What Does Cream of Tartar Do in Baking

If you’re an avid baker, you’ve likely come across cream of tartar in some recipes. Despite its unique name, cream of tartar is a common ingredient in many kitchens. But what exactly is cream of tartar, and what does it do in baking?

In this article, we’ll delve into the world of cream of tartar and explore its benefits, uses, and role in baking.

What is Cream of Tartar?

Cream of tartar, also known as potassium bitartrate, is a white, odorless powder that’s formed during the fermentation of grapes. It’s often used in baking as a stabilizer and leavening agent.

Cream of Tartar is a byproduct of the wine-making process, and is made from tartaric acid. It’s also an essential ingredient in making meringue and some candy recipes.

What Does Cream of Tartar Do in Baking?

  1. Acts as a Leavening Agent

One of the most common uses of cream of tartar in baking is as a leavening agent. It helps cakes, cookies, and other baked goods rise by reacting with baking soda to produce carbon dioxide gas.

  1. Stabilizes Egg Whites

Cream of tartar is also useful in stabilizing egg whites, especially in recipes that call for beaten egg whites, such as meringues and angel food cakes. It helps to prevent overbeating and helps the egg whites maintain their structure.

  1. Prevents Crystallization

Another benefit of cream of tartar is that it helps prevent crystallization in syrups and frostings. It does this by inhibiting the formation of sugar crystals, which can cause a gritty texture in your baked goods.

Uses of Cream of Tartar in Baking

  1. In Meringue

Cream of Tartar is a crucial ingredient in making meringue. It helps to stabilize the egg whites and prevent them from deflating.

  1. In Angel Food Cake

Angel food cake is a type of sponge cake that’s made with whipped egg whites and no fat. Cream of tartar is used to stabilize the egg whites and create a light, fluffy texture.

  1. In Snickerdoodles

Snickerdoodles are a classic cookie made with cream of tartar. It’s what gives them their signature tangy flavor and chewy texture.

  1. In Syrups and Frostings

Cream of tartar is also useful in preventing crystallization in syrups and frostings. It can be added to recipes like caramel or fudge to help them maintain a smooth, creamy texture.


Can I substitute cream of tartar with anything else?

In most cases, you can substitute cream of tartar with lemon juice or white vinegar. However, keep in mind that these alternatives may change the flavor of your recipe slightly.

Is cream of tartar necessary in baking?

It’s not always necessary, but it’s often used as a stabilizer and leavening agent in many recipes.

How do I store cream of tartar?

Cream of tartar should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place, away from light and heat.


In conclusion, cream of tartar is a versatile ingredient in baking that has many uses and benefits. It’s used as a leavening agent, stabilizer, and preventer of crystallization in a variety of baked goods.

I'm Jennifer Tirrell, a self-taught baker, and founder of CakeRe. As an experienced baker and recipe publisher, I have spent over a decade working in the kitchen and have tried and tested countless baking tools and products. From classic cakes to creative twists, I've got you covered. So grab your apron and let's get baking!

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