Baking Cocoa Vs. Cocoa Powder | Are They The Same?

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If you enjoy baking, you must have come across recipes featuring baking cocoa or cocoa powder. By their looks, they are the same. But you must understand the difference between the two to ace the recipes for making delicious baked goods.

Cocoa Powder

Baking cocoa and cocoa powder have different characteristics. They differ in color and acidity levels because of the way the cocoa bean is processed.

Baking cocoa is neutralized with an alkaline, which makes it darker, less bitter, and sweeter. Cocoa powder, on the other hand, is unprocessed. It has a more chocolate-like flavor and reddish-brown color and requires an alkaline-like baking soda to use for baking.

But there are other differences between the two, which we will find in the sections below. You will learn how both powders are made, their physical and chemical characteristics, and how to use them in recipes.

Baking Cocoa Vs. Cocoa Powder | Difference Table

Basis Of DifferenceBaking CocoaCocoa Powder
Other NamesDutch-processed, Cocoa processed, Cocoa powder, sweetened cocoa powder, alkalized cocoa powderUnsweetened cocoa powder, natural cocoa powder, Natural unsweetened cocoa powder, pure ground cocoa Powder
ColorRich, deep brown, sometimes reddishRich, deep brown, sometimes reddish light, medium brown
AcidityHighly acidicSligtly acidic
Leavner Baking powderBaking soda
FlavorMild chocolate flavor, often sweet because of added sugarMellow, smooth, earthy, more chocolate like flavor
Production ProcessCocoa beans are neutralized with an alkaline wash to remove the acidic qualities, then the beans are dried and powderedBeans are fermented, roasted, pressed, and powdered
UsesSmoothies and ice creams (dissolves easily), sweet recipesBaking and savory dishes

What Is Baking Cocoa?

baking cocoa

Baking cocoa is cocoa powder that comes from cocoa beans. It goes by many names like Dutch-processed, alkalized cocoa, or processed cocoa. 

To make baking cocoa, the cocoa beans are treated with an alkali. This is done to neutralize the cocoa’s natural acidity. This process changes the color of the powder to deeper and darker hues, becomes mellow in flavor, and is used differently.

Baking cocoa is often preferred for dusting or garnishing a finished cake or dessert. They are also used in recipes that call for baking powder.

What Is Cocoa Powder?

natural cocoa powder

Cocoa powder is also referred to as natural, unsweetened, pure ground cocoa powder or natural unsweetened cocoa. 

The beans are fermented, dried, roasted, and cracked to make cocoa powder. The nibs are ground to extract the cocoa butter. This process leaves behind a dark brown paste called chocolate liquor. After drying this paste, the mass is ground into powder.

 If the recipe includes baking soda, it may be counting on the acid in natural cocoa in order to react.

Baking Cocoa Vs. Cocoa Powder | What Are The Similarities

cocoa powder

Baking cocoa and cocoa powder are quite different from each other, yet they have a few similarities between them. Before we find their differences, let’s check their similarities.

1. Source

Baking cocoa and cocoa powder come from the same bean, i.e., cocoa bean, the seed of a cocoa tree. 

2. Texture

Both powders have a fine texture, which makes them easy to dissolve.

3. Flavor

If we look at the flavor of cocoa powder and baking cocoa, both powders have a chocolatey flavor. 

4. Uses

Due to their chocolatey flavor, both powders are used to make chocolate-based bakery goods, chocolate drinks, and chocolate garnishes.  

Baking Cocoa Vs. Cocoa Powder | What Are The Differences?

Dutch process vs. natural cocoa

1. Making Process

Cocoa powder is made from fermented, roasted, and pressed cocoa beans. On the other hand, baking cocoa is made with beans that are washed in an alkalizing agent, often potassium carbonate.  

This neutralization creates major changes in the powder and how it should be used.

Once the beans have been neutralized, they are roasted and crushed, just like regular cocoa powder is made.

