Loading... Please wait...

All About Cocoa Powder

From Ed Engoron’s Choclatique:

For the most decadent chocolate desserts acocoa-sampler.pngnd confections, you should use the finest quality, premium cocoa powders. For the recipes in this book, I also used our Choclatique unsweetened cocoa powders – Natura (all-natural), Red Rouge (lightly Dutched), and Black Onyx (ultra-Dutched), the latter used largely for color rather than flavor. It is great for those deep rich devil’s food and blackout cakes and really dark, dark, rich chocolate ice cream. Please do not substitute drinking chocolate mixes for unsweetened baking cocoa, as it will adversely affect the flavor of your finished chocolate recipe.

cocoarouge-v1a-copy.pngBefore I go any father, let me explain the differences between Dutch-processed cocoa and natural cocoa. All cocoa powder is made by using hydraulic pressure to remove just about all the cocoa butter from the chocolate liquor (the thick, dark mass produced from the cocoa beans). At this point, the cocoa is considered “natural” or non-alkalized.

Dutch-processed, or alkalized, cocoa powder requires another step. Natural cocoa powder is treated with an alkali. The alkali is solely to control the flavor and color of the cocoa, which now is smoother and darker than natural cocoa.darkcocoapowder-v1a-copy.png

In some instances, it does not matter which you use – non-alkalized or alkalized – but more often I specify one or the other. Nearly all im ported brand s of cocoa are Dutch-processed (alkalized); domestically, Hershey’s and Nestlé make brasher tasting, natural (non-alkalized) cocoa powders. It is best to use the type specified in the recipe.

When cocoa powder is the only chocolate used in a cake, it imparts a full, rich chocolate flavor and dark color. Cocoa powders can also be used in concert with other chocolate ingredients, such as unsweetened chocolate or chocolate ganache, to improve the texture and flavor of the finished product. This result is a cake with a more complex and intense chocolate flavor. Many recipes call naturalcocoapowder-v1a-copy2.pngfor sifting the cocoa powder with the flour. Other recipes suggest combining the cocoa powder with a small amount of boiling water or hot coffee to develop the full flavor of the cocoa powder. You may prefer one method over the other, but until you are comfortable with both, follow the recipe’s instructions.

You may notice that recipes that rely on cocoa powder also call for more butter than other recipes, and a leavening agent, such as baking powder or baking soda. This is to offset the cocoa powder’s drying and structural effects.

Due to these differences, never substitute one kind of cocoa for another without making these adjustments:

If the recipe calls for:


3 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder

3 tablespoons natural cocoa powder plus a pinch (1/8 teaspoon) of baking soda

3 tablespoons natural cocoa powder

3 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder plus a pinch (1/8 teaspoon) of cream of tartar or lemon juice.