Baking soda: Is baking soda the same as bicarbonate of soda?

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Baking soda, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder are all commonly listed ingredients in cookbooks and recipes. However there are different uses for each of these substances, and it’s important to use the right ones when trying to bake items such as cakes and bread.

Is baking soda the same as bicarbonate of soda?

Baking soda and bicarbonate of soda are both terms referring to the same thing.

In the UK the substance is usually referred to a bicarbonate of soda, however, the US commonly refers to the product as baking soda.

Bicarbonate of soda is often used as a raising agent in food, especially in baking.

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Bicarbonate of soda consists of sodium and hydrogen carbonate.

Bicarbonate of soda is alkaline, and it is often used in recipes for things like cakes and bread.

BBC Good Food explains: “Bicarbonate of soda, or baking soda, is an alkali which is used to raise soda breads and full-flavoured cakes such as gingerbread, fruit cake, chocolate cake and carrot cake.

“It needs an acid (as well as moisture) to activate it so is often combined with cream of tartar, yogurt, buttermilk or milk.

“Bicarbonate of soda gives off carbon dioxide, which expands in a mixture.

“Once the mixture is cooked, the carbon dioxide is replaced by air, leaving a light cake or bread.

“As with all raising agents, use the amount specified in the recipe.”

The site states adding extra bicarbonate of soda to a recipe may result in “peaked or collapsed cake”, as well as “strong unpleasant” flavours and a “greenish tinge” to the baked good.

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What is baking powder?

Baking powder is different from bicarbonate of soda/baking soda.

But like bicarbonate of soda, baking powder is a substance commonly used as a raising agent in cooking.

Baking powder is used in recipes to make items like cakes, and it is often added to flour to make self-raising flour.

Baking powder consists of bicarbonate of soda, but with the addition of a dry acidic ingredient.

A substance such as cornstarch is often added to the mix as a buffer, keeping the bicarbonate of soda and acidic ingredients dry and separate.

Baking powder is sometimes made with two parts cream of tartar, and one part bicarbonate of soda.

When liquid is added the powder activates and produces carbon dioxide, making the mixture expand.

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