The Difference Between Double-Acting and Single-Acting Baking Powder

All Baking Powder Isn't Created Equal

A hand with ingredients

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If you're like me, you're lucky to pay enough attention to a recipe to notice whether you're supposed to be using baking powder or baking soda. Both ingredients cause baked goods to rise—but they are not interchangeable (although you can swap them out as long as you know what you're doing). There's also more than one type of baking powder. Since you can find both single-acting baking powder and double-acting baking powder, you're probably wondering how they're different and whether or not you should use half as much double-acting baking powder as single-acting baking powder.

What's the Difference?

For any recipe that calls for baking powder, you should use exactly same amount of double-acting baking powder as you would single-acting baking powder. The difference between the two types of powder is their chemical composition. One produces the carbon dioxide gas bubbles that make your baked goods rise when the ingredients are mixed, while the other produces them when the product is heated in the oven. Even though they're different, both types of baking powder produce the same amount of gas, so they're equally effective as leavening agents.

  • Single-acting baking powder reacts with a water-based ingredient to form bubbles as soon as the ingredients are mixed. If you wait too long to bake your food or over-mix your ingredients the bubbles will escape and your food will fall flat.
  • Double-acting baking powder produces some bubbles when the ingredients are mixed, however, most of the rising occurs once it meets the heat. Double-acting baking powder is more reliable for home baking because it is harder to overbeat the ingredients and your recipe will be less susceptible to failure should you forget to preheat your oven. Because it's practically foolproof, this is the type of baking powder most often found in stores. You most often encounter single-acting baking powder in commercial applications. It's also the type of baking powder you'd be making if you wanted to try to prepare baking powder yourself.