Modern Mountain Flour Company - October 2, 2021

What is Black Cocoa Powder?


Black cocoa cake in front of pouch of Modern Mountain black cocoa powder

When you’re just starting to dive into its world, cocoa can feel a bit cuckoo. As you embark on the journey from cocoa incompetent to cocoa connoisseur, you begin to discover the depth of cocoas available on today’s market. From fat content, to acidity and alkalization, to varying leavening abilities, to its beige/brown/red/black rainbow of colors, the breadth of cocoa variety is just one of the things that makes chocolate baking so much fun

Out of all of the cocoas we’ve tried, nothing quite competes with the space that black cocoa powder holds in our hearts. Today we’ll be uncovering black cocoa to discuss some more about its place and perks in chocolate baking and cooking. Hopefully we can help to demystify the world of cocoa a tad while also helping to reveal just how black cocoa can shine so bright (or maybe we should say look so dark) in everything from chocolate baked goods to both sweet and savory breads.

About Black Cocoa

Black cocoa is a Dutch-process cocoa that is heavy alkalized, making it a striking dark brown to a black color. It’s most popular in baking as a all-natural coloring agent that creates daringly dark desserts. It’s often paired with black food coloring or gel, allowing bakers to create cakes, cookies, and more with a mesmerizing black color. However, its black magic doesn’t stop at color; due to its alkalization, it packs intense chocolate flavor without bringing any of the bitterness, allowing you to intensify the taste of your chocolate baked goods with rich and deep chocolate flavor notes.

If you are a fan of Oreos, we think you’ll find the flavor of our black cocoa delightful. That’s right—black cocoa powder is probably best known in mainstream baking for giving products like Oreos, whoopie pies, and ice cream sandwiches their dark chocolate tones and tastes.

Black cocoa brownies topped with sliced nuts
Cookies & cream black cocoa cake with a lit sparkler on top

When starting to experiment with black cocoa, we always instruct bakers to substitute sparingly, as our black cocoa powder is our deepest, darkest, most decadent cocoa. Really, the first time you bake with it can be a bit startling! With its dark chocolate color and flavor, black cocoa is our cocoa of choice for the chocolatiest chocolate concoctions.

With its dark chocolate color and flavor, black cocoa is our cocoa of choice for the chocolatiest chocolate concoctions.

Black cocoa can be substituted 1:1 with Dutch-process cocoas to deepen flavor and darken color, but it gets a bit trickier when trying to substitute black cocoa with natural cocoa powder. Whether or not you can easily do this depends on the recipe and whether it calls for baking soda or baking powder.

Black Cocoa and Baking Powder

Let’s speak some science to be sure you’re choosing the correct cocoa for your baking and cooking needs. As you start to dive into Dutch-process or black cocoas, one of the biggest considerations you’ll need keep in mind is the use of baking powder vs. soda. Dutch-process cocoas are more alkaline, so they don’t react with baking soda in the same way that natural cocoa powders do.

For this reason, you’ll often see that recipes with black cocoa powder include baking powder rather than baking soda. When not baking, cocoas can be substituted more easily depending on what taste you’re looking for (e.g. frostings, sauces, glazes). Dutch-process cocoas have a richer, deeper, and just all-around-tastier chocolate flavor.

We know, it can be a bit overwhelming. Here’s our quick black cocoa breakdown of when you'll be able to substitute black cocoa 1:1 for other cocoas (although, once again, start sparingly):

If the recipe calls for baking soda -> if it’s just a small amount of cocoa that you’re substituting, you should be OK. Otherwise, you may want to stick to natural cocoa or add baking powder to your recipe to maintain the recipe’s expected rise.

If the recipe calls for baking powder -> black cocoa time, baby!

If the recipe doesn’t call for baking soda or powder -> black cocoa time, baby!  

Other Common Questions on Black Cocoa Powder

What’s a Dutch-process cocoa?

A Dutch-process cocoa is one that has been treated with an alkaline solution, rendering the cocoa powder less bitter and darkening its color. Depending on how “Dutched” the cocoa is, Dutch-process cocoas can be anywhere from brown, to red, to black. Black cocoa is one of the most intensely alkalized cocoas available.

What can I make with black cocoa?

Black cocoa powder can be substituted for cocoa in various recipes to achieve a dark black color and deepen chocolate flavor. Experiment with it anywhere, but here are a few of our favorites:

Black cocoa cookies from @onepunchdough on Instagram

Black cocoa cookies from @onepunchdough

Black cocoa cream cheese frosting next to pouch of Modern Mountain black cocoa powder

Black cocoa buttercream frosting

Pumpkin, ghost, and cat Halloween cookies made with black cocoa powder

Black cocoa Halloween cookies

How much black cocoa powder should I use?

The amount of black cocoa powder you should use largely depends on how dark of a chocolate color you’re trying to achieve. Start by substituting sparingly, adding additional black cocoa until you achieve your desired color and taste.  

My baked goods aren’t dark enough. What’s the deal?

When looking to achieve a jet black color in your baked goods, black cocoa is most commonly paired with black food coloring or gel. It helps bakers not to drain a bottle of food coloring while battling to create that black buttercream frosting.

Many black cocoas on the market warn that they serve solely as “coloring agents” to be used in moderation. These are the black cocoas that have the blackest color, but the common complaint is that they taste and smell burnt (no, thanks). Modern Mountain black cocoa is an extremely dark brown color that lends both incredible dark black color and rich chocolate notes to your baked goods. If your color isn’t achieved with black cocoa powder alone, a couple of drops of black food coloring and/or gel will do the trick!

Where can I buy black cocoa powder?

While black cocoa is making more pantry appearance as it rises in popularity, it can still be a bit tricky to find in-person. The quickest and most convenient option to purchase and most convenient option to purchase black cocoa is on Amazon here. You can also get it directly from our site here.

Now, a question for you! Do you have a favorite recipe with black cocoa powder?

Let us know! We like to post our favorite recipes on our site. If we post yours, we'll give you (mad) props as the creator and will link to your blog or personal website (if you have one)!

Ready to give black cocoa powder a shot?

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