Food With Baking Powder


This past weekend, I made food with baking powder. This wasn’t any old cake, but a delicious one that was well received by my friends and family. As desserts go, it was rich, moist and tender with a subtle tang from the raspberries. A pretty cake deserves a pretty decoration, so I used frozen raspberries to garnish the top of my creation.

Food With Baking Powder

Baking powder is a chemical leavening agent used for baking. It is inexpensive and has a long shelf life. Baking powder includes three ingredients: an acid, a base, and a buffering ingredient. It’s made by combining these three ingredients in unique proportions and then packaging them.

Baking Powder vs. Baking Soda

Baking soda and baking powder are leavening agents that make your baked goods rise. Baking soda is alkaline, so it’s activated by combining it with an acid such as vinegar—or, more commonly in baking, buttermilk. When that happens, it produces CO2 gas, which gives muffins lift.

Baking powder works similarly because baking powder contains baking soda plus an acid ingredient. As long as the powder stays dry, the two ingredients remain separate. But once you add a liquid, the acid and alkaline ingredients combine and produce carbon dioxide.

Different brands of baking powder use different formulas, and they don’t all include the same acid component. But cream of tartar is commonly used as the acid, and it’s an ingredient you can buy in the spice or baking section of nearly any grocery store. Thus, as long as you have baking soda and cream of tartar, you can make your own baking powder in just a few seconds.

But whatever you do, don’t try to substitute baking soda for baking powder. It won’t work.


If you make homemade baking powder, there is only one release of gas when the ingredients are mixed, not during cooking. That means you don’t have the luxury of letting your batter sit out. Rather, once you get it mixed, you need to put it into the oven right away. Therefore, homemade baking powder is best for quick bread and muffins and the like, rather than pancakes or waffles. It’ll still work for pancakes and waffles, but you have less leeway when it comes to letting the batter sit while you cook.

Baking Powder Uses

Baking powder is used as a leavening agent in baked goods. It can also be used as a cleaning agent for household items. If it expires, it just means the leavening agents will not work as well, but you can still use it as you would baking soda.

There are single-acting and double-acting baking powders. Most commercial baking powders are double-acting, because they release some of their gas as soon as the wet ingredients and the dry ones come together, and then the heat of the oven or griddle triggers the release of still more. This is why you should let your pancake batter rest for 20 minutes to give the lumps a chance to dissolve.

illustration showing facts about baking powder
The Spruce / Julie Bang

How to Cook With Baking Powder

Follow your baked goods recipe and use the amount of baking powder called for. If you need to make your own, measure 1 teaspoon baking soda and 2 teaspoons cream of tartar into a bowl and mix until thoroughly combined.

If you need more, you can just double the recipe. If you need to store it for some reason, just add a teaspoon of cornstarch (so that it doesn’t clump), and store it in an airtight container.

What Does Baking Powder Taste Like?

Baking powder is non-toxic and has a slightly bitter taste. It should not be eaten in its powder form. It’s made to mix into other ingredients.

What’s the Difference Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder?

What is baking soda?

Baking soda is a leavening agent used in baked goods like cakes, muffins, and cookies.

Formally known as sodium bicarbonate, it’s a white crystalline powder that is naturally alkaline, or basic .

Baking soda becomes activated when it’s combined with both an acidic ingredient and a liquid. Upon activation, carbon dioxide is produced, which allows baked goods to rise and become light and fluffy


Baking soda, chemically known as sodium bicarbonate, is a baking ingredient that’s activated by a liquid and an acid to help with leavening, or rising.

What is baking powder?

Unlike baking soda, baking powder is a complete leavening agent, meaning it contains both the base (sodium bicarbonate) and acid needed for the product to rise.

Cornstarch is also typically found in baking powder. It’s added as a buffer to prevent the acid and base from activating during storage.

Similarly to how baking soda reacts with water and an acidic ingredient, the acid in baking powder reacts with sodium bicarbonate and releases carbon dioxide once it’s combined with a liquid.

When a recipe calls for baking powder, it’s most likely referring to the double-acting kind.

This means the powder creates two separate reactions: initially, when combined with liquid at room temperature, and secondly, once the mixture is heated.

For many recipes, an extended reaction is favorable, so the leavening, or rising, doesn’t happen all at once.


Baking powder is a complete leavening agent, meaning it contains both sodium bicarbonate and an acidic ingredient. It’s available as a single- or double-acting agent, though double-acting powders are more widely used.

When to use which one

Baking soda is used in recipes that also include an acidic ingredient, such as cream of tartar, buttermilk, or citrus juice.

Conversely, baking powder is typically used when the recipe doesn’t feature an acidic ingredient, as the powder already includes the acid needed to produce carbon dioxide.

Baked good mixtures can vary greatly in their acidity level. To produce a desirable baked good, you need to find the right balance between acid and base.

Some recipes may call for both baking soda and baking powder.

Typically this is because the recipe contains an acid that needs to be offset by the baking soda but may not be enough to completely leaven the product.


Baking soda is used when the recipe includes acidic ingredients while baking powder can be used without additional acidic ingredients.

Substituting in recipes

While it’s possible to interchange baking soda and baking powder in recipes, it’s not as straightforward as simply replacing one for the other.

Substituting baking powder for baking soda

Though substituting baking powder for baking soda isn’t widely recommended, you may be able to make it work in a pinch.

Swapping baking powder for baking soda won’t require additional ingredients.

However, baking soda is much stronger than baking powder. Thus, you likely need around 3 times as much powder as you would soda to create the same rising ability.

Also, this substitution may cause your final product to have a chemical or bitter taste.

