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Question: What's the Difference Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder?
Answer: Baking soda and baking powder are both leavening agents. What is a leavening agent? It is an ingredient that produces a gas which causes batters and doughs to rise. Baking soda is simply sodium bicarbonate, which does not have any leavening capabilities by itself. It is only when baking soda is mixed with an acid such as sour cream, molasses, lemon juice, or buttermilk that these gases are released. Because these gases start forming right after the baking soda and acid are mixed, batters using baking soda should be baked immediately after mixing.
Baking powder actually consists of baking soda and an acid, usually cream of tartar, calcium acid phosphate, sodium aluminum sulfate, or a mixture of the three. Double-acting baking powder, the most common type, is usually made up of baking soda, sodium aluminum sulfate, calcium acid phosphate, and cornstarch which is used as a drying agent. It is called double-acting baking powder because it has two rising actions. The first time the mixture rises is when a liquid comes in contact with the baking powder, and the second time is when the batter is exposed to heat. This makes it possible to mix the ingredients ahead of time and to bake the dough whenever it is convenient.