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I find that sodium bicarbonate ruins the taste of many cakes and cookies. If I'm using double acting baking powder, do I need to add the sodium bicarbonate as well? I have come accross so many recipes that require both ingredients.

  • Your explicit question is essentially a duplicate of this one: cooking.stackexchange.com/q/23985/1672 but I think maybe you're also implicitly asking about how to fix the taste of some recipes. It can take a stab at it but it might help if you posted an example recipe. – Cascabel Mar 18 '15 at 17:10
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If the recipe calls for both (and it's a good recipe), it actually needs both. A common reason is that the baking powder provides leavening and the baking soda helps neutralize a bit of the acid.

It's a little surprising you're finding that baking soda ruins the taste and not baking powder; baking powder contains baking soda. I wonder if "ruins the taste" is an exaggeration or if you had a bad experience with baking soda and are a little more sensitive to it now. But if it's really ruining the taste, it's just a bad recipe. There are a couple possibilities:

  • the total amount of chemical leavening is too large in the recipe (it doesn't matter whether it's soda or powder) - make sure teaspoon hasn't been changed to tablespoon by accident!
  • there's not enough acid in the recipe to react with the baking soda so you actually have baking soda left over
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  • There is definitely some variation in how sensitive people are to baking soda's flavor -- I could barely detect it when we mismeasured it in pancakes once, but my spouse and kids found it overpowering. – Erica Mar 18 '15 at 18:12
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    @Erica Yup, for sure - but you had to mismeasure it to notice that. I think you'd have to be extraordinarily sensitive for it to "ruin" things if used in the correct quantity. – Cascabel Mar 18 '15 at 18:23
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    It could be the difference between aluminum free baking soda, and otherwise. There IS a large difference in taste between the two for me. – BrownRedHawk Mar 18 '15 at 20:37
  • Two comments here: (1) Felicia wrote "...ruins the taste of many cakes and cookies." Why not all? No links or examples of recipes were provided. Were there acidic ingredients in the ruined recipes or not - was the baking soda used for browning? Surely there are enough bad recipes out there that her fear could be fully justified - excessive soda can make baked goods taste like soap. Yes, in recipes from reputable sources, the baking soda component is usually well considered. & (2) Why was her question good enough to warrant 2 answers and 3 comments w/o anyone before me giving her a bump-up? – Stephen Eure Mar 18 '15 at 22:23
  • @StephenEure (1) Well, maybe some recipes are worse than others. But recipes can be bad in all kinds of ways. The answer is still "if the recipe's good, soda is necessary and won't mess up the taste". I'm not saying the OP's recipes are all good, I'm saying if it's ruining it the recipe is bad! (2) People are bad/forgetful about voting on questions. I personally didn't vote it up because I think it's a little hard to give a good answer without examples, but I don't really feel I should have to explain that before I'm allowed to try to help anyway by answering. – Cascabel Mar 18 '15 at 23:13
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The answer is: "It depends."

Baking soda requires an acidic ingredient to leaven foods, but baking powder has the acid already added. Some recipes will use both if there is an excess or acid in the dough/batter that can be used by baking soda to rise more.

If you find that the taste of baking soda ruins your dishes it's probably that you didn't have enough acid to neutralize it or you're using too much.

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  • Baking soda does not require an acid to produce leavening, but leavening is increased with the addition of acid. Sodium bicarbonate dissolved in a little water releases CO2 at room temperature and above. – Didgeridrew Mar 20 '15 at 3:01
  • @Didgeridrew, not distilled water. – Mr. Mascaro Mar 20 '15 at 12:45
  • yes in distilled water. antoine.frostburg.edu/chem/senese/101/inorganic/faq/… – Didgeridrew Mar 21 '15 at 5:26
  • @Didgeridrew, you really need to learn how to read scientific documents. Baking soda breaks down in air also when heated. At low temperatures it simply (mostly) recombines into Sodium Bicarbonate (although a little is lost that's why it loses potency over time) water simply gives the by product something else to react with, so no water dose not cause sodium bicarbonate to breakdown it just makes the breakdown more permanent. – Mr. Mascaro Mar 23 '15 at 12:59

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