what is citric acid?

citric acidCitric acid is found in so many products. I start reading ingredients and it sounds great and then I get to citric acid. I have at least a dozen items in my pantry or fridge that list this as an ingredient. I keep buying them and yet I haven’t the slightest idea what is in it. I think it is fairly natural and harmless, but I am just guessing.

Guessing isn’t the best way to go about deciding what to put in my body so now seems like a good time to get to the bottom of this for all of us that don’t know and keep blindly purchasing items with citric acid.

What is it
Citric acid comes from the juice of citrus fruits. It is extracted from them and turned into a white powder. This is what I has always assumed. This next part shouldn’t come as a surprise but it does. The common citric acid you find today is made from feeding a mold variety, A. niger, which is found on onion, grapes and apricots. It is like Halloween for the mold picked to make citric acid. It is hopped up on sugar and then left too its on natural process to create the by-product citric acid. There are a few other steps in there and some chemicals added to complete the process. The mold used is referred to as black mold, but it is not the variety that you might find in your house that would, rightfully, cause panic.

I liked the idea of citric acid when I believed that it was from citrus. It made it seem like the same process as me putting lemon or lime juice on my guacamole to keep it from turning brown. Knowing that it isn’t as natural as I was assuming is disappointing.

Why is it used
Citric acid is added for a variety of purposes:

  • flavoring agent – sodas
  • preservative – many processed and canned foods (even your own canned tomatoes)
  • emulsifier – ice creams and other fatty frozen treats

It has a sour taste so over use could change the flavor of a product unfavorable. If you have ever had sliced apples that tasted a little off and not as sweet as you would have liked, too much citric acid might be the culprit.

You can buy the citric acid powder in the canning section to help preserve your own canned goods. It also has applications as a cleaning agent used in a much larger quantity than you would find in your food, but might be a good option to get rid of some hard water stains.

Pros: It makes your flavored beverages taste citrusy and your can goods have a longer shelf life.

Cons: The most common citric acid doesn’t come from citrus. Some people can be allergic to citric acid. Eating too much can cause the enamel of your teeth to erode, you probably wouldn’t ever eat that much of it though not a huge con.

Processed level: 3-in its current form found in store products

Natural, Chemical, or Other: Chemical

Will I still eat it: Yes, if it is one of the only additives I will still buy products with citric acid

What other items listed in the label ingredient list give you pause?  Leave them in the comments and I will do the research for a future post.

Processed levels:
1-it is a long shot, but you could technically make it at home
2-it comes from something you know but that was a long time ago in a galaxy far far away
3-you need a masters or a PhD and a lot of lab equipment to make this.

Natural-comes from something grown or once living that has been cooked or processed to create a different product. This doesn’t necessarily mean it is good for you just that it started its life as something you are familiar with.

Chemical-It was made in a lab mixing chemicals or a combination of natural products. This does not necessarily mean it is bad for you just that it doesn’t resemble any animal, plant or mineral. 

Other-I don’t know where this come from and personally wouldn’t touch it with a 10-foot pole. 

Articles used in research:

Checkerboard cake & Dark chocolate buttercream

I met my husband 5 years ago today and we have barely been apart since. We were introduced by a mutual friend over an evening of sports. He could probably tell you the exact conversation that brought up birthdays, I just know that it came up. What I learned in that conversation is that just like my parents Tom and I have birthdays that are two days apart, that one of us is two years older than the other and that 16 days into a relationship I was going to need to come up with a birthday present/celebration. For those of you that are math challenged, like myself, Tom’s birthday is October 26th and mine is October 28th.

His favorite NBA team, The Lakers, opened the season  on his birthday that year so to celebrate I invited Tom & his roommate over to have dinner with me &  my friend Michelle. Dinner I kept simple with chili, but I aimed to impress him with a birthday cake. I made the cake and iced it and was feeling pretty proud as I went to slice it and serve it up. When I cut into it and served the first slice he practically gasped before he said, “checkerboard cake!”

I was certainly hoping he would be impressed, but this was more than I was expecting. Turns out years before his mom let him pick out any cake he wanted from one of her cookbooks. He picked checkerboard cake, the most complicated cake in the book. She made it, but it was never her favorite cake. She didn’t like something about how it turned out and he hadn’t had it since that birthday. I don’t think it is the only reason he decided to marry me, but I am certain that checkerboard cake didn’t hurt my chances.

checkerboard cake w/ dark chocolate buttercream

If you want a cake that will have people in awe checkerboard cake is your cake. It is simple to make, but looks complicated when you cut into the center. There are special pans that will help you make the pattern, but I have never used one and I have always had an impressive checkerboard when I sliced the cake. When I made it last weekend for a celebration at my parents house I used some of my Lindt Chocolate to make a tasty dark chocolate buttercream icing for the cake. Today is your last chance to enter the #choctoberfest giveaway for you chance to win some chocolate, sugar and even more baking ingredients.

For my checkerboard cake I used a Lane cake recipe, which is a sponge cake, from my favorite cake cookbook The Perfect Cake by Susan Purdy. I love so many of the cakes in that book, but not so much the Lane cake. I am sure it is a great recipe, but it requires egg whites to make the cake light and fluffy and I always seem to deflate them when I fold them in. My next checkerboard cake will be made with this recipe from Good Housekeeping or I will make two separate cake batters and make a 4 layer 8-inch cake instead of a 3 layer cake. You could use box cake if you prefer, but it doesn’t save you as much time as you would think.

