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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Homemade baking powder

If you look at the label on your commercial baking powder, you'll most likely see that it's double-acting. This means that it becomes active at two points during baking, once when exposed to liquids and again when exposed to a heat source.

Homemade baking powder is single-acting. It activates upon exposure to liquids. Any products that you bake with single-acting baking powder will need to move from mixing to cooking/baking right away. This effect is more pronounced with something like a cake, than a batch of pancakes. (My last pancake in a batch comes out just as fluffy as the first.)

That said, there are some good reasons to mix up your own baking powder.

  • you may have run out of baking powder and don't have time to rush out to buy more
  • your baking powder may be past expiry and you don't want to "risk it" (to test, stir 1 teaspoon of baking powder into 1/3 cup of hot water; you should see very active bubbling right away)
  • if you buy your ingredients smartly (in bulk, not those tiny little jars), you may save money by making your own baking powder
  • you can avoid ingredients that you wish to minimize in your diet (aluminum and corn products, for example)
  • the flavor in baked goods is better (some commercial baking powders leave a slight bitter after-taste)
The basic recipe for baking powder is:

1 part baking soda
1 part starch *
2 parts cream of tartar

* the starch can be corn starch, potato starch, tapioca starch or arrowroot. Make sure you are using "starch" and not "flour", for this part of the recipe.

I use arrowroot or tapioca starch, whichever I happen to have in my cupboard at the time. The addition of starch allows you to store your homemade baking powder for several months. Starch absorbs moisture, preventing activation of your baking powder while in the cupboard.

You can also make a substitute without the starch, one recipe at a time ( 1/4 teaspoon baking soda + 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar = 1 teaspoon baking powder).

To have homemade, aluminum-free /corn-free baking powder on hand, I make about 1/2 cup at a time, following these measures:

1/8 cup baking soda
1/8 cup tapioca starch or arrowroot (potato or corn starch also works well)
1/4 cup cream of tartar

In a small bowl, I add the baking soda. I mash the lumps out of the baking soda with the back of a spoon. Then I whisk in the starch and cream of tartar.

For a uniform product, I then pass all of this through a sifter (a sieve or mesh strainer will also work). Use this measure per measure in recipes.

Store in an airtight jar. Homemade baking powder maintains it's maximum effectiveness for about 6 months. 

I occasionally find soft lumps in the baking powder. But these smash out with the back of the measuring spoon, as I'm scooping out what I need for a recipe.


  1. Good to know! Thanks!

  2. dear lili,
    i use the same recipe for my homemade baking powder!!!
    wish you a wonderful day,
    love regina

    1. Hi Regina,
      It works great, doesn't it?! Hope you're enjoying summer!

  3. Lili,
    This is great-I love having a substitution list-in the "old," days cookbooks would often times come with a list in the back of the cookbook. There was many a cook which used these resources. Thanks you again!
    Sweet Hugs,

    1. Hi Jemma,
      Yes! My mom's basic cookbook had the end pages devoted to substitutes. Those were so handy. And one of my mom's cookbooks devoted the end pages to how to use various herbs. Very useful information. Now I'm wanting to visit the local used bookstore to browse their old cookbooks! Have a great day!

  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I'm running out of my corn-free baking powder & can't seem to find a replacement because they've stopped selling it locally. I thought I was going to have to order online. Now, I can make it myself! Do you know what makes the commercial baking powder double acting?

    1. Hi Sharon,
      I'm so glad to help.

      This is how I understand it . . .There are two categories of acids added to baking powders, slow-acting and fast-acting. These acids react to the baking soda, causing gas bubbles, and rise.

      A single-acting baking powder has one type of acid (usually, though not always,fast-acting) that reacts when dry is mixed with liquids, to give a "bench rise". Cream of tartar is a fast-acting acid (so are soured milk, buttermilk and yogurt ).

      To get a double-acting baking powder, you need to also add a slow-acting acid (to give rise when exposed to heat). Sodium aluminum sulfate and sodium aluminum phosphate are the standards used in many commercial preparations. The non-aluminum acid found in some baking powders is sodium acid pyrophosphate.

      So basically, you need both a slow-acting and fast-acting acid acid in the preparation to call it double-acting. With the two types of acids you get both bench and oven rise.

  5. That's good to know, thanks :) I don't bake very often, so once I finish my current container of baking powder I might just mix this up as needed.

    1. Hi Economies,
      As you don't bake much, it really would be a money-saver and space-saver to just mix this up one recipe at a time. You don't risk having an old can that's lost it's effectiveness. And you only have to buy and store the amount of the ingredients that you might use in a few month's time.

  6. I have used this in a pinch for a substitution. To be quite honest, I have used years old baking powder and it has always worked just fine. However, testing it before adding is a good idea.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      I've had baking powder last for years, as well. But I've also had a container just fizzle on me. I think it has to do with how airtight a container is, and how much moisture is in the air. Half of double-acting baking powder's rising ability comes from interaction with liquids. So a damp environment and a container that doesn't seal well could lead to baking powder with just so-so abilities to give rise to quick breads. This is perhaps more important in something like biscuits, which rely entirely on baking powder for their rise (don't have eggs).

  7. I usually buy my baking powder but an aluminum free brand. It is nice to know how to make it myself if needed. Thanks!

    1. Hi Shara,
      the other thing I do, in a pinch, if running low on baking powder is to add 1 tablespoon of vinegar to the liquids in a recipe, and use about 3/4 teaspoon of baking soda, as a substitution for 1 tablespoon of baking powder. This works great in pancakes and muffins.


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