What Is Baking Cocoa?

When it comes to using ingredients, chefs and other food enthusiasts are always finding new ingredients to use, as well as further developing traditional ingredients too.

One of the fruits of this continuous labor is the many ways that ingredients such as cocoa, derived from cocoa beans, are used in recipes these days.

Of course, you have your classic chocolate blocks and chips, but there is also raw cocoa powder now, among many other ingredients.

However, one of the ingredients that still seems to confuse some people is baking cocoa, how it is related to other ingredients, and what makes it different from other cocoa derivatives, such as cocoa powder and cocoa butter.

Well, that’s what we are going to show you today. In this article, we are going to be showing you what exactly baking cocoa is, and what it is made from.

We’re also going to see how it compares to other similar ingredients, such as baking soda, and see how you might use a useful ingredient like this in your cooking.

What Is Cocoa Powder?

Before we start explaining what exactly baking cocoa is and what it is used for, we should probably first explain a little about the ingredient that it is derived from, cocoa powder.

As many experienced cooks and bakers will know, cocoa powder is a fine powder that is known for its powerful flavors and bitter taste and is made from the cocoa beans that come from the cacao plant.

Although the cocoa powder is the technical name that most recipes will use, it is also known and sold as simply ‘cocoa’, but also as ‘unsweetened cocoa powder, as well as ‘natural cocoa’.

The cocoa beans that are used to make this fine powder are roasted at an incredibly high temperature, which gives them their distinctive bitter and slightly acidic flavor.

This is often why, when recipes use cocoa powder, they will often also call for the use of baking soda, in order to balance out the natural acidity and bitterness that you typically find in unsweetened cocoa powder

It is also the reason that most recipes for traditionally sweet chocolate-based foods, such as sweet desserts, baked goods, and hot chocolate mix, do not use natural unsweetened cocoa powder.

Otherwise, it is usually far too bitter for sweeter foods like that.

Generally speaking, if a recipe calls for some type of ‘cocoa powder’, but does not specify what kind of cocoa powders to use, it is the natural unsweetened cocoa powder that you should use (and also why those recipes often call for a ton of sugar at the same time).

What Is Baking Cocoa?

So, if cocoa powder is the ingredient that is roasted cocoa beans turned into a powdery substance, what exactly is baking cocoa?

Well, the best way to conceptualize it is as a more processed form of traditional cocoa powder and baking powder.

It is also known as ‘Dutch processed cocoa’, which refers to the process that was used to refine it.

What Is Baking Cocoa?

The process effectively alkalizes the acidic flavor of the unsweetened cocoa by bathing it in a potassium carbonate solution.

The resulting alkalized cocoa powder has a sweet and deep chocolate flavor to it and has very little of the original bitterness that cocoa powder that doesn’t go through Dutch processed cocoa powder does.

The Dutch process is perfect for making a cooking chocolate powder that can be used in recipes for desserts such as hot cocoa and hot chocolates, thanks to its rich chocolate flavor.

Baking cocoa powder as it is often known can usually be found in most grocery stores, though it has also lost a lot of the natural rising agents that natural cocoa powder has.

This means that recipes that use it for foods such as chocolate cake and other flavored chocolate desserts often require baking powder to be added to the mix as well.

Substituting Baking Cocoa Powder For Natural Cocoa Powder

So, now that you understand what exactly the difference is between these two ingredients a little better, you may be wondering if one can be substituted for the other.

Can you substitute baking cocoa for natural cocoa powder, for example?

Well, generally speaking, it is totally possible to substitute Dutch process cocoa powder with natural cocoa powder, so long as you know what you’re doing.

And by that, we mean understanding how the ingredients behave differently in recipes.

For example, because the natural cocoa powder has a very bitter taste, it has to be balanced out by another ingredient to neutralize the stronger flavor that robs your recipe which usually has a rich, sweet flavor.

Generally speaking, if you read a recipe calling for Dutch process cocoa powder, and you are using natural cocoa powder instead, make sure that you balance out every 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder with around an eighth of a teaspoon of bicarbonate soda powder.

By the same token, if you want to use Dutch process cocoa powder instead of natural cocoa powder (for example, if you wanted the natural acid-like taste), you need to make sure that it is balanced out by some kind of rising agents, such as by using baking soda.

If it is for a simple recipe, such as hot cocoa, simply using Dutch cocoa powder is more than enough.

Baking Soda And Baking Cocoa

So, with those questions for changes to your recipes answered, many people may be wondering what distinguishes baking cocoa from something like baking powder, or if baking soda and Dutch process cocoa powder are the same

Generally speaking, if a recipe calls for both baking soda and Dutch process cocoa powder, you need to use both, as they are different ingredients that help when baking chocolate-tasting confectionaries, such as chocolate cake.


As you can see, from cocoa butter to Dutch process cocoa, there is plenty you can get out of cocoa beans. And, as you’ve seen, when properly used, they make almost any recipe better!

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Kathryn Sewell

Hi! I'm Kate and I have been baking and cooking for as long as I can remember. I like to share the most interesting tips and recipes I try here on What Kate Baked for you to enjoy. If you have a favorite recipe you'd like to share send it over on social.

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