Investigating the Differences Between Cocoa Powders

Ah chocolate. What could be better? As an avid baker I recently started experimenting with one of my favorite chocolatey desserts: classic chocolate cake. I got into my research mode, started  looking at recipes, weighing the pros and cons of buttermilk versus sour cream, and I found myself asking one big question: Dutched cocoa and natural cocoa, what’s the difference?

I decided to dig a little deeper and see if I could figure this out. The first thing I uncovered was something that I already sort off knew. The two cocoa powders are put through two different processes, Dutch processing and Broma processing. With Broma processing the cacao beans are roasted, crushed, and left to hang while the cocoa fats drain out. Dutch processing includes soaking the cocoa beans in alkaline solution, and then drying the beans and crushing them with a hydraulic press to release the cocoa fats. The results? The natural Broma processed has a sharper flavor, more bitterness, deep chocolateyness and an almost fruity note. The Dutch processed has its acidity neutralized, so its flavor is mellower and smoother, its color is a darker reddish brown, and its flavor is more complex.


So what does that mean for your home baking needs? First it means something really simple in terms of reading your recipe. Chances are, if you are reading a recipe that calls for cocoa and baking soda, it’s calling for natural cocoa, since the baking soda acts is alkaline, and the reaction between the acidic cocoa powder and base baking soda creates the leavening. If your recipe calls for cocoa powder and baking soda it’s calling for Dutch processed cocoa.

In America most of the standard supermarket varieties of cocoa are going to be natural processed, whereas Europeans tend to prefer the Dutch processed cocoa. There are some definite distinctions in flavor. Dutch processed cocoa has a darker and richer flavor, without the bitterness that comes with natural cocoa, but it also lacks the depth of chocolate flavor that comes with the natural cocoa.

If you want to try out the differences for yourself, here is a great recipe that offers adjustments for both Dutch processed cocoa and natural cocoa. It comes from an excellent blog called the Smitten Kitchen.

Either way, baked chocolate goodness. Enjoy!