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Baking Powder

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What is Baking Powder?

Whether you’re whipping up a big batch of scones or prepping a showstopping layer cake, you’ll likely spot baking powder on the ingredients list.

Wondering exactly what baking powder is and why it’s needed? This essential item is used as a raising agent and it helps to give everything – from delicious homemade pancakes to classic sandwich cakes – their light and fluffy textures.

When it comes to what’s in baking powder, the answer is simple: a combination of bicarbonate of soda (an alkali) and cream of tartar (an acid). Some versions also include corn starch. This helps to absorb any excess moisture that might get into the powder when it’s stored and ultimately affect how well it works.

You’ll typically add baking powder to your dry ingredients and then activate it by mixing in wet ingredients such as milk, eggs, oil or butter.

Is Baking Powder Gluten Free?

It’s one of the most popular baking ingredients – but does baking powder have gluten in it? While baking powder is naturally gluten-free due to the fact both bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar don’t contain wheat, that doesn’t necessarily mean all versions of it are.

Many baking powders contain an extra ingredient: starch. Why? Because it can help prevent the powder from getting damp during storage and, consequently, becoming inactive. Starch isn’t always gluten-free, so it’s best to steer clear of baking powders with it added if you’re gluten intolerant.

Are Baking Soda and Baking Powder the same?

Run out of baking powder yet have some bicarbonate of soda (also known as baking soda) lurking in the back of your cupboard? While both can help your bakes rise, they’re not the same thing.

The main difference between baking soda and baking powder is that one is made from three ingredients, while the other has only one. Let’s break that down. Bicarbonate of soda features just sodium bicarbonate (an alkali) and it needs to be mixed with an acid and some liquid to activate it. Baking powder, on the other hand, is a mix of bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar (an acid) and starch. It only needs liquid added to it to make it work.

You might find some recipes – such as our one for scrumptious Carrot Cake – call for both baking powder and baking soda. This is normal in certain types of cakes (especially those containing yoghurt or brown sugar) where there is an imbalance of acid and alkali. The right combination of both rising agents will help give your bake extra lift when it’s popped in the oven.

What can I use instead of Baking Powder?

It’s possible to sometimes substitute baking powder with baking soda; however, you’ll need to add acid to make it work – whether that’s a little bit of lemon juice or some cream of tartar. The exact amounts can be tricky to work out without the right know-how, which is why it’s usually best to stick to whichever rising agent your recipe calls for.

If you do want to try and substitute one for the other, remember that baking soda is a stronger leavening agent than baking powder. This means you’ll need to use much less. As a general rule, you can swap a teaspoon of baking powder for one quarter of a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda.

Another popular substitute for baking powder is self-raising flour. It has baking powder added to it, although it might not be quite as much as your recipe requires.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use Baking Powder instead of Baking Soda?

Yes, technically you can – but it might leave your bake with a funny taste or texture. That’s because baking powder contains acid and you’ll likely already have an acidic ingredient in your mix that’s been added to help activate the original baking soda. What’s more, you’ll typically need to add four times as much baking powder as you would baking soda.

How much Baking Powder do I add to plain flour?

To work out how much baking powder to add to your flour mix, it’s best to look at your recipe’s ingredients list. Make sure you always use a dry teaspoon to measure it out to avoid activating it too early.

How should you store Baking Powder?

As it is activated by coming into contact with liquid, you’ll want to store your baking powder somewhere warm and dry such as in a kitchen cupboard or a pantry. Like most edible ingredients, baking powder can go bad after a while. Make sure you keep an eye on its use by date and replace it if it’s passed.

How much Baking Powder do you need to make self-raising flour?

Want to make your own self-raising flour? It couldn’t be easier. Simply add one teaspoon of baking powder per 100g of plain flour and mix well.

What does Baking Powder do?

Baking powder is a very important ingredient in a lot of bakes as it helps them rise and achieve a light and airy consistency. Without it, you might end up with a few baking disasters, including cakes which are too flat and/or too dense.