Difference Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder

During your baking journey, you are very likely to find baking soda or baking powder in a recipe. And you may wonder, what’s the difference between them? Aren’t they the same thing? These ingredients enable batters and doughs to rise and expand, which is why they are a vital part of baking. As chemical leaveners, they produce carbon dioxide during mixing and baking when they interact with other ingredients, creating air which expands the cake, cookie, etc.

Are Baking Soda and Baking Powder different?

Despite their apparent similar look, baking soda and powder are not the same. Both are leavening agents, but they activate differently. Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, is a salt-based compound. To produce the leavening effect, you would mix baking soda with acid, producing carbon dioxide gas. This differs from baking powder, which requires moisture and heat to activate. Baking powder is composed of sodium bicarbonate and an acid-like cream of tartar.

So, When Do I Use Baking Soda?

Typically, baking soda features in recipes with an acidic ingredient such as cocoa powder or buttermilk because it creates carbon dioxide when mixed with acid. These would be your pancakes, chocolate cakes, etc. Baking soda also promotes browning, making it a significant pick for classic chocolate chip cookies.

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Baking soda is great for cookies-min
Baking soda is great for chocolate chip cookies

What About Baking Powder?

Due to its acid content, baking powder is used in recipes where acids are not a significant ingredient. In most store-bought baking powders, “double acting” means that it activates as soon as it touches a liquid and again when heated, which is why you will see it in vanilla cake recipes, in which regular milk is used as moisture and oven heat activates the baking powder.

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Baking powder
Baking powder is best for non-acidic cakes, like vanilla cake

This Recipe Includes Both. Why?

You probably need both baking powder and baking soda in your recipe because baking soda is activated by acid. However, that chemical reaction alone isn’t enough to create the volume you desire. Furthermore, baking soda is an antacid and may neutralize the acidic flavour. Baking powder can preserve acidity in the dish.

Can I forgo them?

While making a cake or biscuits from scratch will certainly require a leavening, cake mixes, and self-raising flours already have a mix of baking powder/soda in them. This means you’ll only need oil, egg, and moisture (in the form of water, milk or even buttermilk). If you are interested in cake mixes, we have a range of Betty Crocker kits that you will absolutely love. Head over to our website for more cakes, snacks, sweets and groceries.

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