Cornstarch vs baking powder: Can Cornstarch Be Used in Place of Baking Powder?
One of my first mistakes in following a recipe was running out of baking powder. I had an abundance of cornstarch at the time and had no idea if it would work to replace baking powder. I never wanted to be in that stressful situation again, so I decided to look into baking powder substitutes.
In general, cornstarch cannot be used in place of baking powder. Cornstarch is used to thicken the batter, and baking powder is used to leaven it. Cornstarch thickens mixtures, whereas baking powder causes the dessert to rise.
When I decide to bake a cake for a family event, I make sure my pantry is fully stocked with all of the necessary ingredients. I’m not perfect, just like baking! I used this as a learning experience and discovered the most effective baking powder substitutes.
Cornstarch vs Baking Powder
- Air bubbles form, giving desserts height.
- Is made up of an acid, a base, and a buffer.
- Used in baking to make desserts lighter and less dense.
- Extracted from corn kernels and processed into starch
- Used to thicken liquids.
- Heat and starch molecules cause the thickening reaction.
Can we use cornstarch instead of baking powder? Despite their nearly identical appearances, cornstarch and baking powder are completely different!
Baking powder is more complex and contains multiple ingredients. Let us pretend to be mad scientists for a moment and talk about acids and bases. But don’t worry, I won’t harm your brain!
Is there a difference between baking powder and cornstarch?
Baking powder and cornstarch are not the same thing. Baking powder is a leavening agent, which means it creates air bubbles in the batter, causing the cake to rise. Cornstarch is a thickening agent used to make puddings and pie fillings thicker.
Cornstarch is a handy ingredient to have on hand. I enjoy making pies with various fillings such as apple, blueberry, and lemon.
When my fillings become too loose for my liking, I add cornstarch to help thicken them up because its primary function is to thicken liquids.
Cornstarch is made from the starches of corn kernels, so any protein and fibers have been removed to create this refined, starchy powder.
What makes baking powder work is a combination of a base (typically sodium bicarbonate, also known as baking soda) and an acid (usually cream of tartar). When these two elements come together, a reaction occurs.
Take, for example, vinegar and baking soda. If you put baking soda in a bowl and pour vinegar over it, it will expand and fizz!
The reaction was caused by the combination of the acid (in this case vinegar) and the base (baking soda), and you can see bubbles forming and expanding visually. When we use baking powder in a recipe, we get the same reaction.
Baking powder is used in baking as a leavening agent to give desserts height.
Baking powder contains both an acid and a base in the form of dry ingredients. This enables us to store it in our pantries without it reacting on its own.
The timer starts ticking once we mix baking powder into our wet ingredients! Baking powder will gradually begin to activate, forming bubbles that will allow our cakes to rise and impress all of your guests!
What can be substituted for Baking Powder?
To learn what baking powder substitutes actually work and why cornstarch is not a good replacement in recipes, we must first investigate the substitutes and the science behind them.
Baking Powder Substitutes
Substitutes for Baking Powder Amount to Replace 1 tablespoon baking powder:
- 1/4 teaspoon Baking Soda + 1/2 cup Yogurt
- 1/4 cup molasses + 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar + 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- Juice of lemon 1/4 teaspoon baking soda + 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
- Flour (Self-Rising) Replace all of the flour in your recipe.
- Buttermilk 1/4 teaspoon baking soda + 1/2 cup buttermilk
You’ll notice that almost every single item on the table above requires some baking soda.
Can baking soda be used in place of baking powder? Baking soda, in general, cannot replace baking powder! Baking powder is distinct in that it has a dormant reaction as a result of the combination of an acid and a base. Baking soda is only a base; it requires an acid source from outside.
All of the ingredients listed above are ideal for combining with baking soda to produce the same reaction and effect as baking powder!
Make use of Yogurt
Yogurt is a surprising ingredient that works very well as a baking powder substitute! Yogurt is classified as acidic due to the presence of lactic acid. Use 1/2 cup yogurt and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda to replace 1 teaspoon baking powder in a recipe.
The yogurt will react with the baking soda to create air bubbles, which will make your cakes light and fluffy.
*Important Tip: Reduce the volume of liquids in your recipe slightly. Yogurt adds moisture to the batter, which may cause it to become too loose.
Keeping this in mind, buttermilk also falls into this category. Because adding buttermilk to your batter will make it runny, you should reduce the volume of your other liquids slightly. The reaction of baking soda and buttermilk will mimic the effects of baking powder.
Make use of Cream of Tartar.
Cream of tartar is a great dry ingredient to use in place of baking powder! Cream of tartar, due to its acidic nature, acts as the acid required to react with baking soda to form a leavening agent.
What causes the acidity of cream of tartar? Cream of tartar is acidic because it is a byproduct of the fermentation of wine in barrels. Cream of tartar is tartaric acid, which produces carbon dioxide gas when combined with baking soda. In other words, it aids in the rise of your desserts!
To replace one teaspoon of baking powder in a recipe, combine 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda and stir into the batter.
Make use of buttermilk.
Buttermilk is a magical ingredient that I love to use in both baking and cooking! I can’t imagine making fried chicken without a delicious buttermilk batter. Putting my favorite foods aside, buttermilk is a magical ingredient that can be used as a great substitute for baking powder!
Buttermilk is quite sour and serves as the acid required for the reaction with baking soda.
To replace one teaspoon of baking powder in your recipe, combine 1/2 cup buttermilk with 1/4 teaspoon baking soda to achieve the same effect.
*Important Tip: Because buttermilk is a liquid, reduce the amount of liquid in your batter to keep it from becoming runny.
Is it possible to make your own baking powder?
Make your own baking powder by combining two parts cream of tartar, one part baking soda, and one part cornstarch. This ratio enables you to make your own baking powder, which is extremely effective. Baking powder is easy to make and less tangy than store-bought.
We’ve all figured out what baking powder is by now. The reaction is a straightforward acid-base reaction. We’ve seen a lot of acidic substitutions for baking soda that can help create the same effect that baking powder has on desserts.
Cream of tartar is a powder that can be used to make your own baking powder. Baking soda is the base required to aid in the reaction with the acid. Cornstarch is an important ingredient in this recipe because it absorbs excess moisture in the homemade baking powder and extends its shelf life.
To sum up…
Baking does not have to be a stressful activity! I am a forgetful person who sometimes fails to notice that I have used up an ingredient and have yet to purchase it.
I’ve learned over the years that baking doesn’t have to be stressful because there are so many ways to substitute ingredients in your recipes!
Baking powder is one of those ingredients that has numerous substitutes, and after spending time perfecting ratios and understanding the science behind it, you will never run out of baking powder again.