Friday, February 25, 2011

Baking Blunders - What happens when you use baking powder instead of baking soda

You've heard it before..."baking is an exact science" ... it's so true.

I was making a devil's food cake for my neighbor the other day - made the batter, poured it carefully in the pans and popped them into the oven. As I was putting the ingredients away, something hit me...I was putting away baking powder...did the recipe call for baking powder? or baking soda? Crap. The baking soda was tucked back in the cabinet. I didn't use the baking soda the recipe called for.

I didn't really know what this would do to my recipe. How different can they be? It was only 1 1/2 teaspoons after all. I googled it... The sinking feeling was getting stronger as I read. Better make another cake. Fortunately I still had time.

Turns out the difference is significant.

This is the cake made with baking soda...

The cake below, is made with the same exact ingredients, except with baking powder. Granted this one was made with a 9" pan and the other one was made with an 8" pan, so that makes up part of the height difference. But look at the difference in color and shape. (no editing was done on these photos)

Here's the insides of the good cake with baking soda...

and with inside of the bad cake using baking powder...

So it looks different, but how did they taste? The "good cake" was very good, chocolatey and moist. The "bad cake" was almost tasteless, kinda dryish - just not up to my high standards. I had figured we'd just eat the "bad" cake ourselves, but after tasting the cake, it ended up in the trash.

But here's the twist... the recipe for devil's food cake that I used for the retro ringers in my last post calls for baking powder and not baking soda. How could that be? Both are excellent recipes for the same kind of cake. Both have very similar ingredients.

You'll have to come back Monday to see how this story unfolds. I'll give you a hint: I'll be doing a cocoa comparison!


  1. This is a perfect example of science! I like that you posted this. The height difference is merely due to the pan size, because the cake made with baking powder would still rise indeed. But the colour difference - that is important! The cake made with baking soda is darker because the batter less acidic, which promotes browning reactions.

    Looking forward to your next post.

  2. Christina -

    I'm certainly no expert, and it sounds like you know your stuff, so feel free to chime in anytime to correct or add anything!


  3. Oh no! I know you probably were not at all happy to make this mistake, but it's nice to see your post and see the difference between a baking soda and baking powder cake. I'm always so scared of messing up that I actually talk out loud when I do my baking measuring and consult my recipe non-stop!

  4. This is a great test. Thank you for posting it. I'm sure I'd eat both bu it's good to know.

  5. Welcome to my world!!! But fortunately...I have so many fewer blunders now that you are my mentor!! Making an almond pound bundt cake with almond glaze calls for 6 eggs??? I'm crossing my fingers!

  6. Thanks for this!
    I was always wondering why some recipes ask for baking powder and others for baking soda. I just thought that here (in Scotland) they prefer the soda and as I am German we always use the baking powder.
    Greetings from Loch Ness

  7. Thanks alot Im a big fan of yr blog keep up a good work.I like baking but the problem is my cakes always shrinks and sometimes done from the edges and still runny in the center

  8. O.K., you caught my attention. I have found your foodie blog and now I have to hear the rest of your story. I also couldn't take my eyes off of that super tray you have behind the cakes. It looks great with the brick background!

  9. Yum Yum - I'm going to have to try that talking out loud trick.

    El - I know the caliber of things you make and trust me, you'd not want to eat this botched cake!

    Treatgirl - almond pound cake - oh my - I hope you saved me a piece!

    Shippy - I don't pretend to know all the answers. I have heard that you need at least twice the amount of baking powder than baking soda, but that it's also not good to substitute one for the other unless you really know what you're doing. Thanks for visiting all the way from Scotland!

    Darabeel - I would google your problem as it could be an easy fix! Keep trying though!

    Sarah - thanks, the tray was a purchase from one of those Southern Living parties my neighbor had years ago. It makes a great backsplash for my stove as I can just wash it off when it gets splattered - and it's pretty to boot!

  10. okay thanks alot by the way Im a kuwaiti girl fan and i keep trying may be sooner nor later my cakes will be great as yrs



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