Baking Powder - Defined with Recipes

Royal Baking Powder Vintage Ad

Royal Baking Powder Vintage Ad © 1921

Baking Powder Is better made than bought; the following receipt is cheap and effective: five pounds of tartaric acid, eight pounds of bi-carbonate of soda, sixteen pounds of potato flour, mixed and rubbed through a fine sieve. By the addition of a quarter of an ounce of turmeric to eight pounds of baking powder you produce EGG POWDER, which saves eggs and gives richness of color.

Bicarbonate of Soda (Baking Powder)

Used in the food trades chiefly for baking purposes, is formed by exposing crystals of washing soda to a current of carbonic acid gas. Washing soda crystals consist of the carbonate of soda united with about its own weight of water of crystallization.

When exposed to the gas a further quantity of carbonic acid is absorbed, equal to that contained in the carbonate of soda, and most of the water disappears. The result is a white, opaque substance with a milder taste than carbonate of soda and much less soluble in water.

This substance when powdered is the bicarbonate of soda of commerce. Its value for baking purposes is due to the large amount of carbonic acid it contains, which is readily given off as gas when the bicarbonate is brought into contact with acids, such as tartaric or hydrochloric.

When the bicarbonate and acid are mixed with flour and water, the evolved gas is imprisoned in the dough, a paste formed, and “ raises ” it or renders it spongy in baking. In the case of the former acid tartrate of soda is left in the paste, and in the latter common salt, both of which are harmless in moderate quantities.

Occasionally phosphoric acid is used to liberate the gas with the idea of introducing a bone-forming compound. Baking powders contain the bicarbonate and acid ready mixed with a certain amount of neutral substance to prevent premature evolution of gas.

The best baking powder is the old-fashioned one consisting of

  1. 8. parts powdered tartaric acid
  2. 9. parts bicarbonate of soda
  3. 10 parts rice flour


Each ingredient to be well dried before mixing and sieving, and the mixture to be kept in a close tin.

Bicarbonate of soda is now made direct from a solution of common salt by passing into it ammonia and carbonic acid gases. The bicarbonate separates out as a crystalline powder, and chloride of ammonium (sal-ammoniac) remains in solution.

Miss Princine Pure Phosphate Baking Powder Vintage Ad

Miss Princine Pure Phosphate Baking Powder Vintage Ad © 1920 The Southern Manufacturing Co.

THEN If you have sour milk or buttermilk, which costs nothing. Baking-Powder manufacturers say: “ Do not use Cream Tartar and Soda,” and then expatiate at length on the danger of adulteration, and the liability of housekeepers using these articles in the wrong proportion, even if obtained pure, thereby making cookery heavy or yellow, with an alkaline taste.

Whereas, the fact is that the best Baking Powder is composed of a mixture of these two identical substances (Cream Tartar and Soda), with the addition of starch enough to repel moisture.

Now, Soda or Saleratus is an article which, by the improved modem methods of manufacture, can be made so pure and cheaply that it does not pay to adulterate it. With Cream Tartar it is different.

This acid, when pure, commands so great a price that it becomes a strong temptation to the unscrupulous dealer to adulterate. The price of one pound of good Baking Powder will furnish a large family with Soda enough for some months.

The farmer’s wife has always an acid free to her hands in the shape of sour milk or buttermilk, which can be used both as an acid to neutralize the Soda or Saleratus, also as a means of wetting the dough. Why, then, should she go to the expense of buying Baking Powder or Cream Tartar when she only needs Soda?

THE large increase in the use of Baking Powder off A late years has induced unscrupulous persons to enter into the manufacture of cheap and inferior Baking Powders, producing deleterious effects on the health of families using them.

One eminent chemist, after analyzing nearly fifty different brands, determined tha fifty per cent, were grossly adulterated. The question however, arises, “ What is adulteration in Baking Powder?” as the best goods manufactured must contain about twenty-five per cent, of starch to repel moistures, which, of course, takes one-quarter of the strength the powder away.

Ryzon Baking Powder Vintage Ad

Ryzon Baking Powder Vintage Ad © 1920 General Chemical Co.

The sole value in Baking Powder is the rising property, or carbonic acid gas, which is contained in the Soda or Saleratus alone. It follows that a11 other materials comprised in Baking Powder are adulterations.

