What Is Double Acting Baking Powder?


Have you ever heard of double acting baking powder?

Chances are you probably haven’t, but some bakers much prefer to use double acting baking powder instead of single acting baking powder and you’ll have to use double acting baking powder if the recipe calls for it.

So, if you’re not completely sure what it is, we’re going to answer this question for you, whilst also informing you what the difference between double acting baking powders and single acting baking powders.

What Is Baking Powder?

Before you get to know what double acting baking powder is, it’s useful to know what baking powder actually is to begin with.

Baking powder is a chemical leavening agent and you’ll find these chemical leavening agents in most stores.

You’ll find that most commercial baking powders are double-acting.

It’s essentially a mixture of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and a weak acid, which can prevent premature activity like a reaction.

Unlike baking soda, baking powder is a complete leavening agent, which allows will create lift all in one handy little mixture.

When the baking powder comes into contact with water, or the heat of the oven, a reaction will occur which will release carbon dioxide, which lets your baked goods rise and the batter lightens.

Double Acting Baking Powder Vs Single Acting Baking Powder

Now that you know what baking powder is, let’s learn the difference between the two baking powders.

Single Acting Baking Powder

These are fast acting baking powders, this means once they are hydrated they’ll start to react very quickly.

They also don’t need any heat for them to produce the carbon dioxide that allows your food to rise.

It’s usually made of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and a weak acid, you could have this in your pantry at home under the name cream of tartar.

Cream of tartar is made from tartaric acid, which is equally effective and can be used as a substitute for the baking powder as long as you double check the ratio needed to replace the baking powder i.e. 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar to replace 1.5 teaspoons of baking powder.

Double Acting Baking Powder

The hint is in the name, this baking powder reacts twice the way than regular baking powder does, it has two types of acids in it, the dry acid allows a reaction to take place quickly once liquid has been added and the other is a slow acting acid that reacts more slowly at a higher temperature.

Double acting baking powder contains corn starch, sodium aluminum sulfate, sodium acid pyrophosphate, baking soda and mono calcium phosphate.

The reactions usually in two stages in the mixing process once it interacts with the liquid as well as heat.

The first stage is the chemical reaction which occurs immediately once the powder is mixed with liquid, this could be water or batter.

What Is Double Acting Baking Powder?

When To Use Each Of The Baking Powders

It can be difficult if you’re an amateur cook or baker to know which one is required for certain foods.

Some recipes won’t state whether it needs to be a single acting baking powder or a double acting baking powder and may just say ‘baking powder’.

When To Use Single Acting Baking Powder

Like we said earlier, these are used because of their fast reaction status.

For example some recipes like donuts, if they’re made with double acting baking powder, they’re more likely to crack once they’re deep fried due to this powder needing heat to react, and before it has the chance to, the surface has already started to set in the hot oil.

This is why cooks will use single acting baking powders for donuts, it allows the reaction to take place quickly as soon as the ingredients are mixed, but if you wait too long to bake the donuts, the gas bubbles (carbon dioxide) will escape and the food will fall flat.

When To Use Double Acting Baking Powder

This powder is much more popular with bakeries, cafeterias and restaurants as you can mix the powder into the batter to hold the mixture and so you can delay in making it and it is primarily heat activated.

Whereas a single acting powder will force the food to be baked immediately as a delay would make the baked goods not rise as well.

So whilst sometimes the powder can be used interchangeably, it’s best to check what each of the recipes call for.

If a recipe just says ‘baking powder’ you should probably take this as the recipe calling for single acting baking powder and if the recipe calls for double acting baking powder, do not reduce the quantity of the powder by half, make sure that you use the same amount that is stated on the recipe

But, use your judgement, if the batter needs to be raised a lot, then use the double acting powder.

Double acting baking powder can’t be used as a substitute for single acting baking powder and similarly, baking soda can’t be used on its own as a double acting powder substitute.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully you know a bit more about the differences between double acting baking powder and single acting baking powder.

Essentially they’re both made from baking soda with weak acid to allow a reaction to take place in the mixing stage.

They can be used interchangeably in some recipes, but if a recipe needs a fast reaction, you’ll want to stick to using the single acting powder, and if a recipe needs to rise a lot, you’ll probably find that using the double acting powder will help your bakes rise much better.

Some substitutes can be used instead of both of these powders, like cream of tartar, just make sure that if you’re using it that you substitute it correctly (1tsp of baking powder will not equal 1tsp of cream of tartar) and don’t use baking soda as a lone substitute for the double acting powder. 

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Kathryn Sewell

Hi! I'm Kate and I have been baking and cooking for as long as I can remember. I like to share the most interesting tips and recipes I try here on What Kate Baked for you to enjoy. If you have a favorite recipe you'd like to share send it over on social.

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