Baking Soda vs Baking Powder: What’s the difference?

Baking soda vs baking powder? That’s a great hell of a blog title, right?

Baking soda and baking powder are important baking ingredients. Both serve as leavening agents. Leavening agents are substances used to rise baked goods.

Most bakers seem to be confused about their uses due to their similar appearances and names. This article will compare and contrast both products. Truly, it’s a baking soda vs baking powder blog article. Let’s examine the similarities and differences between both.

Baking soda vs baking powder
Photo Credit: FirstCry Parenting

INTRODUCING BAKING SODA

Baking soda is an important leavening agent used in the production of muffins, cookies, cakes, and other baked goods.

Baking soda was referred to as sodium bicarbonate in the past. It is a white powder, crystalline, with an alkaline nature (1).

You can activate baking soda by combining it with an acidic substance and a liquid. When it is activated, carbon dioxide forms, allowing the baked goods to rise, and get fluffy and light (1).

This explains why baking recipes that include baking soda will also require an acidic ingredient, such as buttermilk or lemon juice (2, 3). Remember it is baking soda vs baking powder. Read on.

WHAT IS BAKING POWDER?

In contrast to baking soda, baking powder is entirely a leavening agent. This implies that it contains both acid (which helps the product to rise), and base (sodium bicarbonate).

Another ingredient in baking powder is cornstarch. Cornstarch serves as a buffer to prevent activation of the acid and base during storage.

Just like what happens when baking soda is mixed with water and an acidic substance, the acid present in baking powder also releases carbon dioxide when it reacts with sodium bicarbonate in liquid (4).

We have both single-acting baking powders and double-acting baking powders. However, most bakeries and food manufacturers use single-acting varieties. It is usually not available for household use (5).

If your recipe has the need for baking powder, then it is most likely that you’ll use the double-acting variety.

The double-acting variety causes 2 different reactions. The first reaction occurs when it is combined with liquid at a temperature of 37℃. The second reaction occurs when the mixture is heated.

An extended reaction favors most recipes, so the rising, or the leavening does not happen immediately.

We are still examining baking soda vs baking powder.

BAKING SODA VS BAKING POWDER: WHICH OF THESE SHOULD I USE AND WHEN?

Baking soda is mostly used in a recipe that requires an acidic ingredient, like buttermilk, cream of tartar, or citrus juice.

On the other hand, baking powder is used when the recipe does not include an acid-based ingredient because the powder already contains the acid required to produce CO2.

The acid level of baked good mixtures varies greatly. For your product to be unique, you must balance between the acid content and base content.

Some recipes may require both baking powder and baking soda.

This may be because the recipe contains an acid that must be neutralized by the baking soda but not enough to cause a complete leavening of the product.

THE SUBSTITUTION TECHNIQUE

While you may substitute baking soda or baking powder for each other in recipes, the process is not as simple or straightforward as you’d assume.

Substituting baking powder for baking soda

This is not recommended, but you can make it work in a pinch.

Substituting baking powder for baking soda does not require any extra ingredients.

Note that baking soda is more potent than baking powder, and so, you’d need three times more powder than soda to make the product rise to a similar size.

Another important point to note is that this substitution may cause the end product to have a bitter or chemical taste.

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Substituting baking soda for baking powder

If you are using baking powder in your recipe, and you’ve got only baking soda, then you may substitute, but you’ll have to add some extra ingredients.

Because baking soda does not have the acid that baking powder does, you’ll have to include some acidic ingredient, such as citrus or cream of tartar. This will help to activate the baking soda.

Also, the leavening power of baking powder is stronger than that of baking powder.

If we are to go by the rule of thumb, then a teaspoon of baking powder is equivalent to 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda.

We’ve done justice to baking soda vs baking powder.

THE SUMMARY

Most baked-good recipes will require baking powder or baking soda as a leavening agent. Some recipes may include both.

Baking powder and baking soda appear similar, but they are very different from each other.

Baking soda means sodium bicarbonate. Baking soda must be activated before it can perform its full function. Activation of baking soda requires acid and a liquid substance.

On the other hand, baking powder contains both sodium bicarbonate and an acid. Activation of baking powder will only require a liquid. If you wish to substitute one for the other, do it with care.

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