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What’s the difference between Baking Soda and Baking Powder?

Red Velvet Cup Cakes Recipe

Red Velvet Cup Cakes fro Everyday Delicious Kitchen (using both soda & powder)

So I used to think Baking Soda was just the way Americans knew Baking Powder, you know how our ‘soft drink’ is their ‘soda’…

Am I alone in this remiss assumption? I know a lot of others are also confused about whether or not Baking Soda and Baking Powder are kinda same-same. They look the same, smell the same and many of us use them interchangeably. So what is the difference between baking soda and baking powder?

Our resident baking experts shared their advice:

What’s Baking Soda?

Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate and when combined with an acidic ingredient (buttermilk, lemon juice, etc.), it creates carbon dioxide gas, which expands in the heat of the oven and helps cookies, cakes, and other baked goods rise. The acid also neutralizes baking soda’s by-product, sodium carbonate, which happens to have a rather unpleasant metallic flavor.  One very important thing to take away from all this is that you need to be careful with substitutions. For instance, in a recipe calling for baking soda and buttermilk, you can’t just use regular milk and get the same results (you’ll need to add an acid like lemon juice or vinegar).

What’s Baking Powder?

Baking powder is a mixture of baking soda, an acid, and cornstarch. In other words, that essential neutralizing acid is built in, so there’s no need to include an additional acidic ingredient in the recipe. If you’re experimenting and decide to add an acidic ingredient to a baking powder recipe, you’ll need to add baking soda to neutralize the acid.

What about doing the switcheroo?

You should always read recipes carefully to make sure you use the correct chemical leavening agent or the right amount of each one when they’re both included. Even without all the acid issues, baking soda is significantly stronger than baking powder so you can’t just swap one for the other. Baking soda is about 4 times as powerful as baking powder so using 1/4 teaspoon baking soda for every teaspoon baking powder is a good estimate.

I see! I hope that clears it up for you too! To help you wrap your head around the differences and what they mean for your baking, give these recipes a go:

Carrot and Pecan Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Carrot and Pecan Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting - Schweppe

Carrot and Pecan Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting – Schweppes. This recipe uses both baking powder and baking soda.

 

Banana, Raspberry and Coconut Bread

Banana Raspberry and Coconut Bread - Western Star

Banana Raspberry and Coconut Bread – Western Star. This recipe uses baking soda.

 

Rhubarb Crumble Cake

Rhubarb Crumble Cake - Everyday Delicious Kitchen

Rhubarb Crumble Cake – Everyday Delicious Kitchen. This recipe uses baking soda.

Coconut Lime Cake

Coconut Lime Cake - The Dairy Kitchen

Coconut Lime Cake – The Dairy Kitchen. This recipe uses baking powder.

 

Do you have any other brilliant ideas for baking with baking powder or baking soda? Let us know in the comments below!

For some other tips on unexpected ways to use Baking Soda take a look at this post from Tasting Table.

 

Happy cooking,

myfoodbook

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