Why (and When) It’s Important to Bloom Cocoa Powder

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Cocoa powder is a pantry superstar. Mild and unassuming next to those rich chocolate bars, it nevertheless offers surprising power — if you know how to use it right.

If you’ve spent any time baking with cocoa powder, you may have noticed recipes that call for the cocoa powder to be “bloomed” sometimes with hot water (or, in the case of our pantry cocoa brownies, in oil). Here’s what that really means, why it’s actually important for your chocolate dessert, and a few smart ways to do it.

What It Means to Bloom Cocoa Powder

When cocoa powder is “bloomed” it’s mixed with a hot liquid, stirred well to break up any lumps, and then left to sit for a minute or two. The cocoa powder dissolves, which thickens the liquid and releases flavor particles within the powder. This technique brings out the best in cocoa powder and unleashes its ultra-chocolatey potential.

So, What Does This Mean for Your Desserts?

It means there are very, very good things ahead, fellow chocolate-lovers! Recipes for brownies, cakes, and beyond that call for cocoa powder to be bloomed, translate into bigger, more intense chocolate flavor in the finished baked good.

It also means your craving for chocolate can be satisfied with the pantry-friendly, always-available cocoa powder — even when you don’t have a rich chocolate bar on hand. Those pantry cocoa brownies we mentioned are a case study in this phenomenon.

3 Smart Ways to Bloom Cocoa Powder

So, we’ve covered that cocoa powder is bloomed using a hot liquid. As for what that liquid is, well, it can vary depending on the recipe. Here are three you may see.

  • Hot water: As with our classic chocolate layer cake, many recipes simply rely on hot water when blooming cocoa powder.
  • Hot coffee: Want to up your game a little more? Swap the hot water for chocolate’s BFF, hot coffee, like I did in our marshmallow-topped super-chocolatey cupcakes. Not only will coffee bloom the cocoa powder, but it also plays especially well with chocolate to make the rich flavor pop even more.
  • Hot oil: This is the trick for blooming cocoa powder that’s best reserved for an irresistible tray of chewy brownies.

Our Favorite Super-Chocolatey Recipes with Cocoa Powder

Your turn — do you bloom cocoa for recipes? Any other liquids we should know about for blooming?