The Ingredient That Might Be Ruining Your Pancakes

If you've ever gathered your ingredients and mixed up a batch of batter to make pancakes only to end up with a flat, floppy stack rather than sky-high pancakes that were perfectly light and fluffy, then you know how disappointing it can be. But just because your pancakes didn't rise like you expected them to doesn't mean you did anything wrong. Instead, it could be a single ingredient to blame.

Baking powder is a leavening agent that is commonly used in baking recipes to help cakes, pancakes, and other baked goods rise (via Medical News Today). When baking powder is fresh, it works effectively to create light, fluffy baked goods. However, when baking powder has expired, its leavening power can decrease, and it can cause baked goods to come out flat, dense, and not very appetizing (via The Kitchn).

Baking powder is made up of two main ingredients: An acid and an alkaline (via Serious Eats). The acid reacts with the alkaline in the presence of moisture to release carbon dioxide, which helps the batter rise and create a lighter, fluffier texture. However, when the baking powder has expired, the acid and alkaline can separate, causing it to lose its effectiveness. The expired baking powder can still produce carbon dioxide, but not enough to effectively leaven the batter.

How to tell if your baking powder has expired

So how can you tell if your baking powder has gone bad? There are a few simple tests you can perform to determine if your baking powder is still fresh. First, you can add a small amount of baking powder to a cup of hot water (via Recipe Tin Eats). If the baking powder is still fresh, it will immediately start to bubble and fizz, indicating that it is still active. If the baking powder does not bubble or fizz, it is likely expired and no longer effective.

Another test you can perform is to add a small amount of baking powder to a bowl of vinegar (via Taste of Home). If the baking powder is still fresh, it will start to bubble and fizz. If it does not, it has likely expired. Finally, you can simply smell the baking powder. If it has a musty or sour odor, it has likely gone bad and should be replaced.

So if you find that you have followed your pancake recipe perfectly and still end up with a flat stack, be sure to re-examine your baking powder container. You might find the expiration date is long past. If not, try testing it out to ensure bad baking powder is not the culprit for flat pancakes — and other baked goods — either.