1. Introduction

Delicious muffins come out from the oven for a hearty breakfast, ready to eat. Making muffins can also be a great way to learn to cook and for some food science. It is interesting to see how a gloopy batter gets turned in the oven into a beautiful cake with a golden, cracked surface where it will get frosted with rainbow sprinkles to chocolate toppings. In this project, I will investigate how the amount of baking powder and baking soda affects the rising of muffin dough.

So what is baking powder made of, exactly? Well, “BBC. Worldwide Ltd.” shows that baking powder is a raising agent that is commonly used in cake-making where it is made from an alkali, bicarbonate of soda (i.e. baking soda), and an acid, cream of tartar, plus a filler like cornflour or rice flour which absorbs moisture.

But what are the differences between baking soda and baking powder? According to Helmenstine, A.M. (2017), baking soda is pure sodium bicarbonate. When baking soda is combined with moisture and an acidic ingredient (e.g., yogurt, chocolate, buttermilk, honey), the resulting chemical reaction produces bubbles of carbon dioxide that expand under oven temperatures, causing baked goods to expand or rise. The reaction begins immediately upon mixing the ingredients, thus recipes with baking soda should be baked immediately.

Then what will happen if more baking powder is added? According to Haney, A.L. (no date), too much baking powder makes the finished product taste bitter and sometimes metallic. Many baking powders contain aluminum. The aluminum contained in baking powder causes its leavening effects to last longer, typically desired in commercial baking when batters may be mixed long before baking. However, too much yields a "tinny" taste to the finished muffin. The minerals in baking powder taste bitter and may overwhelm the sweet ingredients when too much is added to the recipe. The effects on texture will be that because an excess of baking powder produces too many gas bubbles when baking, the muffin rises too high. As those excess gas bubbles escape out of the baking batter, the muffin then collapses on itself. The finished muffin looks sunken and contains a dense crumb. The muffin falls apart easily and lacks its rounded top. The excess rising and subsequent collapse may also make a muffin tough and chewy.

So what will be the perfect recipe for a muffin? “BBC (2013)” states the following:

  • If the muffin top is too flat and smooth, try slightly reducing the sugar and fat in the recipe by 20% to see if that makes a difference.
  • If the crumb of the muffin is too dense, try slightly increasing the amount of egg (especially egg white), slightly decrease the flour, and for every 150g wheat flour replace two heaped teaspoons of flour with the same measure of cornflour. This helps to create a finer crumb structure.
  • If the crumb of the muffin is too coarse, try reducing the number of times you fold in the flour. As you fold in the flour, count 30 beats of the spatula through the mixture. There may still have a few lumps when spooning the batter into the paper case, but the muffin crumb will be more delicate.
  • If the muffin bakes a little dry, increase the oven temperature and decrease the baking time.


  1. Helmenstine, A. M. (2016, October 25). What is the difference between baking soda & baking powder? Baking powder and baking soda chemical composition. Retrieved January 12, 2017, from Education, http://chemistry.about.com/cs/foodchemistry/f/blbaking.htm
  2. Olson, PhD, A., & Rowland, PhD, T. (2014, October 6). Chemistry of baking ingredients 1: How much baking powder do quick Breads need? Retrieved January 12, 2017, from http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/FoodSci_p007.shtml
  3. Stone, S. (2015, January 9). How Does Baking Powder Work? Retrieved January 12, 2017, from The Cake Blog, http://thecakeblog.com/2015/01/how-baking-powder-works.html
  4. (n.d.). Baking Soda and Baking Powder: What's the Difference? - Culinary Arts. Retrieved December 24, 2016, from http://culinaryarts.about.com/od/bakingdesserts/a/Baking-Soda-And-Baking-Powder.htm
  5. Phys. The difference between baking soda and baking powder. Retrieved January 15, 2017, from https://phys.org/news/2014-05-difference-soda-powder.html
  6. BBC Worldwide Ltd. Baking powder. Retrieved January 15, 2017, from http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/glossary/baking-powder
  7. Haney, A. L. What happens when I put in too much baking powder in a Muffin? Retrieved January 15, 2017, from http://oureverydaylife.com/happens-put-much-baking-powder-muffin-32804.html
  8. BBC. (2013, March 4). BBC food blog: Muffin clinic: Creating the best muffin recipe. Retrieved January 15, 2017, from BBC, http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/food/2012/02/muffin-clinic-creating-the-bes.shtml