NOV 15, 2016 11:41 AM PST

Chemistry in the Kitchen: Baking Powder vs. Baking Soda

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

If you have ever attempted to substitute baking soda for baking powder only to find undesired results, then you know that these two compounds aren't exactly the same. Despite the similar names and similar actions (both are leavening agents), baking soda and baking powder are chemically different.

Baking soda is made from sodium bicarbonate. This basic chemical reacts with acids, such as buttermilk, yogurt or vinegar, and produces carbon dioxide (CO2). The CO2 forms as bubbles, which help the resulting dough or batter rise.

By contrast, baking powder contains both baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) plus two other ingredients: monocalcium phosphate and sodium acid pyrophosphate or sodium aluminum sulfate. In short, the addition of two acids in baking powder extends the leavening process - the rising reaction doesn't complete until the product is in the oven. This is good news for when you want fluffy cakes and muffins.

So next time, pay attention to the recipe and don't try to substitute one baking ingredient for another - it just won't work!
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
MAR 09, 2020
Space & Astronomy
MAR 09, 2020
What Dragonfly Will Do Upon Arriving At Titan
There’s so much happening by way of Martian exploration that it can be easy to forget all the other missions that ...
MAR 31, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
MAR 31, 2020
Pandemic in Silico: How Maths Modeling Helps Our COVID Fight
The phrase "flattening the curve" is used frequently these days by epidemiologists to describe various measure ...
MAY 05, 2020
Plants & Animals
MAY 05, 2020
When Rival Baboon Troops Collide, Only Chaos Ensues
Troops of Hamadryas baboons can reach numbers of 400 strong without a single particular leader. Albeit large, these troo ...
MAY 11, 2020
Plants & Animals
MAY 11, 2020
Ever Wonder How a Bee Ascends to the Rank of Queen?
Virtually every beehive sports its own queen bee, but there can be only one. Beneath her are hundreds or thousands of pe ...
MAY 12, 2020
Plants & Animals
MAY 12, 2020
It's Not a Choice - Cats Need Meat
While you or I might have the freedom of deciding between a carnivorous diet or going all out vegetarian, not all a ...
MAY 19, 2020
Space & Astronomy
MAY 19, 2020
The Science Behind Eclipses
A particularly convenient coincidence exists between the relative sizes of the Sun and the Moon, and their distance from ...
Loading Comments...