Whats the difference between dutch process cocoa powder and natural cocoa powder and how can you substitute one for the other?
Dutch processed cocoa powder (also sometimes called “alkalized,” “European style,” or “Dutched”) is washed with a potassium carbonate solution that neutralizes cocoa’s acidity to a pH of 7. Although all cocoa powders can vary in color from light reddish brown to a richer dark brown, the Dutch process gives the powder a noticeably darker color which most bakers like because it makes the chocolate very dark when you bake it.
Dutch processed cocoa powder has a smoother, more mellow flavor that’s often associated with earthy, woodsy notes. There are also heavily Dutched “black” cocoa powders that bring the cocoa powder to an alkaline level of 8. This the kind of bittersweet cocoa you’ll find in Oreo cookies.
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Do You Know What Dutch Processed Cocoa Powder Is?
Have you ever tried out a new chocolate cake recipe and thought YES! This tastes amazing! Then a few months later, it falls flat? What went wrong?
Well, it could be your cocoa powder!
Not very many people know that there are different kinds of cocoa powder
In a nutshell, there is natural cocoa powder (like hershey’s) and alkalized (dutched). But what does that even mean?
Chocolate is naturally acidic, so natural cocoa powder typically has a pH between 5 and 6 which is pretty much in the middle of the scale. Natural cocoa powder has a sharp, citrus flavor.
Alkalized, or “European style,” or “Dutched” dutch processed cocoa powder is washed with a potassium carbonate solution that neutralizes cocoa’s acidity to a pH of 7. Although colors may vary, dutch processed cocoa powder is usually darker than natural and has a smoother and more mellow flavor.
Dutch Processed Cocoa Powder Brands
There are also brands of heavily dutched cocoa powder that result in a much darker color (like the guittard cocoa noir we used in our Dark Chocolate Cake Recipe) or Cacao Barry Extra Brut which is what I use in my standard chocolate cake recipe that has been wowing my clients for over a decade!
What does this all mean?
Can You Substitute Regular Cocoa Powder for Dutch Processed Cocoa Powder
Basically, you can’t always switch out your cocoa powders for any recipe. If you’re using dutch processed cocoa powder then baking soda won’t react with it, hence a flat, dense cake. And if you’re using baking powder with natural cocoa powder, you might have the same problem. If you’re tweaking your own recipe, just remember: Baking soda for natural cocoa powder, baking powder for dutch processed cocoa powder
If you don’t have dutch processed cocoa powder and the recipe calls for dutch processed cocoa powder and baking powder, substitute the same amount of natural cocoa powder (like Hershey’s) but replace the baking powder with half the amount of baking soda. For instance, if the recipe calls for 1/4 cup dutch processed cocoa powder and 1 tsp baking powder, you can substitute 1/4 cup Hershey’s cocoa powder and 1/8 tsp baking soda.
So which one should you use? Basically, look at your recipe. If it says baking soda as the leavener (and you’re in the US), most likely you’ll be using natural cocoa powder which is lighter and has a reddish hue (like hersheys) and if your recipe calls for baking powder, you’re most likely using a recipe that calls for Dutched cocoa powder which will result in a darker, fudgier cake. What if your recipe calls for both? Use the cocoa powder that the recipe recommends to be safe!
You can see here the difference in rise when you don’t use the correct leavener. One time my cake turned out really short and I couldn’t figure out why. I quickly figured out my mistake! I had accidentally grabbed the baking soda instead of the baking powder.
So for a nice fluffy, balanced and full-flavor chocolate cake, make sure you’re using the right cocoa powder and the right leavenings! And don’t forget to check out our delish recipes for fool-proof chocolate cake!