What is the difference between baking soda and baking powder, and can you use them interchangeably? This blog contains the differences, tips, and tricks, how to store (and for how long), and what you can use as a replacement if you don't have these rising agents at home. And of course, when do you use baking soda, when do you choose baking powder, and why do some recipes use both?
Table of contents
- Baking Powder vs. Baking Soda. What's the difference?
- What is Baking Powder?
- Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate, bicarbonate)
- Recipes with Baking Powder and/or Baking Soda
Baking Powder vs. Baking Soda. What's the difference?
This week's reader question: sometimes, baking powder and sodium bicarbonate (also called baking soda or baking soda) are used in cookbooks. Can you use these interchangeably, and where can you buy them?
What is Baking Powder?
Baking powder is a chemical. A mixture of baking soda with cream of tartar (tartaric acid). Sometimes cornstarch is added to it to react less quickly with moisture from the air.
Baking powder will react with the moisture in your batter or dough. It gives airiness to your final recipe. Never use more baking powder than described in the recipe. Too much creates a bitter taste.
What means Double Acting?
Most baking powders you buy are double acting. The first time it starts working when it comes into contact with moisture, and the second stage begins when it heats up.
Rule of thumb: Use one teaspoon of baking powder per 1 cup (120 grams) of flour.
Can you use baking soda instead of baking powder?
Only if acid is present in your batter, such as lemon, buttermilk, or sour cream, act with care. You only use ¼ part of the amount of baking powder as stated in the recipe. Too much gives a soapy, metallic taste.
Though it should be possible, I wouldn't recommend it because some side effects could make your baking turn out wrong. I'll return to that a little later in the blog and give you some tips about better substitutes.
What are Substitutes for baking powder
You get the best result with baking powder, of course, but good alternatives are:
- Make a baking powder by mixing two teaspoons of tartaric acid with one teaspoon of baking soda. This does not keep well, so make it fresh.
- Beat egg white until stiff and add that. The egg white then contains air and makes the baking airy.
- Instead of water or milk, use sparkling water (which also contains carbon dioxide, which provides airiness).
How long can you keep baking powder?
Unopened baking powder has a shelf life of 18 months. Once opened, air (and moisture) can get in; it can be kept for a maximum of 3 months (if your package is stored in a dry place).
How do you check if your baking powder is still working?
Add one teaspoon of baking soda to 3 tablespoons of hot water. When bubbles form, your baking soda is still working.
Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate, bicarbonate)
Baking soda is a base. Back to chemistry, a reaction between a base and an acid creates CO2, the air bubbles that cause the batter or dough to rise. Baking soda needs acid and then converts that acid to neutral while forming CO2.
And that gives airiness to your baking. The sour taste disappears (because the acid is converted). So in a recipe with baking soda, you always see an acidic component (vinegar, lemon juice, buttermilk) to start the reaction.
Rule of thumb: Use about ¼ teaspoon of baking soda per 1 cup (120 grams) of flour.
Can you use baking powder instead of baking soda?
Yes, you could, but… because baking soda is four times as powerful, you need four times as much baking powder as baking soda. And it should be done very precisely.
Because if you add too little baking powder, your baking will become firm and not airy. If you add too much, you will get a bitter taste. The batter also becomes saltier by adding baking powder. So there are many things to keep in mind, and I wouldn't recommend it.
How long can you use baking soda?
Baking soda can be stored unopened for two years. Opened, you can keep it in a dry place for up to 6 months.
How do you check if your baking soda is still working?
Place ¼ teaspoon baking soda in a small bowl and mix with three tablespoons of vinegar. If it fizzes, the baking soda is still working.
Why do some recipes use both baking soda and baking powder?
That can be for several reasons.
- The batter has too little acid to make enough CO2, and you need some extra airiness.
- When there is enough acid, but you want to leave a bit of acidity flavor in your baking. For example, a slightly sour lemon flavor in a lemon cake. If you only added baking soda, it would react with the acid, and that acidity would disappear.
- To get your baking nicely browned. The acidity is essential for browning your baking in the oven. By using a mixture, you can get a better color.
In recipes that use both baking soda and baking powder, you can replace the amount of flour with the same amount of self-raising flour.
Did you make this recipe? Tag #byandreajanssen via Instagram. I enjoy seeing what your creation looks like. Video recipes can be found on my YouTube channel. And don't forget to save the recipes on Pinterest so you can easily find them next time!