The 1-Ingredient Upgrade for Better Chocolate Cake (It Costs Zero Dollars)

A pro baker shares his easy tip for making the most chocolatey cakes ever.

<p>Simply Recipes / Abobe Stock</p>

Simply Recipes / Abobe Stock

I always assumed that to make a chocolate cake as chocolatey as possible, you need to add a lot of melted chocolate and use the expensive high-quality stuff. Imagine my surprise when I learned on my first day working in a bakery, that its incredible three-layer chocolate cake didn’t use any melted chocolate, just cocoa powder.

This cake was dark, moist but fluffy, and so chocolatey. How could the cake taste so intensely of chocolate with just cocoa powder?

I remember seeing the bakers watering down cocoa powder with hot water and setting the giant bowls of steaming cocoa on the bench. Why on earth would they do this to make cake? Clearly, they knew what they were doing, and I quickly learned. Here's a pro baker's secret that you can easily do at home to make the best chocolate cake: Bloom the cocoa powder.

Why You Should Bloom Your Cocoa Powder

Blooming cocoa powder sounds like a fancy pastry chef technique, but all it means is dissolving the cocoa powder in a hot liquid before adding it to the cake batter.

When you do this, the flavors and aromas locked in the cocoa particles unleash, intensifying the chocolate flavor. It's the same idea as brewing coffee with hot water or blooming spices in hot oil. The heat extracts more flavor compounds from the cocoa, giving you an extra flavorful chocolate cake. Another nice benefit is that those pesky clumps of cocoa powder break down in the hot liquid, so you don’t have to sift it—a step I try to avoid if possible.

<p>Simply Recipes / Annika Panikker</p>

Simply Recipes / Annika Panikker

How To Use This Smart Trick When Making Chocolate Cake

You may have already used this technique without realizing it or knowing why. Many chocolate cake recipes, like this chocolate Guinness cake and this chocolate Depression cake do. If your go-to chocolate cake recipe doesn’t, here's what you do.

Most chocolate cake recipes call for a liquid like water or coffee. If your recipe calls for milk, melted butter, hot oil, or even Guinness or red wine, heat the liquid first and then dissolve the cocoa powder in it. I wouldn’t use buttermilk, as it will likely curdle when heated.

Heat the liquid ingredient to scalding hot, just below boiling—you can do this on the stovetop or in the microwave. Off the heat, whisk in the cocoa powder until completely dissolved. The liquid will thicken slightly.

Take a moment to appreciate the hypnotic smell of chocolate. Let it sit for a few minutes to cool before adding it to the batter, especially if you’re going to add eggs or the butter needs to stay soft but not melted. Then, add the cocoa mixture along with the wet ingredients. (You're basically adding the cocoa powder to the hot liquid and wet ingredients instead of the flour.)

Some recipes use both melted chocolate and cocoa powder. If the instructions say to melt the chocolate along with a liquid ingredient or butter, you can add the cocoa powder too. For example, to make this chocolate pound cake, add the cocoa powder to the chocolate and hot water mixture instead of sifting it with the flour.

<p>Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm</p>

Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm

When To Skip This Trick

While blooming cocoa powder is a good idea for most chocolate cake recipes, the trick unfortunately isn't always a good fit. Here are three examples:

  • It won’t work for recipes that don’t call for any liquid or if there’s not enough liquid to dissolve the cocoa powder. For example, many chocolate sponge cakes don’t call for a liquid and don’t have enough melted butter to dissolve the cocoa in, so it’s best to stick to the recipe as written.

  • I wouldn’t use melted butter to bloom the cocoa if the butter needs to be cold or room temperature, otherwise it will alter the cake's texture.

  • I don’t recommend substituting cocoa powder for melted chocolate, so it’s not a good option for cakes that only use melted chocolate and no cocoa powder.

Chocolate vs. Cocoa Powder: Which Has More Flavor?

It turns out chocolate isn't actually very chocolatey. An unsweetened bar of chocolate may be labeled 100% cacao, but only 40% to 50% of that is cocoa solids, the key component for flavor. The other 50% to 60% is cocoa butter, which helps add richness, but has a mild flavor.

Cocoa powder, however, is finely ground cocoa solids, making it the most concentrated form of chocolate you can get. If you want a cake to be both light and fluffy, and intensely chocolatey, cocoa powder is the clear winner.

Read the original article on Simply Recipes.