The Difference Between Baking Powder and Baking Soda

What is Baking soda and baking powder?
Before knowing what kind of functions baking soda and baking powder perform, let us first know what they are. Baking soda and baking powder are leavening agents. When they are added to food products they release carbon dioxide in order for the food item to rise. They are two different chemicals used for baking. Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate.

Baking powder is sodium bicarbonate and potassium bitartrate. Baking powder is not a pure form of sodium bicarbonate. Hence if you are substituting baking soda then you will have to add twice the actual amount suggested as baking powder is a milder version.

The history of baking soda and baking powder
The ancient Egyptians used natural deposits of natron, a natural mixture of sodium carbonate decahydrate, and sodium bicarbonate as soap. In 1791, famous French chemist Nicolas Leblanc produced sodium bicarbonate also called as the soda ash. This discovery was refined by Alfred Bird. He discovered the modern variants baking powder and baking soda in 1843.

Later in 1846, two New York bakers, John Dwight and Austin Church started a factory that developed baking soda from sodium bicarbonate and carbon dioxide.

In later years, it was found that this product can also be used for cleaning utensils, extinguishing fire and many such essential works.

The functions of baking soda and baking powder
In school, you must have done many experiments where you mix sodium bicarbonate which is a base and vinegar which is an acid to get a bubbling reaction. Baking soda and baking powder work on similar basis. When you add water to baking powder or baking soda, the dry acid and the base go into a reaction and start producing carbon dioxide bubbles.

When baking soda or baking powder is combined with a moist substance like a cake mix, it results in a chemical reaction and bubbles of carbon dioxide expand under the oven temperature and the product starts rising.

Remember, although the functions of both baking soda and baking powder are somewhat similar, they still have a difference. Hence recipes that suggest baking powder to be used, it is better to use baking powder and not baking soda. However in recipes where you have to use baking soda, you can substitute it with baking powder as the baking powder is a milder version and will not harm you in any way. But this may not be the case with baking soda.

So, the next time you nibble on a cake or a muffin do not forget the difference between baking soda and baking powder.