I want to go through the different raising agents you can use to make your cakes and bakes rise up to the sky. There are only a few different kinds and they all create a chemical reaction with other ingredients to get that all important height. I will also tell you how to make your own. Lets start with the most popular.
Baking powder contains sodium bicarbonate, cream of tartar and starch. By adding liquid to a mixture a chemical reaction produces carbon dioxide which is trapped in tiny air pockets in the batter. The heat from the oven creates a further chemical reaction that creates steam and therefore the pressure in the air pockets expand within the batter to create the required rise.
Make your own baking powder
In a bowl mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda, 2 teaspoons of cream of tartar and 1 teaspoon of corn starch/corn flour. Sieve together to ensure it’s well combined. Walla easy peasy baking powder.
Adding the cornflour draws the moisture that would otherwise react immediately with the baking powder and reduce it’s capability Store in a well sealed jar somewhere cool, dry and dark.
How do you know it’s still active? To tell if it is still active spoon 1/2 teaspoon in a bowl and pour 60 ml of boiling water over it. It should bubble up violently. If it doesn’t chuck it out and get some new baking powder.
Bicarbonate of Soda
Bicardonate of soda or baking soda is pure sodium bicarbonate. Baking soda needs to be combined with an acidic ingredient such as buttermilk or yogurt to create a chemical reaction that produces bubbles of carbon dioxide that expand in the heat of the oven, thus causing your cake or bread to rise. The key to working with bicarbonate is to work quickly as the chemical reaction starts immediately once the ingredients are mixed together. Don’t let the batter sit – bake immediately for best results. Regarding shelf life bicarb will last pretty much forever. So at least that’s a money saver.
Make your own Bicarbonate of Soda
Unfortunately without a lab and some chemicals it’s not recommended to make your own bicarbonate. How boring.
Cream of Tartar
Cream of tartar is formed during the fermentation of grapes into wine which causes an acid called potassium hydrogen tartrate. It is most often used with baking soda and salt to create a chemical reaction and an impression rise. It is also often used to stabilise egg whites while making meringue or royal icing. You can substitute cream of tartar for baking powder in recipes that call for baking soda and you can also use vinegar or lemon juice. However it’s not easy to get this right so I would recommend that unless you are desperate just get yourself some cream of tartar – as a poor substitute can have very detrimental affects on your baking.
Unfortunately unless you want to ferment your own grapes there’s no easy way to make cream of tartar.