Why you cannot replace Baking Soda with Baking Powder

During the baking classes, I come across plenty of questions. One of the vital questions has been ‘what is the magical difference between Baking Soda and Baking Powder?’ You must be thinking what makes both ingredients unlike but are very crucial to the baking process.

History of Bakers

From the past times, people used baker’s ammonia to make the cake rise. Nowadays, baking powder and baking soda are used to do the work. Both the ingredients are nothing but chemical leaveners, which help the baking item to increase.  In modern times, the researchers have made numerous study to invent chemicals or ingredients that can help in leavening the baking process.

In point of fact, baking powder is made up of soda bicarbonate and powdered acid. Baking powder has a double action. The first occurs when the powder dissolves in the batter and second occurs when the mixture is heated while baking it.

The chemistry of baking

On the other hand, one cannot just replace baking powder with baking soda. The chemical level, baking soda is actually the commercial name for sodium bicarbonate. It is important to understand the chemistry behind it. The important aspect is when soda bicarbonate comes in touch with a liquid (such as buttermilk, yogurt, molasses, citrus juice or vinegar) it produces carbon dioxide gas and therefore the bubbles are formed that we all are interested to see. Baking soda enhances the golden browning texture of the cake as well.  Earlier days, people used to follow some old-fashioned technics that helped them to bake their favourite cake, likewise, the flour use to be dried in front of the fire, butter was melted with sugar on a gas stove, cake was baked on pressure cooker, toddy (a drink made of spirits in Kerala) was used instead of yeast, instead of baking soda people used baking ammonia. Made from lye and wood ashes (pearlash) or baker’s ammonia, consisted mainly of potassium carbonate, which produced carbon dioxide quickly. Pearlash was discovered in the late 18th century. It was used in cookies, biscuits and quick bread. Prior to that, the older generation had continuously beaten the cake batter (by hand) for a full hour and used a lot of elbow grease.

Today, baking processes have been replaced by new ones. We are accustomed to using electric beater that reduces hard labour. Similarly, instead of using baking ammonia or pearlash, we use baking powder and baking soda.

Baking powder and baking soda gathered fame in India in the 19th century. The evolution of bakery in India came in the year 1883. Mambally Bapu, a businessman made the first cake in India at Thalassery, Kerala. He founded the company Royal Biscuit Factory in 1880. Moreover, at that time, there were not enough competitors in the market. There was another bakery in West Bengal and only catered to the British. Slowly and steadily, numerous bakery got established in India. India has learnt the process of baking. Therefore, baking powder and baking soda gained baker’s interests.

It (baking powder) was first discovered by Alfred Bird, a British chemist and founder of Bird and Sons Ltd in 1843. Later, a German pharmacist, August Oetkar, made baking powder popular among the house wives and sold this ingredient to them. Prior to Oetker, Justus von Liebig and his American student, Eben Norton Horsford had already discovered baking powder.

On the other hand, a French chemist Nicolas Leblanc produced sodium carbonate. Later, two New York bakers, John Dwight and Austin Church, establish a factory in the United States to produced baking soda from sodium carbonate and carbon dioxide.

Today, baking is one of the most popular subjects that people are interested in doing. Many women are taking immense initiatives to bake by themselves. So, before you make your next cake, please don’t forget the difference between baking powder and baking soda because baking the perfect cake is all about balance.

Author: Namrata Roy

An enthusiastic journalist, founder of Masterchef Cooking Food Blog, and an educator. I strongly believe that “We are what we eat. We should think healthy, eat healthily and live healthily.” I choose to select the quality ingredients that make a food delicious. I don’t buy anything unnatural. I don’t choose an ingredient that I have not used it since my childhood. I experiment with my food but not with the ingredients. I believe to eat natural food, not adulterated and preservatives ones. I recommend the same to all such as Kids, Men and Women in order to lead a healthy lifestyle.

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