By Jan Bilton
‘Can I substitute baking soda for baking powder in my cake recipe?’ asked a friend. Both are raising (or leavening) agents providing carbon dioxide that encourages cakes to rise. But they’re different.
Baking soda (aka bicarbonate of soda) requires an acid and liquid to ‘fizz’ — and it’s instant. The acid can be buttermilk, yoghurt, lemon juice, vinegar, cream of tartar, molasses, applesauce or natural cocoa powder. The resulting bake is dark in colour and — if used alone — it has a strong washing powder flavour. This is often disguised by spices — as in gingerbread.
Baking soda is strong — about three or four times stronger than baking powder. To ensure recipe success you need to balance the amount of baking soda with acid. Tricky! Balanced correctly there is almost no flavour. Too much and you’re left with an unpleasant metallic taste.
Baking powder contains baking soda plus cream of tartar — a dry acid — as well as rice flour to absorb any moisture during storage. And it has double action. When the baking powder gets wet — i.e. adding wet ingredients to the dry — the first level of rising occurs. The second occurs when it is heated. The resulting bake isn’t as dark but it gives a result without any angst!
The honey mixture foams and puffs up when the baking soda is stirred in. Similar to hokey pokey which is prepared with golden syrup.
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons each: water, honey
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Place the sugar, water and honey in a medium-large saucepan. Cook on medium-high heat — without stirring until the sugar melts, the bubbles become larger and the mixture turns amber, about 3 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the baking soda. It will foam up. Stir just enough to combine then flop the mixture onto the baking paper. Don’t spread it out — the mixture will expand naturally.
Cool, break into large pieces and store in an airtight container.
Eat ‘as is’ or dip chunks into chocolate for a super scrumptious candy or break into smaller pieces and garnish ice cream or cheesecakes.
- Jan Bilton is a Cambridge-based, professional food writer. For more baking soda recipes visit her website.