Did you know baking involves science? It’s true! You use many of the same skills when you bake that you also use when you conduct a science experiment. You have to measure, pay attention to detail, and carefully follow directions. Altering your recipe could lead to an undesirable result!
Today, you’re going to test the differences between baking soda and baking powder.
Baking soda is... sodium bicarbonate (or NaHCO3 as a chemist would write). Simply put, it’s a base that reacts immediately with anything acidic. Can you think of a few examples of something that contains an acid?
Just as a reminder (and a fun break), let’s try it out again!
YOU WILL NEED
* Baking soda
* Deep pan
Here’s what to do!
1. Measure out 1/2 cup of baking soda and dump it into the center of your pan.
2. Measure 1/2 cup of vinegar and pour it over the baking soda.
3. What happens?! Fizzy bubbles! You should have seen the baking soda and vinegar react and suddenly produce white fizz. That fizz is a bunch of tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide gas. Why does that happen? Baking soda is base, and vinegar is an acid. When the two mix, they create a chemical reaction!
Now, what do you think will happen when you mix baking powder with vinegar? Test it out! Follow steps 1-3, except substitute baking powder for baking soda. Reflect on your results. Did baking powder react the same way baking soda did? Why do you think this happened?
Baking powder is... baking soda PLUS other ingredients. So is baking powder still a base? Sort of. It contains the base sodium bicarbonate, but it also contains acids. When the baking powder is dry, the base and acid do not mix. Think of our experiments when we’ve used Alka-seltzer®; it’s very similar in the sense that the base and acid stay separate when dry, but react when mixed in water. When you mix baking powder into wet ingredients it begins to react, but ONLY when it reaches the right temperature.
Lastly, think about what baking soda and baking powder actually DO when they react in your recipes. When carbon dioxide gas is released, how might that affect the dough?
Now that you understand the ways that baking powder and baking soda react, let’s test them out in a real life situation... baking sweets! You are going to follow the exact same recipe twice, but one recipe will have baking soda, and one recipe will have baking powder.
Predict: What differences will your two desserts have? Will changing the baking powder to baking soda even matter? Why do you think this?
The Bake Off
* Whatever your recipe of choice calls for
Here’s what to do!
1. Pick your cake recipe (it needs to be from scratch, not using a mix)! You can choose any cake recipe you want, just make sure that the ingredient list calls for baking powder. I’ve included a recipe below, but feel free to pick a different one!
2. After you’re done preparing the first dessert (with baking powder), repeat the same recipe but use baking soda instead.
3. Put both desserts in the oven. Make sure you know which one is which!
4. After the baking time is complete, remove your desserts from the oven. How do they look? Are there any visible differences between the two?
5. After the desserts cool off, cut a piece of each and pick them up. Do they feel different? What are the textures of each like? Does one feel heavier? Fluffier?
6. Time for a taste test! Did the change of ingredients affect taste?
Chocolate Coffee Cake Recipe: allrecipes.com/recipe/8014/simple-n-delicious-chocolate-cake/
Extension: If you want to try this the other way around, find a cookie recipe to test out! Cookies usually use baking soda. What do you think would happen if you used baking powder instead?