Baking a cake? List of ingredients shows baking powder or baking soda or both. But what exactly are these two ingredients? The resemblance in name, similar in looks, used in baking….. anybody can easily get confused as to whether they are the same thing or different? If they are same then what are the similarities? And if different, then what is the difference between baking soda and baking powder?
Before we dig into this topic, I would like to share something with you all. I often come across a lot of people who are very much confused regarding these ingredients. Some even think that they are different names of the same thing.
However, it is important to have a right understanding of each of these as this can make a huge difference to the quality of your bakes.
Though I was aware of the difference between these two but I am glad I chose this topic as I got to learn various other aspects, or say scientific explanations of the two ingredients.
Really, blogging is enriching me day by day in so many different ways. I have tried to explain the difference between baking soda and baking powder in the most simplistic manner I could. Hope it helps you all.
Also, please read it at least twice or maybe more for a clear understanding of the topic.
Both Baking Soda and Baking Powder are leavening agents.
But what are Leavening agents?
Leavening Agents are added to baked products before baking to produce bubbles of carbon dioxide and cause them to rise.
When heated, these bubbles expand and create channels, which is what gives baked goods a fluffy and light texture. The trapped carbon dioxide bubbles are what allow the baked goods to expand/rise.
Probably now you know why your cake/ dhokla gets double in size.
There are three commonly used leavening agents.
These are Baking Soda, Baking Powder and Yeast.
Yeast is a separate topic in itself. Here we will focus only on Baking Soda and Baking Powder.
So, both Baking Soda and Baking Powder are leavening agents but they are chemically different.
They cannot be interchanged with each other.
Using the wrong amount of Baking Soda or Baking powder or interchanging these two can significantly alter the texture of your baked dishes.
If you use Baking powder instead of baking soda then your baked goods will have softer texture, less colour and will be acidic.
If you use Baking Soda instead of Baking Powder then your baked goods will taste bitter and also won’t rise much.
Why ? What is the difference between baking soda and baking powder?
But first let us understand in brief what these two products are. It will involve little science so please read it patiently and may be more than once.
Baking Soda has only and only Sodium Bicarbonate.
Also, baking soda is commonly known as Cooking soda.
In Hindi language, Baking Soda is called Meetha soda or khane ka soda.
Thus, Baking Soda, Cooking Soda, Meetha Soda, Khane ka soda…. they all means same thing…. different names of the same thing.
Baking Soda is a BASE ( alkaline ), having a high pH and needs to be balanced by adding an acid, which has a low pH.
When a Base is mixed with an acid, a chemical reaction takes place as a result of which carbon dioxide ( CO2 ) is produced.
So, when Baking Soda is mixed with either of the acids, like vinegar or curd or applesauce or cocoa powder or lemon juice or brown sugar, a chemical reaction takes place producing bubbles of carbon dioxide that further expand under oven temperatures, causing baked goods to rise.
And this reaction begins immediately upon mixing the ingredients and is usually complete in about 2 minutes. So if you leave your batter on the counter for a long time before cooking, the carbon dioxide in the batter will escape leaving your batter flat. Hence, it may not be the most reliable leavening agent.
Baking Soda helps in browning and adds a crispier texture to baked goods. This is the reason it is preferred while baking cookies.
Baking Soda is 3 to 4 times stronger than Baking Powder.
Baking Soda is added in very little quantity. This is because if too much baking soda is added without having enough acid to react with ( activate it) then there will be unreacted soda left over which will give a soapy or bitter flavour. So now you know why at times your cake or instant idly or dhokla tastes of soda.
Baking Powder is a mixture of a BASE and an ACID and thus have a balanced pH.
It contains Sodium Bicarbonate, Cream of Tartar ( an acid ) and Corn Starch ( drying agent ).
When this mixture is mixed with water, a chemical reaction takes place, bubbles form, providing aeration in the batter and making the baked goods fluffy.
Nowadays, for commercial purposes double acting Baking powders are available which contain more than one acid salts, which are both slow acting and fast acting acids.
These slow and fast acting acid salts release carbon dioxide at different levels of the baking process.
Some gas is released at room temperature while you mix the batter but the majority of the gas is released at high temperatures when the food is being baked.
This means that the batter rises for a longer period of time, making lots of bubbles thus fluffier cake, muffins etc.
And for many baking recipes, we want an extended reaction of this type only so that the rising doesn’t take place all at once. Hence, baking powder plays an important role.
At some point during the baking process, the liquid foam of rising batter becomes a solid foam because the batter sets.
We can list the differences in these two for a better understanding…
Base + Acid
Sodium Bicarbonate + Cream of Tartar + Corn Starch
Reacts with Acid
Reacts with Water
|Uses||Used for multiple purposes||
Used only in Baking
- Appearance: Both are white in colour.
- Texture: Both are in powdered form.
- Result: Both produce Carbon Dioxide when exposed to some reaction.
- Odour: Both are odourless.
Using Both Baking Soda And Baking Powder in a Recipe
But some recipes use both Baking Soda as well Baking Powder. Why so ?
Well , two reasons for this….
First is that these recipes usually contain some acidic ingredient like fruit or yogurt or any other. Baking soda added might be enough to neutralise the acid in the recipe but not actually enough to lift the batter.
Little Baking powder will give the extra lift needed to make the recipe perfect.
And if only baking powder is used then finished product might taste too acidic.
Another reason for using both Baking Soda and Baking Powder in a recipe is that they affect flavour and browning in different ways.
Keep in mind certain things regarding Baking Soda and Baking Powder
- Keep them labelled as there are high chances of getting confused owing to their similar looks.
- They both expire very fast. So, if you are not a regular baker or are baking after a long time then please check and ensure that they are not expired.
How to check Baking Soda
Put little, maybe 1/4 tsp Baking soda in a bowl and pour 1/4 tsp Vinegar on it. If the bubbles appear, means it is active. Go ahead with your baking. If not then go ahead to put in the trash bin.
How to check Baking Powder
Put little, maybe 1/4 tsp Baking powder in a bowl and pour 1/4 tsp Water on it. If the bubbles appear, means it is active. Go ahead with your baking. If not then go ahead to put in trash bin.
You can use Baking powder in place of Baking Soda, however much more in quantity.
You cannot use Baking soda in place of Baking Powder.
1 tsp Baking Soda = 3 tsp Baking Powder.
But this is for utmost emergency only. As far as possible, use what has been asked for in the recipe.
So for best fluffy cakes/muffins, just do what the recipe says.
My heartfelt thanks to the following links as the above article is compiled based on the information provided therein.
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