Baking Powder and Bicarb Soda – What’s the Difference?

Author: Leanne Marshall   Date Posted:5 October 2021 

Baking Powder and Bicarb Soda are raising agents used in baking. The leavening agent creates air bubbles that expand when cooked, causing the batter to rise. They have different uses, so it’s a good idea to understand how they work and when to use them.

Baking Powder contains 3 ingredients – Bicarb Soda, Cream of Tartar (2:1 Ratio) and a starch. The cream of tartar is added as an acid component to balance the bicarb, to give it a neutral taste. A starch is added to absorb moisture. To ensure that the baking powder is gluten free, make sure that the starch is either corn or rice starch. Self- raising flour is simply plain flour with baking powder added. To make your own, add 1-2 teaspoons of baking powder to 1 cup of any plain flour and sift well. Bicarb soda (bicarbonate soda) or bicarb of soda are different names for the same thing. In the U.S. it is known as baking soda. It is a pure ingredient, so is naturally gluten free. It requires an acidic ingredient in the recipe such as lemon juice, buttermilk, chocolate or honey, to activate the rising quality. Bicarb soda can add a tangy taste, so use exact amounts as the result can become bitter or soapy if too much is used. This ingredient can also contribute to the golden colour of a baked cake.

A little tip on how to test if baking powder is still good – put some baking powder in a small bowl and add some boiling water. If it foams up, it’s OK to use.

Another tip on how to test if bicarb soda is still good – put a small amount of bicarb into a small bowl, add a little vinegar or lemon juice, if it bubbles, it’s good to use.

Salt Skip also make Potassium bicarbonate as an alternative to Sodium bicarbonate, for those on low sodium diets. It can be a little bitter, so don't add more than necessary. Keep it airtight as it can absorb moisture and react pre-maturely, ( and become less effective in your recipes). It is still a good way to minimise sodium intake in every day recipes.

You can find our range of baking powder here and our bicarb soda range here.

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