Baking with Chocolate and Cocoa

Many recipes for chocolate cakes are complicated and some even requires specialized ingredients of equipment. However, it is also possible to make delicious cakes without the most expensive bittersweet chocolate or expensive equipment. See our selection of recipes.

Chocolate or cocoa

A cake made with cocoa instead of chocolate can be as delicious as a cake made with chocolate (e.g. some brownies). In some cases cocoa makes the cake more moist and more flavorful. However, some cakes must be made with chocolate (e.g. chocolate mousse cakes), and some are best if a combination of chocolate and cocoa is used. Chocolate icing is best if made with chocolate.

Both natural and Dutched cocoa may be used. Natural cocoa is slightly acidic and has a lighter color than Dutched cocoa. Natural cocoa may be used in combination with baking soda even if no additional acidifier is used in the recipe. Dutched cocoa has a darker color and is alkaline. It must not be used in combination with baking soda without adding an acidic ingredient, e.g., orange juice or sour cream.

Type of chocolate

It is very important to use the type of chocolate which is specified in the recipe. Never use a bittersweet chocolate if the recipe specifies semi-sweet or sweet! The quality of the chocolate is more important for recipes requiring fairly large amounts of chocolate compared to other ingredients (for example chocolate mousse, souffle, truffle, or a chocolate frosting). However, when you try a new recipe for the first time we recommend that you do not use very expensive chocolate before you have tested the recipe.

Melting chocolate

Be very careful when melting the chocolate. Chocolate starts to melt at around 95 degrees F / 35 degrees C and cannot stand a temperature above 120 degrees F / 50 degrees C; then it burns, separates and cannot be used. Therefore a double boiler should be used. Chop the chocolate coarsely and put it into the upper bowl. Stir frequently when it starts to melt, preferably with a plastic spatula. Once melted it will stay fluid for at least 30 minutes. The melted chocolate should not get in direct contact with water or steam. Please note that if the upper bowl in the double boiler is in direct contact with boiling water for several minutes the chocolate may burn. To avoid this use non-boiling hot water and stir frequently; alternatively place the upper bowl above boiling water and let the heat from the steam melt the chocolate in the upper bowl.

You can also melt chocolate in the microwave oven: put coarsely chopped chocolate in a glass bowl and put the bowl in the microwave oven. Use medium setting. The time will vary depending on the type of oven, the approximate melting time is 2 minutes for 6 oz (180 g).

In some recipes chocolate is dissolved by pouring boiling cream over chocolate chips, and that works well if you stir constantly.

Baking soda or baking powder

Traditionally baking soda is preferred in some countries and baking powder in others. Baking soda requires an acidic ingredient in order to work properly and in order to avoid an alkaline flavor of the cake. This acidic ingredient may be natural cocoa, orange juice, lemon juice, acetic acid, or sour cream. Baking powder is more neutral and does therefore not require an acidic ingredient. If a recipe calls for baking powder you should not use baking soda instead.

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