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.

82 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!

    • I made a cake. Seemed simple enough. I make cakes a lot and decided to try out a new recipe. The reciple said ‘add in 3 tsp of baking powder. It came out well and i decorated it beautifully. only after i tasted it i thought this is DIGUSTING. now i even served this to about 4 other people, whom i had to tell not to eat the cake. I didnt have to as they didnt like it either. Now i dont understand whats wrong, i pput in 3 tsp of baking powder in and not any more and it tasted horrible! Im scarred for life, If a recipe says add in baking powder, only add a bit. maybe use self raising flour, this recipe used plain flour maybe that was the problem. I now have a stupid cake sat in the kitchen and no dessert to eat. Fair play baking powder, fair play!

  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.

  15. Thankyou so much for this post!! Today I baked banana cake and something went wrong. It has an after taste that is really bitter. I was wondering what ingredients did I put to make it bitter and I could only think it is because of the baking soda. So I researched “does baking soda makes bread bitte?” and this blog comes out. Then I looked at my recipe and I accidentaly put 1tbsp in my banana cake insted of just putting 1tsp! I will substitute baking powder nexttime I guess..

  16. for every 1/4 tsp of baking soda in the dry mix, use 1 tablespoon of lemon juice in the liquid mix. the taste of soda will completely cancel out, while the soda/lemon which is the base/acid reaction will make the cake fluffy and rise better! use some vanilla essence or imitation vanilla essence to cancel out the eggy taste too.

    • Thank you, will try the baking powder and lemon. Although it may be a curse for the the hips, as currently I advoid baked stuff as now all the homebrand self raising flours taste. I live in Oz, so that is Coles, Woolies and Aldi.

  17. WOW, I thought I was going crazy, every time I bake something it tastes “rancid”, I suspected it was the baking powder because I recently purchased some in a bag (we’re in Korea) and I thought maybe they sold me the wrong stuff (I couldn’t read the packaging). Thankfully I purchased some more from the foreigner mart a few days ago, so will chuck the other one away and stick to what I know…
    Thanks so much for your post.

  18. Thank you so much for this post. I thought I was going to have to call my Doctor or something because EVERYTHING I’ve baked recently tastes very, very bitter. No one else in my family could taste it, so I started to worry! Looked in the cupboard and there it is – Clabber Girl – looking right back at me.

    So instead of going to the Doctor, I think I’ll just pop to the shops and try a different brand!

    Thanks again!

  19. Thank you for your article… I was going crazy after I tried a simple butter cookie recipe and I am baking for the first time…cookies taste great but at the end leave a bitter taste….this was so disappointing…but um glad I decided to Google it and got to read your article!! Baking powder I used has indeed sodium aluminium sulphate…Will buy a new one that’s aluminium free and hopefully won’t totally give up on baking !! Thanks a lot, now that’s how we benefit in this internet age :) I live in India!!

  20. I think I first learned about how bitter baking soda can be when I tried that recipe that had a misprint of one tablespoon instead of a teaspoon. So bitter I threw the batch away. But I just tried a recipe that called for 3 teaspoons of baking powder for 2 cups of flour. It tasted fine hot, but had a strong hint of bitterness when cooled. So at least for me, I’ll try 1 tsp per cup of flour next time. If that doesn’t work, then back to that wonderful yeast!

  21. I’ve noticed the problem in pancakes, but particularly in corn muffins! And I’m glad you took the time both to research and to write the results. AND I’m glad you mentioned the Rumford. We’ve been using Clabber whatever, and I never much paid attention. It said “no aluminum,” so I figured that meant no aluminum. Thanks!

  22. The real interesting thing is that the detection of bitterness in one type of baking powder vs. another is not consistent among people with that sensitivity. For instance, I noticed the annoying (and somewhat embarrassing) bitterness when I switched from Clabber Girl (double acting, with sodium aluminum sulfate) to ARGO (double acting, without aluminum), while others seem to have an issue switching *to* Clabber Girl. Clearly there is something else at work here, too. 😊

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