2. Appearance

Cocoa powder has a reddish-brown color to it. It is considerably lighter than other cocoa or chocolate powders, making it easier to recognize. In comparison, baking cocoa has a much darker color to it and is a much richer brown. 

3. Flavor

The flavor of the two cocoa powders also differs. Since cocoa powder doesn’t undergo much processing, it has a very strong and concentrated chocolate flavor. It is considered to have a richer flavor.

Whereas baking cocoa has less chocolate flavor and is generally considered neutral. But some brands will have a better flavor because of the presence of additives.

4. Acidity

With the difference in their production, both cocoa powders have different acidity levels. Baking cocoa is less acidic than cocoa powder. Its pH is closer to 7. Because of having less acidity, it has a less acidic flavor.

On the other hand, the acidity of cocoa powder is very high, with an average pH between 5.3 and 5.8. This factor makes cocoa powder have a more acidic flavor to it.

5. Uses

Cocoa powder, with its high acidity level, acts as a leavening agent. Therefore, the cocoa powder creates a chemical reaction that gives your baked goods the rise you are looking for when combined with an alkaline substance. Cocoa powder is often used in combination with baking soda, an alkaline substance.

So, if your recipe calls for baking soda, you know which cocoa to use.

Baking cocoa is best used for sweet baked goods. It has a sweeter flavor and a less acidic undertone to it. This powder dissolves much more easily than cocoa powder. Therefore, it is also better suited to be added to milkshakes and smoothies as it can dissolve easily.

For baked goods, you can use baking cocoa with baking powder. Sometimes, the recipe may also call for baking soda. Always remember that an alkaline substance needs to react with acid for a chemical reaction to take place. Since baking cocoa is neutralized, baking soda alone would create no reaction.

Are Baking Cocoa and Cocoa Powder Interchangeable?

baking cocoa vs. cocoa powder

Baking cocoa and cocoa powder have different characteristics. This quality makes it hard to say which one is better than the other. If the recipe calls for no baking soda or baking powder, they can be used interchangeably.

However, if a recipe specifies a leavening agent, it is best to stick with the specified cocoa powder. If a recipe calls for more than 3/4 cup of cocoa powder, it is advisable to use the cocoa powder specified. This will prevent you from altering the intended texture of the recipe.

But if the recipe calls for a lesser amount of cocoa powder, it is better to substitute natural cocoa powder for the Dutch process, as there will be less success the other way around.

Top Recipes With Baking Cocoa 

1. Chocolate Espresso-Nut Torte

chocolate espresso nut torte

If the chocolate and nuts combo has your heart, you should try out the chocolate espresso-nut torte for a decadent chocolate experience. This dessert is a chocolate heaven made using baking cocoa, bittersweet chocolate, toasted hazelnuts, butter, dark brown sugar, and eggs. This torte is the perfect dessert for any special occasion. 

2. Chocolate Lover’s Mousse Torte

Chocolate Lover’s Mousse Torte

Can’t decide between mousse and cake? Then, make a chocolate lover’s mousse torte for a chocolatey and creamy dessert. This torte features layers of mousse between the cake. 

3. Chocolate Truffle Cookies

Chocolate Truffle Cookies

If coffee is incomplete without a cookie, you need the chocolate truffle cookie recipe right now. Bursting with chocolate flavors, this cookie features baking cocoa combining unsweetened chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate chips. This cookie is sure to make your coffee break a lot better.

4. Chocolate Banana Smoothie


Make your mornings special with a delicious chocolate banana smoothie flavored with baking cocoa for a delightful experience. This smoothie features almond milk, frozen banana, baking cocoa, vanilla extract, maple syrup, and Greek yogurt. 

5. Dark Chocolate Pudding

Dark Chocolate Pudding

You need to try this recipe if you enjoy silky, rich, creamy puddings with dark chocolate flavor. This recipe includes ingredients like baking powder, cornstarch, granulated sugar, egg yolks, whole milk, cream, butter, dark chocolate, and half and half. 

