Difference between baking soda and baking powder

what is baking powder and baking soda

Baking powder/Baking soda are two ingredients playing key role in baking.Understanding both of them will definitely make us better bakers.

Baking powder and baking soda are both chemical leaveners, however they are chemically different.

Chemical leavener means that a substance that is mixed into a dough or batter and when baked, a chemical reaction occurs causing the baked goods to rise.

The leavening process not only raises the baked good, but also makes it more tender and supports browning.

WHAT IS BAKING SODA?

Baking Soda Formula:NaHCO3

Sodium bicarbonate (IUPAC name: sodium hydrogen carbonate), commonly known as baking soda, is a chemical compound with the formula NaHCO3. It is a salt composed of a sodium cation (Na+) and a bicarbonate anion (HCO3).

Baking soda, is just plain sodium bicarbonate. On the ph scale, it is considered a base. In order for it to do it’s job of leavening your baked good, it needs an acidic component to react with.

When the basic properties of baking soda mix with the acidic properties of another ingredient, the baking soda works to neutralize the acid and this is what causes the air bubbles (carbon dioxide) that leaven the baked good.

In baking, the usual acidic components include:

  • buttermilk,
  • brown sugar,
  • molasses,
  • vinegar,
  • yogurt,
  • lemon juice (or other citrus juice),
  • natural cocoa powder (dutch processed cocoa powder is not acidic),
  • and chocolate.

Baking soda is ideal to be used instead of baking powder if there is an acidic component because it is about three times more effective than baking powder.

Delicious Eggless Fruit Cake made with buttermilk and baking soda as the leavener is my all time favorite cake.

Eggless fruit cake made with baking soda and buttermilk

WHAT IS BAKING POWDER?

Baking Powder is baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) that is already mixed with an acidic ingredients. Therefore, baking powder can be used on its own to leaven baked goods without the need for an acidic ingredient.

Baking powder works in the same way that baking soda does by creating air bubbles (carbon dioxide) which cause the baked good to rise.

Most baking powders these days are also “double acting” which means that they actually contain two types of acids,

  • one that reacts when it is hydrated and
  • the other that reacts to the heat of the oven.

Our Easy Chocolate cake is made without baking soda and the only chemical leavener added is baking powder.

Easy moist chocolate cake made with baking powder

SUBSTITUTING BAKING SODA AND BAKING POWDER:

Because baking is a science, it is not ideal to substitute baking soda and baking powder in most recipes. However, if you understand how the two interact, there are some ways to substitute for either if absolutely needed.

BAKING SODA SUBSTITUTE

If your recipe calls for baking soda and you do not have any on hand, you can substitute the baking soda with baking powder. Increase the amount of baking powder by three times the amount of baking soda called for in the recipe.

BAKING POWDER SUBSTITUTE

If your recipe calls for baking powder and you do not have any you can actually create your own baking powder substitute if you have baking soda and cream of tartar on hand. Mix baking soda and cream of tartar together at a 1:2 ratio. One part baking soda to two parts cream of tartar equals a baking powder substitute.

If you do not have cream of tartar on hand and your recipe has an acidic ingredient present, then you can substitute the baking soda for baking powder.

BAKING POWDER RECIPE

To Make 1 Tablespoon of Baking Powder

  1. Measure 1 teaspoon baking soda and 2 teaspoons cream of tartar into a bowl.
  2. Mix until thoroughly combined and use right away.

If you need more, you can just double the recipe. If you need to store it for some reason, just add a teaspoon of cornstarch (so that it doesn’t clump up), and store it in an airtight container.

WHY DO SOME RECIPES USE BOTH BAKING SODA AND BAKING POWDER?

Recipes that call for both baking soda and baking powder usually have to do with the fact that the recipe contains acid that needs to be neutralized by the baking soda, but possibly not enough to do the amount of leavening desired. The baking powder picks up the slack. Additionally, since baking powder is double acting, it gives even more rise to the baked good.

The soft and fluffy chocolate chip banana bread is made with both baking powder and baking soda.And we used them in a very minimal amount(half tsp each); but the quantity was just perfect to make the loaf turn out super moist and delicious.

chocolate chip banana bread made with baking powder and baking soda

How To Test Baking Powder

To test baking powder, pour 3 Tablespoons of warm water into a small bowl. Add 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder. Give it a light stir. The mixture should moderately fizz if the powder is fresh. If there is no reaction, toss the baking powder and buy a fresh package.

How To Test Baking Soda

To test baking soda, pour 3 Tablespoons of white distilled vinegar into a small bowl. Add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda. Give it a light stir. The mixture should rapidly bubble if the soda is fresh. If there is no reaction, toss the baking soda and buy a fresh package.

BAKING WITHOUT BAKING SODA OR BAKING POWDER

If, for some reason, you are unable to use baking soda or baking powder, then there are a few things you can try. If the rise of the baked good isn’t extremely important, then you can try the recipe without the baking soda or baking powder. I have had a lot of success with making cookies without baking soda or baking powder.

Super Easy Chocolate Chip Shortbread cookies

chocolate chip shortbread made without baking powder or baking soda

Short bread cookies

shortbread cookies made without baking powder or baking soda

Classic Scottish Shortbreads

scottish shortbread cookie made without baking soda or baking powder
scottish shortbread cookie

If the recipe calls for eggs and you need to make it without baking soda or baking powder, try separating the eggs and whip the egg whites to medium peaks. Fold the egg whites in as the very last step of combining the batter. The egg whites while lighten the batter and help it to rise.  Note that this will not work for a very stiff dough. Only for light batters. This technique is what I used to make my

Vanilla swiss rolls

swiss roll recipe made without baking powder or baking soda

Victoria sponge cake

Vanilla sponge cake made without baking powder or baking soda

Chocolate and vanilla cupcake recipe

vanilla and chocolate cupcake made without baking powder or baking soda

Spongy zebra cake

zebra cake made without baking powder or baking soda
Zebra cake

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Like!! I blog quite often and I genuinely thank you for your information. The article has truly peaked my interest.

    1. Bincy Chris

      Thank you.Glad you enjoyed reading the post.

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