To make the layers set up 3 cake pans. Pipe the batter in three alternating circles. Two pans will have yellow cake in the center, surrounded by chocolate cake and then a final outside layer of vanilla. One pan will have a layer of chocolate cake in the center, surrounded by yellow cake and then a final outside layer of chocolate. If you make a 4 layer cake you will have two of each. When you assemble the cake the oddball layer will be your center layer. On a 4 layer cake just alternate and you will get a beautiful checkered pattern.

I received Lindt chocolate as part of my participation in #Choctoberfest. All opinions are my own. 

An InLinkz Link-up

Dark chocolate buttercream frosting
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Dark chocolate buttercream frosting
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  1. Melt chocolate in the microwave or over a double broiler on the stove. Allow to cool while you make the icing.
  2. In the bowl of a mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until light and fluffy.
  3. Gradually add sugar, frequently scrap down the bowl as you go. Add vanilla and beat until icing is smooth.
  4. Adjust icing to a spreading consistency. If it is too thick add the milk. If too thin add more sugar. You want it to be easy to spread so it doesn't tear the cake when you ice, but not so loose it drips down the sides.
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Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook

The first time I heard of monkey bread, I was reading the America’s Test Kitchen cookbook. It was one of the first yeast breads I ever tried to make. It turned out well and one piece lead to another, which lead to another and before I knew it the whole batch was eaten. Seeing a chocolate version in the Back in the Day Bakery Made with Love cookbook brought back fond memories of the cinnamon-y version I made years ago. With my new found confidence from my recent baking class it seemed like a good place to start in my month long journey through the cookbook for the cookbook club. It is also fit right in with #choctoberfest with Imperial Sugar. If you haven’t already signed up head over and enter the giveaway. The prize is sure to help with your holiday baking this year.


I received the cookbook from Artisan Books after I reviewed their book The Picnic. I wasn’t particularly excited to make anything from the book and honestly didn’t open it for months. I finally opened it because when I asked the cookbook club which cookbook they would be more drawn to between baking and vegetarian, baking won. I haven’t stopped thinking about the book since I read it a week ago in preparation of featuring it.

I kind of figured it would be complicated recipes that they only make at the bakery. Nothing I would want to spend hours making. I was wrong. There are some challenging recipes, but most are good for early to intermediate bakers. You can tell it is written by chefs though because there are descriptions like, “mix until a smooth dough forms”. I have no idea what that means. Should it still be clinging to the bowl? should it be shiny? should it be sticky? What exactly does that mean in relation to dough? I rolled with it fingers crossed that I did it correctly.

chocolate bubble bread

And the recipe tasted delicious.  It didn’t look perfect, but no one in our house seemed to mind. My pan was a little small, they suggest a 9×5 loaf pan and mine was more 7×3, but it still tasted delicious. Like the monkey bread I made before you could do this in a bundt pan instead of a loaf pan, in case you too don’t have 9×5 loaf pan. The bundt pan would allow for the delicious lemon glaze to hit more pieces of bread!

Now that I have cracked this cookbook I am eager to try a few more of these recipes. Banoffee Pie and their trick for making caramelized milk in a slow cooker will be up later this week. I know I need to get the mexican spice cake in the mix and there are some savory recipes like, Sweet Potato PotPie that are irresistible. It is going to be a fun month. To hear more about these recipes come discuss this book and others with us in the cookbook club Facebook group. We would love to have you join the conversation about cooking and find some new cookbooks to try.

I received a copy of this book from Artisan Books. I was not otherwise compensated or obligated to write about this book and the ideas and thoughts here are my own. 

*This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a small commission, at no cost to you,  if you make a purchase  after clicking on the link.


Chocolate Bubble Loaf
Print Recipe
This is a recipe from the Back in the Day Bakery cookbook. If you love this one I highly recommend picking up the cookbook and making a road trip to Savannah, Georgia to have them bake for you.
1 loaf
1 loaf
Chocolate Bubble Loaf
Print Recipe
This is a recipe from the Back in the Day Bakery cookbook. If you love this one I highly recommend picking up the cookbook and making a road trip to Savannah, Georgia to have them bake for you.
1 loaf
1 loaf
chocolate filling
Lemon glaze
Servings: loaf
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. Turn the mixer on to low spped and mix the dry ingredients. Add the butter, egg yolk, and milk, mixing until the ingredients come together. Then mix for another 6 minutes, or until a smooth dough forms.
  2. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface, knead a few times and form into a ball. Put dough in an oiled medium sized bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise in a warm space, doubling in size, approximately 2 hours.
  3. Make the filling by mixing all ingredients (chocolate chips, cocoa powder, sugar) together in a bowl Lightly spray a 9x5 inch loaf pan or bundt pan with nonstick spray.
  4. Remove the risen dough from the bowl and gently press and shape it into an 8 inch square. Cut the dough into 16 equal pieces. Form each into a round ball.
  5. Arrange 8 of the dough balls in the bottom of the prepared pan. Sprinkle with half of the chocolate filling. Arrange the remaining dough balls on top and sprinkle with the remaining chocolate filling.
  6. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and allow the dough to double in size in a warm place, approximately an hour.
  7. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  8. Put the loaf in the oven for 20 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 190°F. You can test this using an instant read thermometer. Cool loaf in pan on cooling rack for 10 minutes.
  9. Make the glaze in a small bowl by stirring together all ingredients until smooth. If necessary thin the glaze with more lemon juice.
  10. Remove the loaf from the pan and place on a serving tray. Drizzle glaze over the top and serve warm.
  11. Bread will keep for 3 days in an airtight container.
Recipe Notes

If, like me, you want to make sure they balls of dough are exactly the same size, weigh the dough in ounces, divide by 16. Then measure out 16 pieces of dough that are that weight. For example my dough weighed 28 oz so I ended up with 16 pieces that weighed 1 3/4 ounces.

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