Baking Powder and Bitter Taste

This past Friday I ended up baking a small cherry cake for our family. The recipe was very simple – it only had 5 ingriedents: flour, baking powder, eggs, oil and pie filling. Unfortunatly, after the cake was baked, it turned out that it tasted very bitter to me. My wife on the other hand, did not taste anything unusual. To add more to this mystery, I have been tasting a bit of bitterness in some baked goods at my home for quite some time. My first thought was an egg substitute but after some research, it was something entirely different.

It turns out that the blame is on the baking powder. There are two reasons why baking powder can cause something to taste bitter:

1. Some people are sensitive to a specific type of baking powder. It turns out that there are TWO types of baking powder – one containing a salt called “sodium aluminum sulfate”, and others that don’t. This particular salt is bitter according to this page and this page. Wikipedia seems to imply that some people are more sensitive to its taste than others. While there has been healthy concerns, it does not look like they were confirmed.

2. Using too much baking powder causes bitterness. According to this page at Joys Of Baking, too much baking powder can cause bitter taste. The normal proportion is about 1 to 2 teaspoons per 1 cup of flour. This recipe had a mistake – 2 TABLESPOONS instead of 2 tea spoon.

While I was researching this, it turns out that for the past year we used to use non-aluminum baking powder made by Rumford. However, recently we ran out, and when I went to check the cupboard, it turns out that we switched to a different brand made by Clabber Girl which contans aluminum.

If you feel particularly lazy to go shopping, Amazon sells Rumford baking powder online with free shipping right here.

P.S. The only reason why I am bothering to post this is because it took me more than 20 minutes of Googling to find the right answer. I am hoping that my post will help others find the answer quicker.

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71 thoughts on “Baking Powder and Bitter Taste

  1. This is incredibly helpful. I just googled the words: baking powder makes recipes taste bitter – and your blog came up. I thought I was going crazy with the bitter taste. No one else in my family seems to taste it. It bothers the daylights out of me though. After making a small cake that required a full tablespoon of baking powder tonight, and getting a few bitter bites – mingled with a few normal bites, I decided enough was enough – and turned to my friend Google. I’m going to try to convert the recipe to baking soda – as I’m not too excited about the brands that are alternative baking powders. Alternative baking powder offerings from the store have ingredients that look as questionable as the standard powder. I must go research how to convert recipes. Anyway – long story short – thank you!

  2. Eureka! Sorry to post twice, but I mis-spoke in my last post. When I said that alternative baking powders have questionable ingredients – it appears this isn’t usually the case. It must have been the case with the brand my local store carries – but other brands that I googled don’t contain anything questionable at all. Having said that – there’s an article which might be helpful in explaining the evolution of baking powder. Here’s the link:

  3. Ahhh! Thank you – I thought I was alone!
    Yeah….. Now I know to just use the excuse ‘I am watching my weight’ That is much easier than offending family members who are so proud of thier cooking achievements.

  4. This was soooo helpful. I finally had the perfect vanilla cake recipe and thought everyone I shared it with had something wrong with their tastebuds because they were convinced it was perfect, but I couldn’t enjoy it with them due to a very bitter taste I was picking up on. I even retraced my steps thinking maybe there was dishsoap residue on something I baked with. Until I made another batch, scratched my head and googled, and your article popped up. THANK YOU. I can’t wait to try the Rumsford.

  5. Thank u so much for this post. I have been baking gluten free goods for my hubby and was wondering what that taste was! :-)

  6. Thank you so much!! I thought I was crazy. My delicious Maple Pecan Scones tasted like the pecans had gone rancid. So I bought new ones and tried again…they STILL tasted disgusting. So I googled Baked Goods Taste Bad and your article came up first. And yes…I just switched my baking powder from one without sodium aluminum sulfate to one that has it. I will be switching back immediately! :) Thanks so much. I thought I was crazy.

  7. thanks so much. We had the same problem. my friend and I baked a banana cake and we thought it tasted fine. but another friend of ours insisted the cake was bitter. it was the baking powder! the recipe i followed used 1.5 tsp baking powder AND 1/4 tsp baking soda in 3/4 cups flour. it was obviously too much baking powder for a small cake. the brand i use is “blue bird.” it doesn’t say “sodium aluminium sulphate” but slyly mentions Acid E521 which is basically exactly that. here is a link.

  8. Thank you! It helped me out a lot. I was wondering what was going on with the bitter taste.. almost worrying. This explains it all ! :-)

  9. How about adding a bit of a product with acidic qualities to help react with the baking soda? I understand that an acidic product (i.e. lemon or yogurt) in your recipe offsets the bitter taste of baking soda. Also apparently its best to purchase a baking soda which doesn’t contain aluminium.

  10. Arghhhhh! Hubby just made his famous “world’s best” roll-out biscuits, slathered them with butter. I couldn’t finish even one. Shocked to find a sharp, metallic, chemical, salty taste at the back of my tongue with each otherwise delicious bite. At first, I panicked and thought some crazy person had poisoned one of the ingredients, a la the “Tylenol Tamperer”. Hubby can’t detect the bad taste, btw. And I have no symptoms of stroke, kidney disease, or broken mercury amalgam fillings. I have now decided the likely culprit is a different brand of baking powder than we normally get. Our normal brand = Clabber Girl. This one = Calumet. Back to Clabber Girl it is!

  11. Thank you so much. I hate making baked goods at home because of the bitter taste that only I can taste. There is something where some people can taste bitterness while others can’t, I did an experiment in my Biology class. I’m just glad there’s a remedy.

  12. I had the same issue, i hate that metallic taste. However, one time i was making a frittata and i kind of got that taste again. There was no baking soda involved at all. Is it possible that eggs play a role?

    So frustrating, you are working so hard just to get that nasty taste at the end.

  13. Thanks so much for posting this. I figured it was the baking soda that made my first time home made biscuits taste bitter to me. Just didn’t know the correct amount. Thanks, again :)

  14. I always bake with Clabber Girl and I switched to Trader joe’s baking soda. OMG…! same recipie tasted horrible!! salty,metallic, chemical… disgusting taste. Spoiled my spinach pie! (the only ingredient reads Sodium bicarbonate USP.

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