What about single-acting baking powder?

I’ve received a couple of questions on the subject this week. Honestly I didn’t know single-acting powder was still out there for anything other than commercial/industrial use. As I mentioned below, double acting baking powders deliver two “actions”, one that happens fast when the batter is being mixed, and another that happens slowly as the batter gets hot. The effect is achieved by combining two different acids with a specific quantity of baking soda (plus a little corn starch to keep the chemicals from reacting in the can). For the fast reaction baking powder manufacturers usually use either cream of tartar or mono calcium phosphate (MCP). For the slow one, typically either sodium acid pyrophosphate (SAPP), sodium aluminum phosphate (SALP) or sodium aluminum sulfate (SAS), or a combination.

As you’ve probably deduced by now, single-acting baking powders deliver only one of those two actions: either the fast one or the slow one. You can tell which by checking the ingredient label. My guess is that anything sold at the retail level would probably be the slow-acting kind, designed to be used in combination with the creaming method. I’m not sure what good a fast-reacting single-action powder would do a home baker to be honest. But then it’s early in the morning and I haven’t had any caffeine yet.

6 thoughts on “What about single-acting baking powder?”

  1. Well, would a fast-reacting single-action powder be called anything *other* than just cream of tartar/MCP? Because I do own and use cream of tartar, although generally just when making snickerdoodles.

  2. Hey Nicole!

    Probably not as those are the most common fast-acting acids. SAPP can be fast, but then only when the particle size is very small, but there’s certainly nothing on the label that’s going to tell you that. I know, that didn’t help did it. 😉

    – Joe

    1. Hey Daniel!

      Yes I’d expect that all retail baking powders that are around these days are double acting, whether it’s stated or not. I could be wrong, as I mentioned you see single acting powders around in industrial kitchens, so they are in production. I’m just not sure what utility they’d have for home bakers. Thanks, Daniel!

      – Joe

      1. I’ve recently discovered that on Japan (where I live), all baking powder sold is single acting. I finally figured it out the other day when my attempt at cake was a pancake. Funny… But not funny.

        1. I had no idea. Very interesting. But I’m sorry about the cake!

          Japanese bakers are some of the best in the world these days. I wonder how they make do without high tech modern-day baking powder?? I’ll have to look into that.

          Thanks Mary Jo!


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