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The classic m fault is from overleavening. You don't need the baking soda in that recipe. People are going to say it's to neutralize the acid in the buttermilk, but what's actually happening is that it's making bubbles with the buttermilk. The middle of the cake is turning to froth, and collapsing. Try it without the soda.
 

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I think you could do it with either the baking powder, which is baking soda and and acid with a buffer ingredient so they won't react in the can, or with the soda alone, but not both. I got into a beef with Marcy Goldman, who runs betterbaking.com and who wrote a neat book on Jewish Holiday baking. I was making her honey cake and it kept collapsing. It has a lot of acid ingredients like orange juice, honey, brown sugar. So I took out the baking powder and it worked fine. I emailed her through her web site, but she was not too receptive. "It's supposed to be that way.." And sure enough, the picture on the cover of the book features a collapsed Moist and Majestic New Year's Honey Cake. One of the last things my instructor at J&W in baking formula technology told me was that baking powder in general was misused by a lot of people, and I wish I'd picked her brain about that.

And while we're here..this phrase about neutralizing the acid. I don't really get it. The acid in the ingredient is reacting with the baking soda and causing the formation of carbon dioxide. If it were truly neutralizing, as in bringing it to a ph of 7, wouldn't it take the edge off the tangy taste of the buttermilk? And isn't that taste what one uses buttermilk for anyway? I'm sure it's changing the overall ph of the batter, it has to, but I look at the reaction for the potential to yield gas, which means leavening. Where's Kokopuffs when you really need him?
 

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This was in the current issue of Chef Magazine in an article about muffins, coincidentally written by the very instructor, Paula Figone, that I referred to above. I took a gingerbread muffin recipe last week and made it two ways, once with soda, and once with powder. It collapsed with the soda, but got nice and dark. Next time, with just powder, it didn't get as dark, didn't collapse, and didn't taste as good. And this might be why....


"Why do some muffins contain both baking soda and baking powder?
Baking powder is the main chemical leavener in muffins. It contains both baking soda and acid, with cornstarch to absorb moisture.The baking soda and acid react in the presence of heat and water, producing carbon dioxide gas for leavening.

Some muffins contain an acid ingredient, like fruit
or fruit juice, cultured dairy products or honey.
Those that do typically contain added baking soda,
to react with the acid ingredient. This provides some leavening,
and if more is needed, which is typically the case,
baking powder is also added.

It's important to neutralize the acid in muffin batter
for more reasons than for leavening. Acid batters
bake white, which is fine for white cake, but too
stark for muffins. And acid batters bake up bland-tasting
because the same chemical reactions that
cause browning in baked goods provide flavor. So
for the most appealing muffin, add a small amount
of baking soda to neutralize the acid ingredients.

You might wonder what happens if too much baking
soda is added. Have you ever seen a green ring
around the berries in a muffin? Or too much browning
too quickly? How about a salty, chemical after-taste?
If you notice any of these problems, reduce
the amount of baking soda and try again." June Chef Magazine
 
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