J-Stace the Science Ace Makes Pancakes

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With the help of our friend’s at Charlotte’s Sweet Spot Studio, we discover the difference between baking powder and baking soda.


Experiment #1

In this experiment you will test to see how baking powder and baking soda react with vinegar and water. Afterwards we will explore why these reactions occur.


  • 4 clear glasses or containers
  • Water
  • Vinegar
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon
  • 1 tablespoon measuring spoon
  • Spoons for stirring

Label the glasses with:

  1. Vinegar & Baking Soda
  2. Water & Baking Soda
  3. Vinegar & Baking Powder
  4. Water & Baking Powder


  1. Add 3 tablespoons of water to the glasses marked water.
  2. Add 3 tablespoons of vinegar to the glasses marked vinegar.
  3. Add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to each of the baking soda glasses. Give it a gentle stir if needed.
  4. Record your observations of if there is a reaction intensity of reaction, length of reaction, and sound.
  5. Add 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder to each of the glasses marked baking powder. Give a gentle stir if needed.
  6. Observe the reactions you see.


You should have found that the baking soda with vinegar, baking soda with vinegar, and baking soda all reacted with water. Why Is this? To understand we must look at what baking soda and baking powder actually are.

Baking Soda: Baking soda is pure sodium bicarbonate which is a base. Bases react with acids to create water, salt, and carbon dioxide gas. In order for baking soda to activate it has to mix with an acid (buttermilk, vinegar, sour cream, etc)

When you mix baking soda with vinegar which is an acid, they will react and create carbon dioxide gas, which is why you see the fast bubbles in the reaction.

When you mix baking soda with water which is neutral, you do not see any reaction.

Baking Powder: Baking Powder is baking soda, cream of tartar (a dry acid), and cornstarch. The cornstarch is there to absorb moisture from the air and to prevent the baking soda and cream of tartar from reacting prematurely.


Once water is added to the baking powder, it activates the cream of tartar and baking soda which is why it reacts with both water and vinegar.

Baking powder is double acting. You have the initial reaction with the water, but once whatever you are cooking reaches 170F there is a secondary reaction for extra lift.

Since it is concentrated, baking soda is 4x as strong as baking powder.


Experiment #2

In this experiment you will test to see the difference between baking powder and baking soda in a recipe. You will make pancakes using 3 different recipes. The original recipe includes baking powder and baking soda. For the baking soda only and baking powder only mixes we converted the recipe to be proportional for just baking soda or just baking powder.


  • Pancake Mixes
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 3 medium bowls
  • 3 small bowls or cups
  • Rubber spatula
  • Whisk
  • Frying pan
  • Pan spray or butter
  • Spatula
  • Plates for finished pancakes
  • Chocolate chips (optional)


  1. Put your pan on the stove on medium heat to preheat.
  2. Mix 1 egg, and 1 cup of buttermilk in 3 small bowls or cups. Set aside.
  3. Pour each pancake mix into its own bowl. Make sure you label each bowl so you know which mix is which. Use a whisk to break up any lumps.
  4. Pour the egg and buttermilk mixture to each bowl. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold them together until you no longer see any dry pancake mix. You want to see lumps. If your batter is completely smooth you have gone too far.
  5. Let the batters sit for at least 5 minutes before cooking them. Observe what happens to each of the batters as they sit.
  6. The pan is ready to make pancakes when if you add a droplet of water to it, it dances across the pan and evaporates.
  7. Spray your pan with non stick spray or melted butter.
  8. Using 1/4 or 1/3 cup measuring cups, cook 1 of each pancake and set aside onto a labeled plate.
  9. The pancakes are ready to flip when the top side with bubbles appears matte. If the bottom gets too dark waiting for this to happen the heat needs to be turned down once you flip the pancake you should only need to cook it for one minute more.
  10. Record your observations on the table on the next page.
  11. Finish baking off the rest of your pancakes. Use chocolate chips as desired. Enjoy!!



The areas where I found the most difference were in color, texture, and taste, especially between the baking powder only, and baking soda only recipes. The baking soda only recipe had a strong pretzel like and acidic flavor, whereas the baking powder only had a much more mellow flavor which I preferred. This flavor comes from un-neutralized acid from the buttermilk (too much baking soda for the amount of buttermilk). The recipe with both was very much in the middle of those two flavor wise.

  • The recipes with baking soda had more of a yellow color, but also a slightly tougher texture.
  • The recipes with baking soda smelted like pretzels.
  • The baking powder only recipe was the fluffiest in texture. This is due to the amount of bubbles formed in the batter, as well as the second activation of the baking powder.
  • The recipes with baking powder had a stronger visible reaction in the batter itself. There were larger bubbles in the baking powder recipe, and smaller bubbles in the baking soda recipe.