How Does Baking Powder Work?

This is a writing sample from Scripted writer Tasha Thompson

How Does Baking Powder Work?

So, you're curious to know how baking powder works? Baking powder is one of those ingredients that appears in almost all baking recipes. And I bet it's not just baking powder that you've come across in recipes. There's also its close friend and cousin, baking soda, which you'll find added into many a baking recipe.

New bakers often wonder what baking soda is and why they need to include it in their cake recipe. Here's a quick rundown of how baking powder works and why you should always ensure that the stuff that goes into a recipe is fresh and not expired.

What Exactly is Baking Powder?

According to my favourite baker and baking book writer Rose Levy-Beranbaum (2018), baking powders are "mixtures of dry acid or acid salts and baking soda, with starch or flour added to help standardise and help stabilise the mixture." When added to your recipe, this mixture reacts and releases carbon dioxide gas, which will cause your baked goods to rise. Without baking powder's chemical reaction, your cake would turn out flat and stodgy, instead of delightfully fluffy and tender.

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

Baking soda needs an acid to react with to give your baked goods its rising power. Recipes that call for baking soda as the leavening agent contain something acidic like lemon juice, honey, vinegar, or buttermilk. Baking powder contains a mixture of baking soda and an acid, which means that your cake will rise without the additions that baking soda on its own would need.

Can I Substitute Baking Soda For Baking Powder?

So, you've realised that you've run out of baking powder. Or, the baking powder that has been sitting in your pantry forever is out-of-date. But you've already preheated your oven, and your cake batter is almost ready to go. In a panic, you wonder: can I sub in baking soda? You sure can!

All you have to do is sub in one teaspoon of baking powder for half a teaspoon of baking soda, in addition to one teaspoon of lemon juice or white vinegar. Your results may vary a little from the intended recipe, but this substitution will work in a pinch.

My Baking Powder Has Expired — Can I Still Use It?

The short answer is that you can, but you might not get the result you want. Baking powder has an expiry date, and for a good reason — over time, its quality declines, and it loses its ability to make your baked goods rise. So, if you're not using fresh baking powder, you're taking a bit of a gamble for how your baking might turn out.

Quick Tips for Using Baking Powder

Baking powder is activated when it gets wet, so don't let your batter sit for too long; otherwise, your cake won't rise the way it should. Get it into the oven ASAP!

Store it in an airtight container to protect it from humidity, which can activate the baking powder

Baking powder can start to lose its magic after about 12 months, so write the date you open it on the label or lid so that you don't use baking powder that's too old

Make sure you're levelling your measurements by scraping off the excess from the spoon measurement with a butter knife.

And there you have it — you've completed baking powder 101, and you're now a baking powder wizard. Just like baking powder, a little knowledge is a powerful thing, and you'll never have a flat cake again.

Written by:

Tasha Thompson
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Australian Freelance Writer | Content Creation | SEO | Social Media Content Strategy Specialized and General Content | Healthcare & Medical | Banking & Personal Finance 15+ Years of Professional Experience in Personal Finance, Banking & Healthcare Other Specialty Writing Topics: Jewellery, Gemstones, Mineralogy, Food Blogging, and Bird Care.
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