When you’re new to baking, you can easily confuse baking soda with baking powder. They’re both leavening agents that allow baked items to rise when exposed to heat. Even though they both sound and look like the same thing, they’re quite different from each other.
In this blog post, we’ll take a look at some differences between the two, how to tell if they’ve expired and ways to use them in baking.
First, let’s take a look at baking soda (also known as sodium bicarbonate). It’s a base that needs some form of acid (vinegar, lemon juice, honey, etc.) to react with to create carbon dioxide and work as a rising agent.
It’s about 3 to 4 times stronger than baking powder, but that doesn’t mean you can use more in a recipe to get a bigger lift. If you use too much baking soda and don’t neutralize it with the right amount of acid, you’ll have leftover baking soda in your recipe that will leave a soapy and metallic aftertaste.
About ¼ teaspoon of baking soda is recommended for 1 cup of flour.
Baking powder, on the other hand, is a mixture of cream of tartar and baking soda and it may include cornstarch as well. Baking powder that’s sold nowadays is double-acting, which means it gets activated twice. The first leavening occurs when you combine all the dry and wet ingredients together and the second leavening takes place when the ingredients are heated.
Around 1 teaspoon of baking powder is recommended for 1 cup of flour.
Can You Substitute One for the Other?
Baking soda and baking powder can be used as a substitute for each other in different recipes, but you need to be careful about the quantity you’re using because baking soda is a lot stronger.
Using Baking Powder as a Baking Soda Replacement
It isn’t widely recommended to use baking powder as a baking soda replacement, but if you only have baking powder at hand and you’ve already mixed the other ingredients together, you can use it to make the recipe work.
You don’t need to add any other ingredients when you’re substituting baking powder, but you must add about 3 times the amount of baking soda that’s required in the recipe to get the desired effect. It’s also important to note that this substitution can leave you with a bitter-tasting end product.
Using Baking Soda as a Baking Powder Replacement
When you’ve run out of baking powder, you can use baking soda as a replacement in any recipe, but you need to add additional ingredients like cream of tartar to activate it. Since baking soda has a stronger rising ability, you should only use about ¼ teaspoon of baking soda for a teaspoon of baking powder.
Both baking powder and baking soda may lose their leavening power if they’ve been kept unused for a long amount of time. They can last for about 6 months up to a year, but you should check the best before date before using them or throwing them out.
Here’s a method you can use to test if both your baking powder and baking soda have expired and will no longer work the same way in your recipes.
What You’ll Need
- Hot tap water
- Measuring cup
- ¼ teaspoon measuring spoon
- Baking soda or baking powder
- White vinegar (or apple cider vinegar) if you’re testing baking soda
- Fill about half a cup with hot tap water.
- If you’re testing baking soda, then add about ¼ teaspoon of vinegar to the water. This is done because baking soda required an acid to be activated. Don’t add anything if you’re testing baking powder.
- Add about ¼ teaspoon of baking soda/baking powder.
- Look for a bubbling reaction immediately after to see if they’re still good to use.
- No fizzing means they’ve expired and you need to get replacements.
What Are They Used For?
Since baking powder contains both a base and an acid and has a neutral taste, it’s required as an ingredient in biscuits and cakes. Baking soda, on the other hands, needs to be neutralized by an acid, like buttermilk, so that it doesn’t taste as bitter. It’s mostly used to make cookies.
Sometimes, recipes may require using both of these ingredients, especially if they already contain an acid, such as brown sugar or yogurt. Baking powder is also added when more leavening is required than the amount of acid in the recipe is capable of.
Now that you’ve learned the difference between baking soda and baking powder, you won’t mistake them for each other anymore. Make sure you’re adding the right quantity if you’re using them as a substitute.
Instead of throwing out expired baking soda, you can use it for cleaning. Don’t add it to any recipes, or you’ll end up with a flatter final product.