Why is Baking a Cake a Chemical Change

Baking a cake is more than just mixing ingredients and enjoying a light, fluffy, and incredibly decadent treat; it’s a chemical change, too. The biggest clue that baking a cake is a chemical change is that it transforms ingredients into a new substance that can’t be reversed.

Hello! My name is Michelle, and I am no scientist; I’m a baker! But plenty of people will tell you that these titles are the same. Baking truly is a science, and that’s why I love discovering new scientific things about baking – such as whether is baking a cake a chemical or physical change.

The next time you’re baking a cake, look at things from a scientist’s point of view. How? We’ll help you. This article is all about learning why baking is a chemical change. There are a few different indicators, all of which are truly fascinating.

Who’s ready to learn?

Why is Baking a Cake a Chemical Change?

Without knowing the specifics of chemical changes, you can understand the four most important indicators that a chemical change has taken place:

  • Smell. The delightful scent a baked cake eludes isn’t just because of the ingredients meddling together. It’s because a chemical change has occurred. Since the smell from the batter to the actual cake is different, it’s a clear sign a chemical change has happened.
  • Heat. Another indicator is heat. When something has undergone a chemical change, it will give off or take in heat. In this case, cakes take in heat, otherwise known as an endothermic reaction.
  • Gas. Gases are released during the cake baking process, taking an ooey-gooey batter and transforming it into a light, fluffy, airy, and perfectly textured treat.
  • It cannot be undone. You can’t unbake a cake, which is our final clue that baking a cake is a chemical change. The original components are transformed into a cake, leaving the different ingredients (eggs, sugar, flour, etc.) behind. 

Since a baked cake has all four indicators of a chemical change, we can confidently say that baking a cake is, in fact, a chemical reaction. The chemical change occurs while the batter is heated in the oven, and new bonds are formed, creating the final result.

What Chemical Reactions Take Place While Baking?

Now you know that baking a cake is an irreversible chemical change. But what’s really going on behind the scenes? There are a couple of different chemical reactions that take place while your cake is baked in the oven.

The following chemical reactions take place while baking a cake:

  • When baking powder is presented with heat, tiny bubbles of gas form to make the cake rise. In turn, you’re left with a light and fluffy texture rather than a thick and gooey batter.
  • Heat also causes the proteins in eggs to undergo a chemical reaction, firming the ingredients and halting potential sinkage to create the final product.
  • Sugar undergoes a Maillard reaction, which is the chemical reaction that creates the browning on the exterior of cakes.
  • Lastly, oil is necessary to ensure that the chemical reactions from the heat don’t end up drying the cake. Think of it as a barrier for interior moisture.


Pretty fascinating, isn’t it? If you’re still curious about the chemical changes in baking a cake, check out these frequently asked questions below.

Is baking a cake a physical or chemical change?

Baking a cake is a chemical change because it takes a batch of ingredients and rearranges them (with the help of heat) to form a new substance (cake). The new substance cannot be reserved for its original form.

What is the chemical reaction in baking a cake?

Many chemical reactions take place while a cake is baking in the oven. The bulk of the reactions occurs when certain ingredients, such as eggs, sugar, and baking powder, are exposed to heat. From there, the reactions occur to meddle with the ingredients for the final result.

Why is cooking a chemical change?

It’s not just baking that causes a chemical change, but regular cooking, too. Basically, anything that starts as a batch of ingredients and is turned into something brand new is undergoing a chemical reaction.

What causes a cake to rise?

What causes a cake to rise is all thanks to the chemical changes involving baking powder. When exposed to heat, carbon dioxide bubbles are formed and trapped, which causes the cake to rise.

Final Words

Now, not only are you a top-notch baker, but you are a bit of a scientist, too. So the next time someone asks you if baking is a chemical change, you can confidently tell them “yes”  and show them the four indicators: smell, heat, gas, and an irreversible change. 

Did you know that baking a cake is a chemical change? Do you have anything to add to our scientific answer?

About Michelle
I have been a lover of sweets since day one. This led me on a self-taught baking journey starting at the age of 13. It's been over 10 years since the start of my baking adventures, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Now, people rave about my delectable treats, whether it’s a chocolate cake or a strawberry crepe.

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