Baking powder, like baking soda, is a leavening agent added to recipes to make baked goods rise. Leavening agents react with other ingredients in the recipe to produce carbon dioxide bubbles that expand with heat. Baking powder and baking soda aren’t interchangeable, although baking powder contains baking soda and you can substitute one for the other if you know what you’re doing. There are two broad types of baking powder: single-acting and double-acting. Here’s a look at the difference between them and whether they can be substituted for each other.
What’s the Difference?
Single-acting and double-acting baking powder produce the same amount of carbon dioxide. Most baking powder sold in stores is double-acting, but in some countries both types are available.
- Single-acting baking powder reacts when it’s mixed with the liquid ingredient in a recipe. Because all the bubbles are produced immediately, it’s important to bake the recipe in a pre-heated oven as soon as it’s mixed. Similarly, over-mixing can drive off the bubbles, making the recipe fall flat.
- Double-acting baking powder releases some carbon dioxide immediately and more upon heating. It’s double-acting in that it contains a fast-acting acid that reacts at room temperature and a slow-acting acid that reacts with heat. Most of the carbon dioxide gas is produced during cooking, so double-acting baking powder is more forgiving if a recipe isn’t baked immediately.
Substituting Single-Acting and Double-Acting Baking Powder
Usually, you can substitute one type of baking powder for the other. So, if a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of double-acting baking powder, you can use 1 teaspoon of single-acting baking powder (and vice versa).
However, there is an exception. If a recipe calls for double-acting baking powder because there is a time delay between mixing and baking, it’s not a good idea to use single-acting baking powder.
Different Baking Powder Formulas
There are multiple formulas for both single-acting and double-acting baking powder. You can substitute between them and get the same leavening effect, but it can affect flavor. For example, alkaline ingredients react with baking powder that contains sodium acid pyrophosphate, producing a bitter flavor. Older recipes or those originating in other countries might be based on different formula than the one in your cupboard. So, if your cake never tastes as good as the one your great-grandmother made or your friend in another country bakes, it’s possible the baking powder is the culprit.
Here are some formulas of different baking powders, from the time they were first introduced. The formulation may be different now.
|Bird’s Baking Powder (1843)||single-acting||cream of tartar||baking soda||starch|
|Rumford Baking Powder, Horsford-Liebig Baking Powder (1856-1869)||single-acting||monocalcium phosphate||baking soda||cornstarch|
|Dr. Oetker’s Baking Powder, Backin (1891-1903)||double-acting||phosphate||baking soda||cornstarch|
|Dr. Price Baking Powder, Royal Baking Powder, Cleveland Baking Powder (1866-1868)||single-acting||cream of tartar||baking soda||starch|
|Calumet Baking Powder (1888)||double-acting||alum||baking soda||cornstarch, albumen|
|Clabber or Clabber Girl Baking Powder (1870-1899)||double-acting||alum||baking soda||cornstarch|
|Bakewell or Bakewell Cream Baking Powder||double-acting||sodium acid pyrophosphate||baking soda||cornstarch|
- Civitello, Linda (2017). Baking Powder Wars : The Cutthroat Food Fight That Revolutionized Cooking. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0252041082.
- Matz, Samuel A. (1992). Bakery Technology and Engineering (3rd ed.). Springer.
- McGee, Harold (2004). On Food and Cooking (revised ed.). Scribner-Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9781416556374.
- Savoie, Lauren (2015). “Taste Test: Baking Powder”. Cook’s Country (66): 31. ISSN 1552-1990