Baking soda and baking powder are two common leavening agents used in baking. But what’s the difference between the two, and can you substitute one for the other?
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Baking soda and baking powder are often used within recipes for cakes, biscuits and other baked goods. They are both leavening agents, which means that they help the batter to rise during baking. Baking powder is a combination of baking soda and an acid, such as cream of tartar. This means that it will start to work as soon as it comes into contact with liquid, whereas baking soda needs to be combined with an acid before it will start working. Because of this, you cannot substitute baking powder for baking soda or vice versa. However, you can make your own baking powder if you have baking soda and an acid available.
What is Baking Soda?
Baking soda is a white, crystalline powder (NaHCO₃) best known for its ability to react with acidic compounds, like vinegar (acetic acid) and releasing carbon dioxide gas (CO₂).
This chemical reaction produces bubbles of CO₂ that cause baked goods to rise and gives them their characteristic texture. Baking soda is also a mild abrasive, which is why it’s sometimes used as a cleaning agent.
What is Baking Powder?
Baking powder is a leavener used in baking. It’s a combination of baking soda and an acid, usually cream of tartar. Baking powder is activated by moisture and starts working as soon as it’s mixed in with wet ingredients. That’s why you have to be careful not to overmix the batter or dough when using baking powder — otherwise your baked goods will be tough.
Baking soda, on the other hand, is only activated by heat. That means you can mix it into the batter or dough ahead of time and it will just sit there until it hits the oven, at which point it will start working.
Baking Soda vs. Baking Powder
When it comes to baking, the two most common leavening agents are baking soda and baking powder. Both baking soda and baking powder are used to help doughs and batters rise, but they work in different ways. So, what’s the difference between these two key ingredients?
Baking soda is a pure leavening agent, meaning it is 100% sodium bicarbonate. When used in baking, it reacts with acidic ingredients like buttermilk or yogurt to create carbon dioxide gas. This gas helps batter or dough to rise and results in a light and airy finished product. Baking soda has a long shelf life and can be stored indefinitely.
Baking powder is a leavening agent that contains both an acid and a base. The acid reacts with the sodium bicarbonate to create carbon dioxide gas, just like baking soda. However, the base in baking powder neutralizes some of the acidic taste that would otherwise be present in baked goods made with baking soda. Baking powder also has a shorter shelf life than baking soda — about 9-12 months — so it’s important to check the expiration date before using it.
So, can you substitute one for the other? In most cases, yes. If you’re out of baking powder, you can use 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda plus 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar for each teaspoon of baking powder called for in your recipe. If you’re out of baking soda, you can use 2 teaspoons of double-acting baking powder for each cup of flour called for in your recipe.
Can You Substitute Baking Soda for Baking Powder?
Baking powder is a leavening agent used in baking that contains sodium bicarbonate, cream of tartar, and sometimes cornstarch. Baking soda is 100% sodium bicarbonate. When baking soda is used as a leavening agent, it releases carbon dioxide gas. This is what gives baked goods their rise. When cream of tartar or another acidic ingredient is present, it will neutralize the sodium bicarbonate and prevent the release of carbon dioxide gas. That’s why you can’t substitute baking soda for baking powder.
In summary, you can substitute baking soda for baking powder only if you increase the amount of acid in the recipe–which may not be desirable in certain types of recipes. Baking soda is much stronger than baking powder. For example, 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda is equivalent to 1 teaspoon of baking powder.