The Trick to Making (Intensely Dark) Chocolate Cakes or Cookies

updated May 6, 2019
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If you’ve ever baked brownies or chocolate cake, you’ve probably chosen between two types of cocoa powder: natural and Dutch processed (natural being the more common option, and the one you should use if a recipe doesn’t specify). But you may be surprised to learn there’s actually a third type of cocoa powder — and it’s the secret to some of the best, most decadent chocolate treats around. Say hello to black cocoa powder.

Credit: Charli Nowak

Black Cocoa Powder Is the Secret to Intensely Chocolate-y Baked Goods

If you’ve ever wondered what makes Oreo cookies so dark in color they’re almost black, the answer is black cocoa powder. This type of cocoa powder is similar to Dutch cocoa powder in that it’s processed with an alkaline solution to neutralize its natural acidity, which darkens the color and results in a strong chocolate flavor. Black cocoa is treated more heavily with the solution so that it’s even darker in color — practically charcoal black — and has deep, intense chocolate flavor.

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Since black cocoa powder is stripped of its acid, it won’t react with baking soda to help your cake rise (and neither, for that matter, will Dutch cocoa powder). So if your recipe doesn’t specify which cocoa powder to use and calls for baking soda as the only leavening agent, you’ll want to stick with natural cocoa powder.

If, however, the recipe calls solely for baking powder — which contains the acid needed for leavening — or doesn’t include any leavening at all, you can use any type of cocoa powder including black cocoa. If it calls for both baking soda and baking powder, stick with natural cocoa powder if it contains more baking soda than powder, but choose between any of the varieties if it contains more baking powder than soda.

It’s also important to note that the processing makes black cocoa powder almost fat-free, so it’s best to combine it with natural or regular Dutch cocoa powder so that what you’re baking won’t turn out too dry or crumbly. I like to go with a 50/50 ratio of black cocoa and regular Dutch cocoa or natural cocoa , which yields intense color and flavor without sacrificing texture.

5 Recipes to Try with Black Cocoa Powder