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All About Baking Soda for Baking

Why use baking soda when our cakes are in the making? Check out this article that’ll explains the essentials for baking!

Baking soda, one of the most commonly utilized leavening agents in baked goods, is a simple chemical compound known as sodium bicarbonate. This crystalline substance is naturally found in the ground in crystalline form and is subsequently finely powdered for culinary applications.


How Baking Soda Operates

  1. Baking soda is an alkaline compound that, when combined with an acid, results in the generation of carbon dioxide gas. Carbon dioxide gas in the form of small bubbles is trapped within the batter, leading to its expansion or rising. This reaction is induced by a variety of common acids, such as:
    • vinegar
    • lemon juice
    • buttermilk
    • yogurt
    • cream of tartar
  2. Alternatively, smaller volumes of carbon dioxide can be released by baking soda without the need for an acid, solely through the process of thermal decomposition at temperatures exceeding 176°F / 80°C. However, this process generally imparts a distinct bitter flavor which sometimes is a desirable effect such in the cases of pretzels or pretzel buns. In either case, as the mixture is cooked, the release of gas alters the density and texture of the dish.
  3. Baking soda can also be employed to raise the pH levels of our dough, resulting in an elevated level of alkalinity. This increase in pH leads to the weakening of gluten within the dough, contributing to a tender texture in cookies and pastries, as opposed to the chewier consistency typically found in bread. The quantity of baking soda utilized remains a crucial factor to contemplate when considering its impact on our baking recipes.

When Is Baking Soda Utilized?

Baking soda finds its application in leavening numerous “quick breads,” such as pancakes, muffins, and cakes, in addition to being used in the preparation of fried foods. These batters lack the structural integrity to maintain their shape for the extended duration required for yeast to generate gas. Because gas production is swift with baking soda, there’s no need for prolonged rising periods, as is the case with yeast-based bread. When subjected to heat, the batter solidifies, locking in the expansion triggered by the gas bubbles.

If a batter containing baking soda is allowed to rest at room temperature, it will undergo gradual, modest swelling as the chemical reactions between acids and bases within the batter take place. The subsequent, more dramatic increase in volume occurs within the oven, thanks to exposure to heat. The acid-base reaction intensifies due to the heat, as does the decomposition of baking soda, both of which generate the leavening gas. The leavening effect of baking soda is frequently so rapid that it can be observed in real-time.


How to Properly Store Baking Soda

Once the cardboard box is opened, baking soda should be stored in a securely sealed zip-top bag or container. It should be kept in a cool, dimly lit location like a pantry, away from both the stove and the spice cabinet, to prevent any absorption of unwanted odors. Theoretically, it has an indefinite shelf life, but its effectiveness may diminish after approximately six months. Expired baking soda can still serve well for household cleaning purposes, but refrain from using it in culinary endeavors.

How to Determine the Freshness of Baking Soda

Because baking soda can undergo decomposition over time, one may wish to assess the potency of their baking soda. To evaluate its freshness, a small amount of baking soda can be added to a bowl containing a bit of vinegar. If a vigorous foaming reaction occurs, it signifies that the baking soda remains active. This reaction can produce a substantial amount of foam, so it’s advisable to perform this test over a sink.

Baking Soda vs. Baking Powder

Baking-powder-vs-baking-soda-2-SunCakeMomWhile baking soda is essentially an alkaline compound, baking powder consists of sodium bicarbonate already pre-mixed with an acid component. The acid compound within baking powder exists in the form of a salt, and it remains inert until liquid is introduced.

In recipes that feature other acidic elements, we find baking soda to be an excellent choice. However, when a recipe lacks any acidic component, the use of baking powder becomes appropriate due to its inherent acid content. The utilization of baking soda in alkaline recipes may result in a bitter taste, as there isn’t sufficient acid present to counterbalance the alkaline nature of sodium bicarbonate.

In many culinary creations, both baking soda and baking powder are enlisted to maximize their leavening potential, but the specific ratio to employ hinges on the relative acidity of the other ingredients involved. As a general guideline in our baking endeavors, it’s advisable to use a smaller quantity of baking soda compared to baking powder. A helpful rule of thumb in our baking recipes suggests using 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda per cup of flour or 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder per cup of flour. This approach ensures that we achieve the desired results in our creations.

Read more about: The Difference Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder

Baking the Baking Soda

Washing soda, known as sodium carbonate, serves as a prevalent component in laundry detergents. When crafting homemade cleaning solutions, one often incorporates this ingredient. However, if sourcing washing soda poses a challenge, baking soda, known as sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3), offers a readily available alternative. When temperatures exceed 176°F / 80°C, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) starts a breakdown process, producing three compounds: sodium carbonate (Na2CO3), water (H2O), and carbon dioxide (CO2). The resulting sodium carbonate (washing soda) appears gritty and showcases reduced clumping compared to its initial finely textured form as baking soda.

When baking is done the resulting sodium carbonate will weigh two-thirds the baking soda’s original weight. To turn baking soda (sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3)) into washing soda (sodium carbonate (Na2CO3)) simply place it into a 400°F / 200°C oven until its weight reduced by two thirds of its original weight. The necessary time depends on the amount of baking soda but 1 cup / 100g baking soda will need about 1 hour in the 400°F / 200°C oven to turn into washing soda.


The resulting washing soda (sodium carbonate (Na2CO3)) is highly alkaline and can cause burns on the skin. Handle with care and keep it away from children and pets in a an airtight container.

How to Use Baked Baking Soda

  1. Pretzels

    As previously mentioned, baking soda is a fundamental ingredient for crafting homemade pretzels. Immersing the pretzels in a bath of baking soda before baking is the secret to achieving their distinctive color and the delightful contrast between a crispy exterior and a chewy interior.
    While plain baking soda works reasonably well, incorporating baked baking soda can elevate the pretzel-making experience. It imparts a richer, deeper hue and enhances the texture, all without the need for food-grade lye.

    To create pretzels using baked baking soda, simply replace it in a 1:1 ratio for regular baking soda in our favorite homemade pretzel recipe. Be ready for the pleasant surprise by the remarkable difference it brings to the table!

  2. Ramen Noodles

    Ever wondered why ramen in Japan (or at renowned ramen establishments in the United States) possesses an exceptional taste? The secret ingredient is alkaline salt. This unique salt can be found at select Asian grocery stores and plays a pivotal role in crafting authentic-tasting ramen noodles. Alkaline salt is combined with water to form an alkaline solution known as kansui, translating to “alkaline water” or “lye water.”
    When added to the ramen noodle dough, this solution contributes to the glossy and slippery exterior that characterizes great ramen. Beyond appearance and texture, it also plays a role in enhancing ramen’s distinctive flavor, stemming from its interaction with the wheat flour in ramen.

    To make homemade ramen more accessible, we can bypass alkaline salt and incorporate baked baking soda into our fresh pasta recipe instead. This substitution simplifies the process while still allowing us to enjoy the exceptional qualities of authentic ramen noodles.


  • Baking soda, a common leavening agent in baking, is a simple chemical compound called sodium bicarbonate.
  • When combined with acids generates carbon dioxide gas, causing batters to rise.
  • Lack of counteracting acid will lead the baking soda to decompose due to heat and change the texture and flavor of the dough.
  • Properly stored in a sealed container away from heat and odors, baking soda has an indefinite shelf life.

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