Here’s a big thank you to everyone who submitted questions to the Food Network’s Ask Aida through this site when I put out a call for them a few weeks ago. One of our questions made the finished video clip! The question is “What exactly is the difference between the effects of baking powder and baking soda?” and it was submitted by Laura. On the YouTube clip above, our question plays around 1:50.
Aida answers the question by saying that baking soda needs an acidic ingredient to activate its leavening power (get it to produce bubbles to lift up the batter), while baking powder does not because it already contains an acid. She gives buttermilk as an example of an acid that might be present to help kickstart baking soda.
The only thing she doesn’t mention is that many ingredients, including things like cocoa powder and chocolate, are slightly acidic and more than enough to make baking soda an effective leavener. So just because a recipe doesn’t include an obviously acidic ingredient, like buttermilk, sour cream or vinegar, that doesn’t mean that baking soda is going to be ineffective in the recipe.