Top Recipes With Cocoa Powder  

1. Chocolate Pound Cake

Chocolate Pound Cake

Looking for a buttery, moist, and soft chocolate pound cake recipe? Stop right here and make use of the cocoa powder sitting on your shelf. This cake is irresistibly delicious and decadent.

2. Brownies 


Do you make regular runs to the bakery to satisfy your brownie cravings? Take a pause and check out this easy brownie recipe using simple ingredients. They are chewy, chocolatey, and have a flaky crust. 

3. Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies 

Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Make your breakfast extra delicious by making chocolate oatmeal cookies packed with chocolate flavor and the goodness of oats. They come together within 30 minutes by using simple ingredients. 

4. Chocolate Banana Peanut Butter Protein Shake

Chocolate Banana Peanut Butter Protein Shake

If you have been looking for tasty protein shake options, the chocolate banana peanut butter protein shake will end your search. This shake features ingredients like banana, milk, chocolate-flavored protein powder, cocoa powder, peanut butter, and honey. 

Baking Cocoa Vs. Cocoa Powder | Which Is More Versatile?

Cocoa powder is more versatile than baking cocoa as it is not processed. Since cocoa powder doesn’t undergo much processing, it has a strong and concentrated chocolate flavor.

Moreover, due to the high acidity level of cocoa powder, it acts as a leavening agent. Therefore, when combined with an alkaline, the chemical reaction makes the baked goods rise, making them fluffy. 

Baking Cocoa Vs. Cocoa Powder | Which Is Healthier?

cocoa powder

Cocoa powder, whether baking or natural, is good for health. They are rich in antioxidants. Cocoa contains plant-based compounds called flavonoids – especially epicatechin, catechin, and procyanidin. These compounds work to relax blood vessels, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. They are also good for the skin and teeth. Thus, you should add cocoa powder to your diet. 

Baking Cocoa Vs. Cocoa Powder | Which Is Better?

Choosing which cocoa is better than the other while baking depends on your recipe. Baking is a chemical reaction requiring the correct amount and use of leavening agents. 

While you can use cocoa powder instead of baking cocoa, you will have to be cautious while pairing baking cocoa with the leavening agents the recipe calls for.

An alkaline substance needs to react with acid for a chemical reaction to take place. Since baking cocoa is neutralized, you will need to add baking soda and baking powder for the chemical reaction.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is baking cocoa the same as cocoa powder?

The main difference between baking cocoa and cocoa powder lies in their alkalization level. Baking cocoa is treated with an alkali solution to neutralize its acidity. At the same time, cocoa powder is made of fermented, dried, roasted, and cracked cocoa beans.

What color do baked goods look with baking cocoa?

Baked goods made with baking cocoa are darker in color.

Is baking cocoa the same as dark chocolate?

Cocoa powder is lower in fat than chocolate and high in flavor, with no sugar added. They are two different things.

What does baking cocoa taste like?

Baking cocoa powder tastes like dark chocolate without extra sweetness. 

What does cocoa powder taste like?

The cocoa powder tastes like chocolate. But it has a sharper flavor because of its high acidity.

Does cocoa powder taste like hot chocolate?

No, the cocoa powder doesn’t taste like hot chocolate.

Can we substitute cocoa powder for baking cocoa powder?

It’s best to use whichever cocoa your recipe calls for. But you can substitute both the cocoa powders for each other by adjusting the acidity level.


You can now safely say that you are a cocoa powder expert. Baking powder and cocoa powder are both made from cocoa beans. The difference lies in their making process, which results in a difference in flavor, color, and how they react with leavening agents.

Don’t forget to remember the different names used to address baking cocoa or cocoa powder. That’s where everyone gets confused. If you have any questions related to this topic, feel free to ask me in the comments section below. 

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