Chocolate cake recipe requires both baking powder and baking soda?

Here is the recipe I am using.

For batter:
• 2 cups Sugar
• Flour 1 3/4 cups
• Cocoa 3/4 cup
• Baking Soda 1 1/2 tsp
• Baking Powder 1 1/2 tsp
• Salt 1 tsp
• 2 eggs
• Milk 1 cup
• Oil 1/2 cup
• Vanilla Extract 2 tsp
• Boiling Water 1 cup
For icing:
• Butter 1 cup 227g
• Cocoa 1 1/2 cup
• Powdered Sugar 2 cups
• Milk 2/3 cup
• Vanilla Extract 1 tsp

I can't find baking soda at the moment so can I just double the amount of baking powder? Could that make the cake taste too acidic?

  • Posted by: Sakha
  • September 26, 2018


HalfPint September 27, 2018
It's going to depend on the type of cocoa powder that you have. If you have dutch-processed cocoa, you don't need the baking soda. The baking powder is composed to baking soda (base), cream of tartar (acid) and cornstarch (a filler). The acid-base reaction will provide the leavening. This recipe probably used natural cocoa which is acidic and hence the extra baking soda is needed in addition to the baking powder.

If you have natural cocoa, then I would put about double the baking powder. If you have dutch-processed cocoa, just omit the baking soda because you won't need it. Don't be tempted to add more than double baking powder. Too much leavening can cause the cake to sink in the middle after baking.

If you aren't sure what type of cocoa you have, dutch processed is dark brown with a reddish tint to it while natural cocoa has a more tan-like color. Good luck! Let us know how the cake turns out.

BTW, the recipe looks a lot like the Hershey's Chocolate Cake which is my go-to recipe whenever I want chocolate :)
Smaug September 27, 2018
That does not compute. You are removing 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda; you will need to replace it with an equivalent amount, whatever the acid you use to offset it. In the original recipe, it is presumably offset by the acidity of the cocoa and the milk. If you sub baking powder, which is typically 25%-30% soda, you will need 3 1/3 to 4 times the measure. As the original poster noted you are also adding acid to the recipe (several different acids are used in commercial powders) thus throwing it out of balance; also those acids are not flavorless, but you're going to need that large quantity to match the leavening of the original recipe. Dutch process cocoa is ph neutral, so if you use that it won't be a factor.
HalfPint September 27, 2018
Most bakers suggest using 3 times the amount of baking powder to substitute for baking soda and omitting the salt. Doubling the baking powder is a good compromise as I think that will provide adequate leavening without affecting the flavor. More baking powder can impart a bitterness, not tartness and it could make it rise too rapidly and collapse. Because the batter is quite thin, I don't think you would necessarily need a 1:1 substitution to get adequate leavening.
Smaug September 27, 2018
Well, it's a grey area depending on how exact the original recipe is as to requirements. Anyway you look at it, I can't see doubling as a compromise between tripling and quadrupling.
Smaug September 26, 2018
That's a lot of baking soda; you might be able to get away with the sub in smaller quantities, but in this amount it's going to throw things pretty far out of balance- it would take 2 Tb. of powder to equal the leavening power of 1 1/2 tsp. soda. Using Dutch process cocoa might help restore the balance, but I can't say how well it would actually work. If at all possible, I'd hit the store or try a neighbor- baking soda is pretty easy to come by unless you're really in the sticks.
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