Joy the Baker

Baking 101: The Difference Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder

October 1, 2013

soda + powder

I tell you this with nothing but love and understanding. I tell you this as a person who received the most mediocre grades in middle school science. I tell you this as someone who copied her chemistry homework from the nicest chemistry-smart boy she could find in high school.  Don’t judge.  It’s just the truth.

Baking is a science. It’s important to understand the reactions.

We need to talk about baking powder and baking soda… and you can totally copy my homework if you need to. It’s cool.

The difference between baking soda and baking powder:

Baking soda and baking powder are both odorless white powders that work their magic in our cakes. Though they’re both white powders, the two are certainly not interchangeable. Let’s talk about the facts behind these baking essentials.

Baking soda is also known as sodium bicarbonate. I told you we were talking science. Stay with me.

When sodium bicarbonate meets with heat, carbon dioxide gas is formed. It’s this gas that gives rise to our favorite cakes, cookies and biscuits. There is one drawback to the production of this gas. When heated, sodium bicarbonate also produces sodium carbonate, which doesn’t taste very good. If you’ve ever eaten any metallic tasting cakes or biscuits, you know what I’m talking about.

Thankfully, the metallic taste of sodium carbonate can be neutralized by acid. Lemon, yogurt, buttermilk, and unsweetened natural cocoa powder can neutralize the taste of sodium carbonate and keep our baked goods risen and lifted.

Baking powder is a mixture of baking soda and acid. Yea! Baking powder is part baking soda! Baking powder is made up of baking soda, a powdered acid, and cornstarch.

Most baking powders are labeled ‘double-acting’ meaning they release a small amount of carbon dioxide gas when they’re stirred into the batter or dough, but they release a majority of their precious gas when triggered by the heat of the oven.

Because baking powder is a leavener that contains both the sodium bicarbonate and the flavor-saving acid, it is usually paired with non-acid ingredients like whole milk and Dutch-processed cocoa.

Baking soda need an acid.  Baking powder has an acid.  We made that science easy, right?

Baking 101: How to Read a Recipe
Baking 101: Why We Use Unsalted Butter
Baking 101: Must We Sift This Flour?
caramelized mushroom biscuits
If this post has you thinking about buttermilk, baking soda, and biscuits… you’re not the only one.  Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Biscuits.  I know you.

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