How Cocoa Powder Affects The Moisture Of Your Cakes

If you love chocolate, we're willing to bet that chocolate cake is up there among your favorite desserts. Whether the treat in question is a chocolate-iced death by chocolate cake, a cream cheese-rich chocolate gooey butter cake, or a towering, coconut-frosted German chocolate cake, chocolate cake is widely beloved by those who enjoy sweets. Perhaps one of the most diverse dessert categories out there, a good chocolate cake — no matter what variety — should be super-moist, with a deep, rich chocolate flavor.

But as anyone who has sampled their fair share of chocolate cakes knows, this ubiquitous dessert is, all too often, way too dry. According to Better Homes & Gardens, some of the reasons a cake might turn out too dry include baking it for too long, not using precisely measured ingredients, and overmixing the batter. But with chocolate cakes specifically, there's one factor that you may not have considered that directly affects the cake's moistness, and that's the type of cocoa powder you select at the store.

Low-fat cocoa can produce a dry cake

When choosing a cocoa powder at the store, what characteristics do you look for? As explained by America's Test Kitchen, many bakers prefer Dutch-processed cocoa, which is treated with an alkaline solution in order to darken the color of the cocoa as well as mellow some of its more astringent notes; on the other hand, some prefer the full flavor spectrum of natural, unprocessed cocoa. You might be familiar with, and even favor, one of these two types of cocoas, but have you ever thought to scan the powder's nutritional information?

According to a different article from America's Test Kitchen, cocoa's fat content is hugely important to the outcome of the chocolate cake it will flavor. Supermarket cocoa powders can vary in fat content from 10% to 24% — a huge range. The outlet notes that lower-fat cocoas naturally contain more starch; since starch is so good at soaking up moisture, a low-fat cocoa's starchiness can suck all the moisture from your chocolate cake, leaving it dry. America's Test Kitchen recommends choosing cocoa powders that have around a 20% fat content. To do so, check the cocoa's nutritional information, and look for a powder with at least 1 gram of fat per 5-gram serving. More fat, less starch, moister cake: Sounds like a plan to us.