The safest and most economical plat, ia to use only Church & Co.’s Arm and Hammers Brand Soda or Saleratus, or, if Baking Powders are preferred, housekeepers can make the best quality at home.

Any good cook, by a few experiments or trials with Sour Milk and Soda, can form recipes of her own, which will be more delicious and tasteful than when made by the use of Baking Powder, and have the additional satisfaction of knowing what materials there are in the cookery, and consequently a knowledge of its absolute healthfulness.

In using Soda or Saleratus in recipes containing molasses, remember always to put the dry Soda in a bowl and pour the syrup on to the Soda. It will dissolve quickly, foam up, and make your cake or pudding a beautiful golden yellow. Hot lard can also be poured on the Soda to dissolve it, but never boiling-hot water in recipes for baking.

Lightening Flour Mixtures: Baking Powder Substitutes and Baking Soda Mixtures

Flour mixtures are rendered light by introducing gas or air cells. Gas is introduced by means of yeast, baking powder, or baking powder substitutes. Air cells are introduced by beating the butter or the eggs, or both, and also by beating mixture.

In baking, both gas and air cells are expanded by the heat and are retained in eggless mixtures by the gluten of the flour; in mixtures where eggs are used, the gas and air cells are retained by both the gluten of the flour and by the eggs.

Baking powder substitutes are sour milk or cream used with baking soda. For each cup of sour milk or cream use 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, or, by using only 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda to neutralize the acidity baking powder may be used as required.

For best results, it is very important to sift the flour several times with the baking powder and baking soda before mixing. All the mixtures lightened by one or both of these leavening agents should be baked as soon as mixed in order to retain the gases, as otherwise they will escape.

The old-fashioned way of dissolving the baking soda in water before putting it in the mixture is not desirable, because the freed gas escapes before the mixing is thoroughly done.

Use a teaspoon of baking soda to each cup of molasses.

Baking Powder Biscuits

Baking Powder Biscuits © 1917 The Business of Being a Housewife

Baking Powder Biscuit I

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon lard
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup milk and water in equal parts
1 teaspoon salt 
1 tablespoon butter

Mix dry ingredients, and sift twice. Work in butter and lard with tips of fingers; add gradually the liquid, mixing with knife to a soft dough. It is impossible to determine the exact amount of liquid, owing to differences in flour. Toss on a floured board, pat and roll lightly to one-half inch in thickness. Shape with a biscuit-cutter. Place on buttered pan, and bake in hot oven twelve to fifteen minutes. If baked in too slow an oven, the gas will escape before it has done its work. Many obtain better results by using bread flour.

The Ladies' Home Journal "Kitchen Movie:" Making Baking Powder Biscuits

The Ladies' Home Journal "Kitchen Movie:" Making Baking Powder Biscuits © 1916

Baking Powder Biscuit II

2 cups flour
2 tablespoons butter
4 teaspoons baking powder 
3/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix and bake as Baking Powder Biscuit I.

Baking Powder (1901)

Good baking powder is fast supplanting the use of cream of tartar and bicarbonate of soda, also cream of tartar substitutes. It consists of an acid and an alkali in such proportions that each will neutralize the other.

If that is not accomplished, on the one hand, there is an over acid taste in the powder, but which does not materially affect the cake or article in which it is used as a lightening agent; on the other hand, if the bicarbonate of soda is not fully neutralized, an unpleasant color and flavor in the goods is the result after baking.

Good baking powder cannot be made, unless the soda and acid are both pure. A formula for baking powder is of little service unless the ingredients are pure, for the reason that you cannot tell when complete neutralization is obtained except by testing with litmus paper; but if the soda and acid are pure, a given quantity of each may be used with uniform and satisfactory results.

Flour, corn starch, farina, i. e., potato flour, etc., is used in the proportion of about one-fourth, and is used principally to keep the atoms of soda and acid from coming in contact-as far as the starch will do that-also to add a dryness to the baking powder, viz., the soda and acid, both with the idea of preventing any premature effervescence or decomposition of the baking powder, from force of dampness.

For this reason it is also imperative that baking powder when made should be kept from atmospheric action as it will attract moisture. Cornstarch, etc., is also used in the proportion stated to reduce the strength of the baking powder, as its action would be too quick.

