Left to Right: Natural cocoa, Dutch-processed cocoa, black cocoa. Front: Cacao nibs
Any Bakepedia recipe that calls for cocoa will specify which kind, usually natural or Dutch-processed. There is also black cocoa that we purchase from King Arthur Flour – which is the color and flavor of Oreo cookies. All of these types of cocoa have their own qualities and it is important to know the difference. Here is a quick look at cocoas compared.
First of all, if a recipe just says “1/2-cup cocoa” then you have some sleuthing to do. What is the context? If you are reading an older cookbook, say an American cookbook from the 1950s, then chances are they want you to use natural cocoa, as that is what was available and widely used at that time. Devil’s food cakes were often made with natural cocoa. The classic Hershey’s tin of cocoa in the supermarket is natural cocoa.
Natural cocoa labels might also say “cocoa powder” or “unsweetened cocoa.” Typically if a cocoa has been Dutch-processed, the manufacturer does take the time to point that out.
When a recipe calls for Dutch-processed cocoa, it has taken into consideration the fact that this cocoa has been treated to reduce its natural acidity. Substituting natural cocoa for Dutch-processed can wreak havoc with a recipe and is not recommended. Or rather, you are on your own with the results. Truth be told, we have at times had as much success with one as with the other. It all depends on the specific recipe, however, always use what is recommended and is hopefully specified.
Black cocoa, as mentioned above, gives your baked goods the really deep, dark, rich flavor of the cookie portion of Oreos that you can probably imagine in your mind’s palate. It’s one of those childhood flavor memories that many of us have! We typically use black cocoa to make up half of the amount of cocoa called for in a recipe. You can see it put to good use in our Blackout Cake.
As an aside, it appears that antique cocoa tins are collectibles. Tins like this come up on eBay from time to time and can add color to your pantry.