Baking Soda vs Baking Powder

Chemical Leavener’s

baking soda and baking powder
Baking soda and baking powder

So, what is the difference between baking soda vs baking powder? They both are termed as chemical leavening agents, basically each one performs a chemical reaction in our baked goods to get them to rise. Here is a quick difference between the two.

Baking Soda


Baking soda + acid + liquid = C02 (the gas produced from this reaction)

This is considered a base and requires some type of an acid in your recipe to work.

Examples of acids:
Sour Cream
Lemon Juice

This is one of the differences between baking soda vs baking powder in the ingredients that come to the party that work well with baking soda.

I’m always reminded of this concept when I make my grandmothers recipe for Red Velvet Cake. At the end of mixing the recipe I add baking soda to vinegar where you can see the bubbly reaction take place. I did an experiment and left this part of the recipe out to see the difference; the recipe without it did not rise as much as well as, the taste was also changed.

Baking Powder


Baking powder + liquid + heat = C02 (gas)

This just needs moisture and heat, not an acid to work. When C02 is trapped in the batter, it causes it to expand when heated and this is what causes your baked good to rise.

Baking powder has both an acid and a base

*Single Acting Baking Powder: Only needs moisture to produce the gas and you should bake this immediately after adding.

*Double Acting Baking Powder: needs moisture and heat, hence given the name “double.” Once it touches the moisture of the recipe, this is the first release of gas, when heat is added from the baking process, this is the second and largest release of gas.

If both baking soda and baking powder are used together in a recipe it usually is due to needing the additional leavening power for the baked product.
So little did you know when you put something in the oven to bake what was really going on behind the scenes!

Who knew something so commonly seen in grocery stores could act so differently and have such different roles when we are baking at home. Baking soda vs baking powder is an interesting aspect of food that actually makes science interesting!

Love a little food science? Check out these posts:

The Art of Pie Dough

Baking Ingredients

The Math Behind Pie Crusts

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