To start with, we need to agree on one thing, baking powder and baking soda (also called Bicarbonate) are magic ! Although they look identical, both are white powder, both are leaveners, however they are absolutely not the same and they are not interchangeable.
When I started baking, I used to think they are the same and if I don’t have one, I can easily replace it with the other. Until once I made a banana cake and used baking soda with the same quantity I should have used for baking powder and the taste was terrible!
There’s some science behind it.. When heated, sodium bicarbonate forms carbon dioxide gas and sodium carbonate, which causes this really bad taste. However, luckily there’s a trick to it. It goes away with acid!
That’s why, in recipes that have acid; Buttermilk, yogurt, lemon Juice, Vinegar, applesauce … it’s safe to use baking soda.
Another thing to note about baking soda is that it’s much stronger than baking powder, so if you notice in all recipes the quantity of bicarbonate is much less than baking powder. More baking Soda in a recipe does not mean more lift; too much baking soda and not enough quantity of acid will create this metallic taste in your baked goods. Usually, ¼ tsp is enough for 1 cup of flour.
Now, moving to baking powder, it’s a mix of baking soda and ACID! So yes, baking powder is made of baking soda, and for this reason, it’s safe to use it with when a recipe does not include an additional acidic ingredient. Personally, I use baking powder with almost all my recipes and I’m pleased with the rise and taste, I don’t experiment much with baking soda.
Sometimes, you will find recipes that contain both, baking powder and baking soda. Most probably, it’s because the level of acid in the recipe is not enough, so baking powder creates a good balance.
Another small thing to note, both baking soda and powder have shelf life. We tend to forget about checking the expiry date and if you’re not baking on regular basis, you will have them for a long time… so just be careful and always check whether they’re expired or not.
Hope that helps, stay tuned for more tips & tricks