In the spirit of the season, we’d like to share a little holiday baking chemistry. Have you ever wondered how baking soda and baking powder actually work? The chemistry pros at Seacole have the answer!
Baking Soda and Baking Powder: What’s the Difference?
Both baking soda and baking powder are leavening agents whose active ingredient is sodium bicarbonate. When mixed with an acid, sodium bicarbonate creates a gas similar to carbon dioxide, which causes foods to rise as they bake. Baking soda is 100 percent sodium bicarbonate, while baking powder is a blend of sodium bicarbonate and an acid, usually potassium bitartrate, also known as cream of tartar. Moisture and heat are required to activate the chemical reaction in baking powder that will cause baked goods to rise.
While both contain sodium bicarbonate, you cannot use baking soda and baking powder interchangeably. Baking soda requires an acid to activate, so it is commonly used in recipes that have an acidic ingredient such as cocoa powder or buttermilk. Baking powder already contains the acid, so it can be used in recipes that do not include acidic ingredients, such as vanilla cake.
Baking Soda and Baking Powder in Action
Often, recipes call for both baking soda and baking powder. This is because baking soda often cannot produce enough rise on its own, and adding more baking soda can create a bitter taste in your baked goods. Getting the ratio right requires some trial and error, so stick to your recipe’s recommendations for the correct amount.
What if you run out of baking powder? You can create your own with a ¼ teaspoon of baking soda and ½ teaspoon of cream of tartar. You could also try vinegar or lemon juice as the acid if you don’t have cream of tartar.
We wish you a very happy holiday and very successful holiday baking! We look forward to serving you in 2024 and beyond.