Here’s a list of a few acidic ingredients commonly used in baking:
- lemon juice or any other kind of citrus juice
- some kinds of chocolate
- sour cream
- brown sugar
- cream of tartar
- natural cocoa powder
If you’re recipe calls for any of these ingredients, you can use baking soda.
WHEN DO I USE BAKING POWDER?
Use baking powder whenever your recipe doesn’t call for an ingredient from the list of acidic ingredients. Just remember to only use single acting baking powder if you know you can get the batter into the oven seconds after you’ve mixed it up, otherwise your cake won’t rise!
Personally, I only use double acting baking powder, because it gives my products a better texture and product and its all I have ever used in industry. It’s what I am used to and why change something when it works?
WHY SHOULD I USE A COMBINATION OF BAKING SODA AND BAKING POWDER?
Like I said, baking soda is used whenever an acidic ingredient is used in the batter, such as natural cocoa powder or orange juice. The acidic ingredient not only activates the baking soda, causing the cake to rise, it also neutralises its unpleasant, soapy flavour. However, sometimes the amount of baking soda needed to properly rise baked goods is more than the acidic ingredient in the batter can neutralise, flavour-wise.
In this case, should you insist on using only baking soda, you either end up with a soapy cake or a flat, dense cake. So, should you use baking powder instead? Well, as you know, baking powder is baking soda with an added acid, which makes it neutral in taste. Aka: if you’re using baking powder, you should be in no danger of ending up with a soapy cake, right? Wrong! Not only does the acidic ingredient neutralize the soapy flavour of the baking soda, the baking soda also mellows the acidic taste of whatever acidic ingredient you’re using. In other words, if you were to use just baking powder in a recipe that calls for an acidic ingredient, the resulting cake may taste too acidic.
The solution to this problem? Use just the amount of baking soda the acidic ingredient in your batter can neutralize (to prevent a soapy taste) and add a little baking powder to ensure that the cake rises properly. The baking powder is neutral, so it doesn’t add an unpleasant flavour, and the baking soda mellows the acidic taste of the ingredient it reacts with.
CAN I USE BAKING POWDER INSTEAD OF BAKING SODA?
Baking powder not only contains baking soda, it also contains an acid salt and corn-starch, whereas baking soda is a pure, chemical leavener. In other words, if you want to use baking powder instead of baking soda…
The simply answer is no because…..
- you will need to use more. Up to three times as much! Remember, baking powder contains starch, which is not a leavening agent, it is just a filler.
- the taste of the resulting product will not be the same. Be aware of the fact that the taste of the acidic ingredient your recipe likely calls for will not be neutralised by the baking powder. Baking powder does not neutralise the flavour of acidic ingredients because it is neutral in flavour.
- If you add corn-starch, which may affect the texture of your baked goods.
CAN I USE BAKING SODA INSTEAD OF BAKING POWDER?
No, baking soda needs an acidic ingredient in order to work properly. Baking powder already contains this acidic ingredient, so it doesn’t need one, but without it, baking soda won’t be able to release the carbon dioxide gas that will make your cake light and fluffy. So, if you’re recipe doesn’t call for an acidic ingredient, you cannot use baking soda.
However, you could try to change the recipe a little, so that it does contain an acidic ingredient. For example, try using buttermilk in a recipe, instead of regular milk. The acidic buttermilk will react with the baking soda, causing your cake to rise.
You can also make your own baking powder, which we often in did when we ran out and its much cheaper to do.
HOW TO MAKE BAKING POWDER AT HOME?
First, determine how much baking soda you need by dividing the amount of baking powder the recipe calls for with three. For example, when your recipe calls for 1½ teaspoons of baking powder, you’ll need ½ teaspoon of baking soda. Now that you know how much baking soda you’ll need, take twice as much cream of tartar and mix well. So for ½ teaspoon of baking soda, you’ll need 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar, resulting in 1½ teaspoons of homemade baking powder.
You get the same result if you mix together 1 part of baking soda with 2 parts of cream of tartar and use the amount of baking powder called for in your recipe. If the recipe calls for 1 teaspoon baking powder, use exactly 1 teaspoon of homemade baking powder.