Proper proportion of cream of tartar to baking soda for snickerdoodles

Dennis Williamson
  • Proper proportion of cream of tartar to baking soda for snickerdoodles Dennis Williamson

    When I make snickerdoodles, they taste too "tangy" to me which I believe is due to the acidity of the tartaric acid. The recipe I have calls for a 2:1 ratio of cream of tartar to baking soda which is consistent with the proportions in How do I make a baking powder substitute? and What is the difference between baking soda and baking powder?

    What can I do to reduce the tanginess?


    Here's the recipe from a 50 year old Betty Crocker cookbook (American measures):

    1 C shortening
    1 1/2 C sugar
    2 eggs
    2 3/4 C flour
    2 tsp cream of tartar
    1 tsp soda
    1/4 tsp salt
    Cream shortening and sugar. Beat in eggs. Sift together all dry ingredients 
    then add gradually to the shortening mixture. Roll into 1 1/2" balls and roll
    in a mixture of 2 Tbsp sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon (you'll need more than this).
    Place about 2" apart on an ungreased baking sheet (you can use Silpat or 
    parchment). Bake at 400°F for 8 - 10 minutes. They should be lightly browned 
    but still soft. If you prefer a crisp cookie, add a minute or two to the baking 
    time. They'll puff up then flatten with a cracked top. 
    Makes about 5 doz. 2" cookies.

    I've slightly modernized the instructions, but there's really no changes.

    I've used what we in the US call "cinnamon" which is actually Cassia (it's what you get at the grocery store and what you grew up on if you're American). If you buy Vietnamese or "Saigon" cinnamon that's what you're getting. I've also used true cinnamon (Ceylon). To me, it made the cookies taste very "Christmasy" and was a nice variation.

  • If they're tangier than you'd like that would be due to the acidity of the cream of tartar. While most recipes for Snickerdoodles do in fact us cream of tartar and baking soda for a homemade form of baking powder (most likely due to the fact that snickerdoodles are fairly "old"-style cookie), a few I looked at are using baking powder and no cream of tartar.

    Here are a few things to know and a suggestion:

    Acidic doughs do not spread easily and do not brown easily. Using the combination of cream of tartar in the 2:1 ratio w/ baking soda for leavening not only causes them to puff but with the higher acidic ratio it is also likely to help in keeping them more "cakey" and prevent them from browning as much.

    You could try cutting back the cream of tartar slightly and seeing if that helps (possible drawback could be the soda making a more pronounced bitter soapy taste if there isn't enough acidity).


    Replace the cream of tartar and baking soda with baking powder. Baking powder by volume isn't as powerful as baking soda because of the fact it contains soda, two dry acids, and cornstarch. 1 teaspoon of baking powder will leaven 1 cup of flour (vs. 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda to leaven a cup of flour). If your recipe calls for 2 cups of flour then use 2 teaspoons of baking powder and cut out the cream of tartar and baking soda.

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