Sherbet (molecular gastronomy)

One of the best things about being a kid is experimenting in the kitchen. By using three common kitchen ingredients you can make your very own sherbet.

This recipe is one I have invented, but if you experiment further and come up with a better one, please share! We’d love to hear from you.

To find out about the science behind your sherbet, see the “Scientific stuff” section at the bottom of the page.


  • Citric acid (in baking section of your supermarket)
  • Icing sugar
  • Bicarb soda


  • Spoon measures
  • Teaspoon
  • Small air tight container or zip lock bag


  1. Measure out 1/4 teaspoon of citric acid.
  2. Measure out 1/4 teaspoon of bicarb soda.
  3. Measure out 4 tablespoons of icing sugar.
  4. Place these three ingredients into your container (or zip lock bag) and mix well.
  5. You’ve just made your own sherbet.
  6. Now repeat but use tartaric acid instead of the citric acid to make a second type of sherbet.


  1. Taste test both your sherbets.
  2. What happens when the sherbet mixes with the saliva in your mouth?
  3. Do you prefer the flavour of the sherbet made with citric acid or the sherbet made with tartaric acid?
  4. Do they both do the same thing in your mouth?
  5. What happens if you put some sherbet on a small plate and add a few drops of water?
  6. Can you make a better tasting recipe?

Scientific stuff

By mixing the acid (tartaric or citric) to bicarb soda you are creating an acid / base reaction. This doesn’t occur until you add moisture, in this case the saliva in your mouth. When these two chemical compounds combine they react and give of a gas, which gives you the fizzy feeling in your mouth. The ingredients don’t taste very good by themselves, so we add icing sugar so that the sherbet tastes sweet. If you try the bicarb soda or acid individually, you’ll notice they have different tastes (and they’re not that nice!).

Citric acid (E number 330) comes from citrus fruits (lemon, limes, oranges and mandarins) while tartaric acid (E number 334) is found in grapes and bananas.

Acids and bases are common compounds. Things like lemons, oranges and vinegar are acids. Edible acids taste sour. While edible bases usually taste bitter and bases often feel slimy or slippery. Caustic soda and acetone (found in nail polish remover) are examples of (NON edible) bases.

NOTE – most ACIDS and BASES are NOT edible. So be sure you know they are before you consume them. If you are not sure, don’t try!