I am making the following recipe for a birthday party: Pinata cookies!, and it calls for cream of tartar in the dough. This is the first time I've seen that in a cookie recipe and I can't figure out what the purpose of it is. Anyone know what cream of tartar does in baking recipes?

  • Wow, those are intricate!
    – Jolenealaska
    Oct 20, 2014 at 13:47

5 Answers 5


As @rumtscho said, it is an acid and in your recipe above it is for activating the soda.

However, in general, recipes almost never call for cream of tartar for this purpose. Modern recipes, if they need acid to activate the soda, will call for baking powder instead which has the cream of tartar already mixed in.

Almost every time I see cream of tartar called for in a recipe it is when making a meringue. The acid denatures some of the egg white proteins and makes the eggs froth up faster and makes a stiffer meringue. Cream of tartar is good for this as it is dry so it doesn't throw off the liquid content and it has little flavor of its own.

  • 2
    Since this thread got resurrected by someone else, I'll add a comment, too. Most (all?) commercial baking powders use monocalcium phosphate, not cream of tartar. For most people that's a distinction without a difference; it's the fact that it's acid that matters. But for people who have kidney trouble phosphorous can be a problem; they should use home-made baking powder with baking soda and cream of tartar. Oct 19, 2014 at 12:01

It is a weak acid. It purpose is to react with the baking soda for leavening. If you can't get it, you can use some other acid, e.g. citric acid, but it will introduce a slight taste of its own, and it is stronger than cream of tartar. You can also substitute baking powder instead of the baking soda + cream of tartar combination.


The cream of tartar gets in the way of sugar's natural tendency to bind together and prevents sugar crystals from forming. makeing a light pillowy texture rather than a sugary crunch


However if you use the baking powder instead of soda and tartar, u can still get the same identical effect by the temperature of your oven and time limit. Give it a whirl

  • Can you add some more details about adjusting temperature/time when using baking powder?
    – Erica
    Sep 29, 2015 at 12:09

cream of tartar is a leavening agent, it makes my puff pastry puff.

  • 2
    Just cream of tartar, no baking soda?
    – Cascabel
    Oct 20, 2014 at 16:44

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