Baking soda and baking powder may look and sound similar, but these two leavening agents have different roles in baking. This guide includes a recipe for making a homemade baking powder substitute.
Baking soda and baking powder are commonly confused. Both leavening agents – something that helps baked goods to rise.
Even though they look similar and have similar names, baking soda and baking powder work differently in baked goods.
Below you’ll find explanations of what each ingredient is made of, how it works, and how to make a homemade baking powder substitute.
What is baking soda?
Baking soda is a chemical that’s also known as sodium bicarbonate. It is used in baking to help cakes, cookies, and muffins rise or spread.
Baking soda can also contribute to browning in baked goods.
How does baking soda work?
Baking soda has to be activated in baked goods for it to work. Baking soda is activated when it is combined with a liquid and an acid.
That activation creates carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide helps baked goods to rise or spread.
What is baking powder?
Baking powder is baking soda + a dry acid. Some brands will include cornstarch to keep any chemical reactions from occurring in the can.
How does baking powder work?
Baking powder is activated when it is mixed with a liquid. Since it already contains an acid, baking powder can be activated without an additional acid.
The baking powder and liquid will bubble when combined. That carbon dioxide helps to provide lift in baked goods.
What is double-acting baking powder?
Double-acting baking powder is the type that is sold in most grocery stores. It is called “double-acting” because it creates an initial reaction when mixed with a liquid and then reacts a second time when heated.
Why do some recipes call for baking soda and baking powder?
Some recipes call for both leavening agents because they can work in tandem. Some recipes may not have enough acid to fully activate the baking soda, so baking powder can help add the remaining lift.
Can I use baking soda instead of baking powder?
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as swapping one for another in baked goods. Baking soda is about 3-4 times as strong as baking powder, so you would need about 1/4-1/3 the amount of baking soda in place of baking powder.
There are other considerations, too, such as the amount of acid in the recipe. You may find that it’s easier to make a homemade baking powder substitute (given below) instead.
Can I use cornstarch instead of baking powder?
No, cornstarch can be used as part of a homemade baking powder substitute, but plain cornstarch cannot be used as a substitute for baking powder.
How long will they keep?
Baking soda and baking powder both lose their effectiveness over time. Baking soda will keep for up to 6 months when stored in a cool, dry spot.
Baking powder will keep for up to 12 months when stored in a cool, dry spot.
If you’re unsure about whether or not your leaveners are old, you can test them to see whether or not they’re still effective.
To test baking powder: Add ½ teaspoon of baking powder to a bowl with ½ cup hot water. Stir.
To test baking soda: Add ½ teaspoon of baking soda to 3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar. Stir.
If they’re still effective, both mixtures should bubble as soon as they are mixed together. If you don’t see any bubbles, toss them and get new ones.
More baking basics tips and substitutes!
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Homemade Baking Powder Substitute
- Mixing bowl
- 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- Optional: cornstarch
- Stir together the cream of tartar and baking soda until well-combined.
- Yield: 1 tablespoon.
- Add in cornstarch as needed (up to 1 teaspoon) if making a larger batch.
- Store in an air-tight container in a cool, dry location.
- Nutritional values are estimates.
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