Alternatively, you could try one of several other substitutes for baking soda.

Substituting baking soda for baking powder

If your recipe calls for baking powder and all you have at hand is baking soda, you may be able to substitute, but you need to include additional ingredients.

Because baking soda is lacking the acid that baking powder would normally add to the recipe, you have to make sure to add an acidic ingredient, such as cream of tartar, to activate the baking soda.

What’s more, baking soda has much stronger leavening power than baking powder.

As a rule of thumb, about 1 teaspoon of baking powder is equivalent to 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda.


While interchanging baking powder and baking soda in recipes isn’t as simple as a 1:1 substitution, it can work with certain modifications to your recipe.

The bottom line

Many baked-good recipes include baking soda or baking powder as a leavening agent. Some may even include both.

While both products appear similar, they’re certainly not the same.

Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, which requires an acid and a liquid to become activated and help baked goods rise.

Conversely, baking powder includes sodium bicarbonate, as well as an acid. It only needs a liquid to become activated.

Substituting one for the other is possible with careful adjustments.

Baking Powder

How Baking Powder Works – Types of Baking Powder – How To Test Baking Powder

Baking Powder is a leavening agent that contains a combination of baking soda, cream of tartar, and a moisture absorber (like cornstarch).  It is used like yeast, but it acts much more quickly.

It is used in batters where there is no acid present, such as in: cookies, cakes, pastries, pies, quick bread, etc. It makes the baked goods voluminous by allowing gas formation when an acid comes into contact with it and/or when it is heated.

Because it acts immediately upon the addition of water, a filler (usually cornstarch) is added to absorb the moisture and prevent premature activity.

Types of Baking Powder:

Double-acting:  Most are double-acting, which means it reacts twice;  one acid that dissolves when it comes in contact with water and a second acid that does not dissolve until it reaches a higher temperature.  This type of double action ensures that the finished product is light and fluffy.

Single-acting:  Mainly used by manufacturers and are usually not available for retail sale.

Food Chemistry Rule in Using Baking Powder:

When creating a recipes, the food chemistry rule is 1 to 1 1/4 teaspoons of baking powder per 1 cup flour.

If too much is used in your recipe, this produces big bubbles that will run into each other and then rise to the surface and pop.  The result is that the muffins, cakes or quick breads become heavy or sunken.

Following are the most common brands found in your local grocery stores:

Calumet Baking Powder

Calumet is sodium aluminum sulfate – a phosphate powder in which the acid ingredients are sodium aluminum sulfate and calcium phosphate.

Available in the United States. Owned by Kraft Foods.

It is gluten-free and certified Kosher by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.

Clabber Girl Baking Powder

Clabber Girl is gluten-free and certified Kosher by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.

Ingredients:  Corn Starch, Bicarbonate of Soda, Sodium Aluminum Sulfate, Acid Phosphate of Calcium.

Available in the United States. Owned by Clabber Girl Corporation.

Rumford Baking Powder

Rumford is an all-phosphate powder (containing calcium acid phosphate – no aluminum).  It is gluten-free and certified Kosher by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.

Ingredients:  Monocalcium Phosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking Soda), Food-Grade Cornstarch.

Available in New England and the northeastern United States. Owned by Clabber Girl Corporation.

Davis Baking Powder

Davis is gluten-free and certified Kosher by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.

Available in New England and the northeastern United States. Owned by Clabber Girl Corporation.

Magic Baking Powder

It is an all-phosphate powder (containing calcium acid phosphate – no aluminum).Magic Baking Powder is manufactured by Kraft foods Canada and sold only in Canada. Magic Baking Powder is certified Kosher by the Kashruth Council of Canada.


How To Purchase Baking Powder:

When buying and stocking up, try to find the most current date available by looking for a manufacturing or expiration date on the product.  Keep in mind when it was manufactured and how long it has been sitting on the store’s shelf, because time weakens its potency.

Just because you bought it last week, it does not mean it was made last week and is as fresh as possible.

Once a can is opened, it should be good for 3 to 6 months.

How To Store Baking Powder:

Store at room temperature in a dry place.

A cabinet or pantry away from the sink or heat source (such as the stove, direct sunlight), is a perfect place.

Do not store in the refrigerator as it may shorten the shelf life due to condensation that occurs on the can.

How To Test Baking Powder:

Baking powder does lose it’s potency over time, about 6 months.  If you are unsure of its freshness, you should test it before using.

First stir the contents of the can to see if there are any lumps.  Lumps are an indication that it has picked up moisture, and has started a reaction in the can.

Check the code dates on the bottom of the can to make sure it is still in code.  Baking powder has a usual useful life of 24 months from the date of manufacture.

Stir 1 teaspoon baking powder into 1/3 cup of hot water.  If it bubbles gently, it is fine to use.

If you have a can that has been sitting in your cupboard for a year or more – toss it out!

How To Make Baking Powder:

If you have run out you may be able to make a substitution by using the following:

For one teaspoon baking powder = mix 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar plus 1/4 teaspoon baking soda.

If you are not using immediately, add 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch to absorb any moisture in the air and to prevent a premature chemical reaction between the acid and alkali.

Remember that a recipe for baked goods is like a formula.  The ingredients work together to create an acceptable finished product.  Substitutions don’t always work as well as the original ingredients called for in the recipe.  Any substitutions that you make come with the risk that the recipe will not turn out as intended.

Baking powder acts immediately upon addition of water, therefore a filler (usually cornstarch) is added to absorb the moisture and prevent premature activity.  Various powders were sold in the first half of the 19th century.

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