Baking soda vs baking powder

Baking soda vs baking powder

Open up your kitchen pantry and you are sure to find a box of baking soda and baking powder.  As bakers, we reach for these two common household ingredients frequently and often when creating cakes, brownies, cookies, and breads.  Have you ever stopped to understand the nuances of these ingredients?  On the surface, baking soda and baking powder are both commonly used as leavening agents.  These ingredients directly contribute to the rise and texture of your baked goods. Even though these two ingredients are leavening agents, they are not interchangeable and actually perform unique functions in your recipes.  Let's take a deeper dive into each of these pantry staples!

Baking soda, technically known as sodium bicarbonate, operates as a pure leavening agent.  Therefore, it actually requires an acidic and liquid component for activation. The activation triggers the production of carbon dioxide, an essential element in the rising process (and a critical component to a light and fluffy baked treat!). Commonly used acids in baking include buttermilk, lemon juice, and white vinegar. Baking soda is typically incorporated into recipes that already possess one or more of these acidic components.  You will see baking soda included in recipes for a red velvet cake, lemon muffins, a gingerbread loaf, and a dark chocolate cake.

Baking powder is actually a blend of baking soda and an acid.  Once exposed to a liquid batter, the release of carbon dioxide is initiated (which means the leavening is initiated). Baking powder is used in recipes that lack an ingredient that is naturally acidic.  Recipes that commonly use baking powder instead of baking soda include chocolate chip scones, vanilla biscuits, banana pancakes, and almond biscotti.

Another critical difference between these two ingredients is their actual potency.  Baking soda is four times stronger than baking powder.  Therefore, a recipe that calls for baking soda will always contain a smaller quantity of the ingredient than a recipe that calls for baking powder. A general rule of thumb is to use ¼ teaspoon of baking soda per cup of flour.  In contrast, use 1 teaspoon of baking powder per cup of flour in a recipe. 

As you can see, although both baking soda and baking powder serve as leavening agents, they actually operate through distinct mechanisms and suit different culinary contexts. When developing your own recipes, always consider the level of  acidity in the ingredients and adjust the type and amount of leavening agent accordingly to achieve optimal rise and texture in your baked creations.


Crumble Crate is the culmination of years of experimenting with cooking and baking in my home kitchen. Since I was a small child, I found a simple pleasure in creating fresh delicious treats and sharing them with my family and friends. As life became more complicated, the basic task of baking in my kitchen became an even more critical and comforting sanctuary.

I want to share this joy of baking with you so that you too can experience the bliss you feel when you create and share fresh baked goodies with your loved ones. My goal is for us to explore baking together and take the stress out of the process so that you can decompress and learn to find refuge in your kitchen. I can’t wait to begin this baking journey with each of you!