What Raising Agents Are Used In Making Cakes?

Raising agents are a substance that is capable of producing gas which, when heated, expands causing mixtures to rise and become less dense.  The gases produced are carbon dioxide, air, and/or steam.

Importance of Raising Agents

Reasons for using raising agents

  1. Make the product look appetizing
  2. Make the texture and taste, spongy and light
  3. Make the product easy to digest

Raising agents are introduced into flour mixtures before baking by:

  1. Chemical means

There are two ways of achieving this:

  • Using baking powder, bicarbonate of soda(alone), and through the bicarbonate of soda and an acid.
  • Through the process of neutralization
  1. Mechanical means
  • Sieving dry ingredients together
  • Creaming fat and sugar
  • Whisking eggs and sugar
  • Rubbing-in fat to dry ingredients
  • Folding flour into whisked or creamed mixtures
  • Rolling flour mixtures
  • Kneading dough

Remember to knead, roll and fold in mixtures lightly or else the air, which has been trapped, will escape.

  1. Biological-where yeast is used

Yeast gives out carbon dioxide gas by the process of fermentation.

Chemical Raising Agents and Their Uses

Chemical raising agents are made by alkali and acid.  Whenever an alkali and an acid meet in the presence of moisture, they neutralize each other.  During the process of neutralization, carbon dioxide gas is given off.  When heat is applied more carbon dioxide is given off.

  1. Bicarbonate of soda(alone)

When moistened and heated, bicarbonate of soda releases carbon dioxide but it gives an unpleasant taste and a yellowish color both of which spoil the quality of food.

Bicarbonate of soda is therefore suitable when used alone in strong-flavored, dark-colored products such as gingerbread. (treacle, syrup, brown sugar, and ginger provide the dark colors and strong flavors).

  1. Bicarbonate of Soda( with an acid)

Acids are mixed with bicarbonate of soda so that the products do not have unpleasant taste or color.  The acids needed are:

  • Cream of tartar
  • Tartaric acid
  • Sour milk
  • Vinegar
  • Lemon juice
  1. Baking Powder As a Raising Agent

This is made up of bicarbonate of soda and an acid.  The acids commonly used are tartaric acid and cream of tartar.  A little amount of starch (such as rice flour) is added during the manufacture of baking powder.

Correct proportions of baking powder to flour mixture should be followed in basic recipes in order to obtain good quality results.

Basic recipe

No. of teaspoons baking powder to 500g of floor



Plain cakes, using rubbing in method and 2 eggs


Cakes, half flat to flour, rubbing-in or creaming method, 4 eggs


Rich cakes(three quarter fat to flour), 6 eggs


Very rich cakes(equal fat to flour) 8 eggs


Very rich cakes(equal fat to flour), heavy fruited,8-10 eggs


Whisked sponge cakes


Suet pastry



Remember to store all chemical raising agents in an airtight tin or containers to prevent any unwanted neutralization occurring.

Self-Raising Flour Raising Agent

This is flour which has baking powder added to it during its manufacturing process.  This avoids measuring out additional raising agents.  It also avoids problems of any uneven blending.

Steam (also a raising agent)

Steam is produced when the watery liquid used in a mixture reaches boiling point during cooking.  The steam rises up in the mixture and makes the mixture rise with it.  To make use of steam as a raising agent two things are needed:

  1. Plenty of watery mixtures
  2. Pastry doughy mixtures

Did you enjoy different types of raising agents used in bakery? Share and comment below.

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