What Is Bakewell Cream And How Do You Use It?

An ancient proverb states that necessity is the mother of invention. This certainly holds true for Bakewell Cream, one of New England's best-kept secrets. Created during World War II by chemist Byron H. Smith in reaction to a shortage of cream of tartar and baking powder, this gluten-free mixture of cornstarch and the mineral acid sodium pyrophosphate is still used by cooks today to prevent excess moisture. Being a substitute for cream of tartar, it can also replace baking powder entirely by combining Bakewell Cream in a 2:1 ratio with baking soda.

A wonderfully useful by-product captured during winemaking, cream of tartar was initially shipped to the United States from France before the war. After supply lines were interrupted, good old American ingenuity discovered a substitute and the rest is history. Retaining its New England roots, this product is currently manufactured by New England Cupboard and enjoys a superior shelf life to baking powder. You can store Bakewell Cream for up to 4 years versus the 18 months that is recommended for baking powder.

Get a rise out of Bakewell Cream

Bakers continue to use Bakewell Cream today as a leavening agent. You can use this fast-acting, kosher, non-aluminum leavener when baking everything from cookies to cakes. It's can even be used in an at-home playdough recipe to keep your kids occupied while you bake some yummy biscuits. Just mix 4 teaspoons Bakewell Cream, 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 cup fine salt, 2 cups water, and 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Shape the dough as is or add food coloring for a rainbow of chemical-free fun on rainy days.

The most common type of recipe that uses Bakewell Cream nowadays is biscuits. However, we've come full circle in the sense that many recipes that call for Bakewell Cream highlight that a good substitute to use, if you can't get your hands on it, is baking soda! While the New England Cupboard started with Bakewell cream and biscuits, they've grown to sell a wide array of dough and batter mixes that include their famous product.

Bakewell Cream versus cream of tartar

Many bakers swear by Bakewell Cream, finding it works well when mixed with baking soda in sugar cookie and biscuit recipes, which creates a reaction similar to baking powder. However, many also note that it doesn't work as well when substituted for cream of tartar in meringues. The difference in pH levels between Bakewell Cream and cream of tartar appears to be the reason. Alkaline environments — over a pH of 7 — help to not only rise but brown baked goods.

Since cream of tartar is more acidic when used without water in baking, it lowers the pH of the egg whites in the recipe more quickly, reducing overall browning. The meringues made with Bakewell Cream, on the other hand, turn brown before they are fully cooked, resulting in less-than-satisfactory pastries. Bakewell Cream seems to work well, however, as a leavening agent for muffins, biscuits, and other baked goods made from dough or batters. 

You can purchase Bakewell Cream online straight from New England Cupboard or at your favorite local grocery store. Use your own ingenuity to experiment with this novel ingredient and see how your favorite recipes handle the substitution.