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Baking powder (Recipe: lemon tea cake)

Lemon cake

One scientific thing to know about baking powder:

It's a mix of chemicals, usually cream of tartar and either sodium aluminum sulfate or anhydrous monocalcium phosphate, that produces a controlled reaction when combined with liquids and heat. Nearly all baking powder sold today is "double acting," which means that it contains two acids that react at two different times; the quick-acting acid dissolves first, when mixed with liquid, and the slower-acting acid reacts when activated by heat. These reactions release carbon dioxide gas, which causes the batter that's carrying the baking powder to rise. If you start to make a recipe and find that all you have in the pantry is baking soda instead of baking powder, you can make a baking powder substitute by combining one part baking soda to two parts cream of tartar. (In a recipe that calls for 1 tablespoon (3 teaspoons) of baking powder, use two teaspoons of cream of tartar and one teaspoon of baking soda.)

Cooking or baking?

Baking powder usually comes in a tin with a snap-on lid. Keep it in the original tin, covered, in a cool, dry part of the pantry, for 6-12 months. To test for viability, drop a generous pinch in some hot water. If it fizzes, it's still good; if it sinks in a blob to the bottom of the bowl, throw it away.

Pantry ingredients in this recipe:
Baking powder (more facts and ingredient photos)
Granulated sugar
All-purpose flour
Confectioners sugar

Lemon cake

Lemon tea cake

There's no tea in this very lemony cake, but it's the perfect cake to serve with a cup of tea. Adapted slightly from The Flavor of New England: Breads, Rolls and Pastries, published by Yankee in 1981, this recipe makes 1 loaf (10-12 slices). Can be frozen.


Baking spray
1/2 cup softened butter (1 stick, left at room temperature)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon, grated
2 large eggs
1-1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup skim milk
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup confectioners sugar


Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-inch loaf pan with baking spray and set aside.

In a Kitchenaid type stand mixer, cream the butter and 3/4 cup sugar. Add lemon zest and eggs, and beat well. In a mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add this to the butter mixture along with the milk, and mix just until the dry ingredients are moistened.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan, and bake for 40-45 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the pan from the oven.

In a small measuring cup, whisk together the lemon juice and confectioners sugar until it is smooth, and pour over the warm cake. Allow the cake to cool in the pan.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Coffee spice cake
Aggression cookies
Blue corn muffins
Raisin-banana scones
Yogurt coffee cake with pecan filling

Other recipes that use baking powder:
Baking powder biscuits, from Trini Gourmet
Sour cream apple cake, from Gluten-Free Goddess
Yuzu white chocolate cupcake, from Cupcake Bakeshop by Chocklit
Baking powder bread, from Icelandic Cooking
Crustless spinach, onion and feta quiche, from Baking Bites

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


These lemon cakes are my fave..and I do love the poppyseed ones too!

Thank you for solving the mystery of baking powder and what to do with the lemons in my refrigerator. (But why did I buy so many in the first place?) Anyway, the tea cake recipe reminds me a lot of a lemon loaf cake that my mother makes. I can't wait to try this one!

I always get confused by baking powder and baking soda....which one is which, but I think I have it now... powder already has the acid in it to activate.

Do you know why a recipe might call for both? I've been asked, but don't know the answer.

Lydia, would it be passible to add some frozen blueberries to this tea cake, maybe 1 - 1 1/2 cups? I have some I need to use up.

Yum! I cannot wait to try this one!

I always try to keep a loaf of tea bread in my freezer for when guests pop in. It's nice to be able to offer a slice with a cup of tea. This lemony recipe looks wonderful, and Ron's idea of adding blueberries is a great one.
Thanks so much for the storage tip. I had no idea... :)

Peter, lemon and poppyseeds are such a classic combination, and for good reason. Delicious. You could certainly add poppyseeds to this basic lemon cake.

PunkRizz, whenever I see beautiful lemons in the market I always buy more than I need. Just can't resist!

Julia, I'm not baker enough to know the answer either, except to guess that both are used to control the rise, depending on the acidity of the other ingredients in the batter. I'd recommend the King Arthur Flour baking books for the answer to this one.

Ron, absolutely, but I'd defrost the blueberries first, and dry them. Then toss with a tablespoon or two of the flour mix, to keep them evenly distributed in the batter.

Candy, Ted and I truly inhaled this cake!

Christine, if I'd gotten this one into the freezer before my husband and I snacked it away, that would have been ideal. I do that with the apple cakes I make at this time of year, too.

Look at all that zest! I'm drooling over those cake slices, Lydia! :D

I now know why I don't bake - oh so complex and scientific.
I think I will stick to what I do best with baked goods...eat them when someone else makes them!

Oh lemon cakes! I love it. . .wow.. what a delicious recipe !?.. looks so cute and tempting.. thanks for sharing dear !!

Oh my lord... this looks so incredibly good. I'm such a sucker for tea and anything lemon. I simply love sponge cakes! Great job!

Hi I just made your wonderful lemon tea cake, it didn't rise a lot is that normal? But it tastes great just small...

Thanks Barbara

Who can resist a good lemon cake? This looks beautiful, Lydia!

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