Manufacturers of cheap baking powders often use more than one-fourth of cornstarch or flour, etc., simply to lessen cost of manufacture.

What is considered a good baking powder would consist of cream of tartar, 2 parts; bicarbonate of soda, 1 part; corn starch, 1 part. That is presuming the soda and-acid are pure. Soon, to be sure, the cream of tartar will fully neutralize the soda. Add about two ounces of tartaric acid to each pound of cream of tartar, sifted well in; then use the amount before stated.

This is a good baking powder but is rather expensive, owing to the cost of the cream of tartar. Some use a phosphatic acid powder of about one-fourth or one-fifth the cost of cream of tartar, but it takes about one hundred pounds of phosphate to neutralize forty-five pounds of bicarbonate of soda.

The acids usually used in baking powder are alum, phosphate, cream of tartar, tartaric and citric acids. Alum is only used in low-grade baking powders. Cream of tartar is used in the best baking powders, and phosphate is being used more and more. and is usually accepted as a good acid.

Tartaric acid is seldom used alone but as stated. often in conjunction with cream of tartar in the proportion of one-eighth or one-fourth, in order to strengthen the cream of tartar.

The same remarks are applicable to citric acid. A quarter of an ounce of good baking powder should suffice for one pound of flour for a medium quality of cake; more for a poorer one, and less for a richer one. Say for a medium rich cake one ounce to four pounds and three quarters of an ounce for a richer one. and so on until you reach a best pound cake, in which no baking powder is required.

The use of baking powder is much simpler, is a saving of time. And much more convenient than cream of tartar and bicarbonate of soda; 1 and either one of them, where it can be used, is preferable to ammonia.

I suggest as the best plan to use baking powder, to sift it into the flour.

A prepared or self-rising flour may be made by adding one ounce of baking powder to each four pounds of flour and sifting it well in some would add one ounce of salt to every twelve pounds of flour-this is a matter of taste to be left to the judgment of the workman.

This self-rising flour may be used full strength, or a portion of it added to ordinary flour according to the lightness of the cake to be prepared and the mixture should be sifted together. It is perhaps needless to say that the flour should be as dry as possible before adding the baking powder.

A larger quantity of baking powder may, of course, be used and the self-raising flour may be mixed in varying quantities with ordinary flour, but if all ingredients are pure I advise to use the above-stated proportions.

Self-rising flour may be made in quantity and put in stock, but should be kept in a cool, dry place.

Baking Powder Biscuit

Every cook book has a rule for baking- powder biscuit, but the average rule has too little butter to make biscuits as good as they should be. The recipe given will be well liked.

Mix two cups of bread flour, with five teaspoonfuls of baking powder and one teaspoonful of salt. Work in with tips of fingers five tablespoonfuls of butter. Make a well in center of mixture and pour in all the milk at once.

The amount depends upon the flour, but seven eighths to one cup of milk will be found dependable. Mix quickly and lightly with a case knife, toss out on floured cloth (Magic Cover) or board, pat out to desired thickness, handling as little as possible. Bake in a very hot oven. Now, having a formula, make these variations.

Quick Clover Leaves

This shape has been used a great deal with raised biscuits, but is not common with the baking-powder mixture. Dainty for company luncheons.

Pat mixture out one third inch thick and stamp out rounds with a cutter one inch in diameter. Place three rounds in each division of buttered muffin pans and bake in a quick oven.

Cheese Biscuit

Change butter amount in formula to four tablespoonfuls and after butter has been worked in, stir in half a cup of grated cheese. Use a small cutter and bake as ordinary biscuit.

Cheese Dropes

Very dainty and quickly made. Irregular in shape and appearance and delicious to serve with salad. Extremely attractive for afternoon tea.

Change butter amount in formula to four tablespoonfuls and add half a cup of grated yellow cheese (Young America). Make very moist by adding one cup of milk, perhaps one tablespoonful more.

Mixture should be too soft to shape. Drop from a spoon in small uneven heaps upon a buttered baking sheet and bake in a quick oven

Emil Braun (Translated, Edited, and Published by), C. H. King "Alkalis and Acids used by Bakers: Baking Powder," in The Baker's Book: A Practical Hand Book of the Baking Industry in all Countries, Vol. I, New York: Emil Braun, Bath Beach, 1901, pp. 239-240.

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