13 Best Substitutes for Cocoa Powder in Cake with Ratios & How to Use the Alternatives

Chocolate is a versatile ingredient that adds a rich and decadent flavor to cakes, brownies, and other baked goods.

Cocoa powder, the primary ingredient in chocolate desserts, is made from roasted and ground cacao beans.

However, it can be expensive or hard to find in some regions of the world. If you’re looking for an alternative to cocoa powder, don’t worry.

Here are 13 substitutes for Cocoa Powder in Cake, you can use in your cakes with ratios for measurements and tips on how to use them.

In short, " What can I use instead of cocoa powder?"

Carob Powder, Dark Chocolate, Instant Coffee or Espresso Powder, Malted Milk Powder, Yogurt, Coconut Flour, Almond Flour, Milo Powder, Black Cocoa Powder, Ground Cacao Nibs, Hot Chocolate Mix, Chocolate Chips, Pumpkin Puree.

What is cocoa powder, and what does cocoa powder taste like?

Cocoa powder is created by crushing cocoa beans into a paste, then extracting some of the fat (cocoa butter), leaving a dry, fine powder.

Cocoa powder is unsweetened and has a deep chocolate taste with slight hints of bitterness and acidity. 

It’s usually used in baking to add intense flavor and rich color to desserts like cakes, brownies, cookies and other confections.

Uses of cocoa powder in a cake

Cocoa powder is an essential ingredient used in many cakes.

Many chocolate cakes, such as Devil’s food cake, utilize cocoa powder as the primary source of chocolate flavor. The cocoa powder also helps to make a dense texture and adds a depth of color to the cake.

Cocoa powder can also be used in other types of cakes as well for added chocolatey flavor or even to enhance the flavor of other ingredients like fruit or nuts.

When baking with cocoa, it’s important to remember that not all cocoa powders are created equally. 

Natural cocoa has no added alkali or Dutch-processed cocoa, which is alkalized, giving it a darker color and richer flavor than natural cocoa but with less caffeine content.

In addition, some recipes may call for melted chocolate rather than cocoa powder, depending on how much moisture you want in your cake.

To get the most out of using cocoa powder for cakes, always use fresh, high-quality cocoa that has been stored properly.

Since cocoa is very hygroscopic, it will absorb moisture from its environment if left exposed to air for too long, which can ruin your recipe and give off an unpleasant taste.

Additionally, use real butter for your recipes as opposed to margarine because the butter will help bring out the richness of the chocolate savor, while margarine will not react with the cocoa powder in the same way that butter does.

Where to buy cocoa powder?

If you are looking for where to buy cocoa powder, there are a few different places you can go. Many specialty food stores carry it, as do some international grocery stores

You can also order online from many retailers that provide a variety of diverse flavors and types of cocoa powder.

Best substitutes for cocoa powder in a cake

1. Carob Powder – a good substitute for cocoa powder in a cake

carob powder is good substitute for cocoa powder in a cake

Carob powder is created from the pods of the carob tree and has a naturally sweet flavor with a slightly nutty tone. As a cocoa powder substitute, it is often used in health-conscious baking recipes.

Ratio or measurement: You can use a one-to-one ratio of carob powder to cocoa powder in cakes.

Carob powder is sweeter than cocoa powder, so adjust the sugar content in your recipe accordingly.

2. Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate is an excellent substitute for cocoa powder, especially if you want to add some texture to your cake.

Use unsweetened dark chocolate with a cocoa content of at least 70%. Melt the chocolate and add it to the batter.

Ratio or measurement: Use 3 ounces of dark chocolate for every 1/4 cup of cocoa powder.

3. Try Instant Coffee or Espresso Powder instead of cocoa powder in a cake

instant coffee or espresso powder is great alternate for cocoa powder in a cake

Instant coffee or espresso powder will impart a slightly bitter and intense flavor to your cake. It’s a great substitute for cocoa powder in recipes that require a rich, dark flavor.

Ratio or measurement: Use 1 tablespoon of instant coffee or espresso powder for every 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder.

4. Malted Milk Powder

Malted milk powder is a sweet and creamy powder made from milk, malted barley, and wheat flour. It has a rich, unique flavor that works well as a substitute for cocoa powder in cakes.

Ratio or measurement: Use a ratio of 1 cup of malted milk powder to 1/4 cup of cocoa powder.

Learn more: Best Coconut milk powder substitutes

5. Yogurt – a great alternative to cocoa powder in a cake

Greek yogurt is a versatile ingredient that makes cakes moist and tender. It’s a great substitute for cocoa powder in recipes that don’t require a dark chocolate flavor.

Ratio or measurement: Use 1 cup of Greek yogurt for every 1/2 cup of cocoa powder and reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe to compensate for the additional moisture.

6. Coconut Flour

coconut flour is nice replacement for cocoa powder in a cake

Gluten-free coconut flour that is high in fiber and protein. It has a slightly nutty savor and works well as a substitute for cocoa powder in cakes.

Ratio or measurement: Use a ratio of 3 tablespoons of coconut flour for every 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder.

7. Almond Flour – a decent replacement for cocoa powder in a cake

Almond flour is a nutrient-dense flour made from blanched almonds. It has a little sweet and nutty flavor that works well in cakes that require a rich, decadent flavor.

Ratio or measurement: Use a ratio of 1/2 cup of almond flour for every 1/2 cup of cocoa powder.

8. Milo Powder

Milo is a chocolate and malt powder similar in taste and texture to cocoa powder. Milo is widely available at grocery stores and is often used in hot chocolate and baked goods in Australia, where it’s popular.

Ratio or measurement: Substitute Milo powder for cocoa powder in a ratio of 1:1.

9. Black Cocoa Powder – similar taste to cocoa powder in a cake

black cocoa powder is good cocoa powder in a cake substitute

Black Cocoa Powder is a Dutch-processed cocoa powder that has been alkalized to remove its acidity. Black cocoa powder has a more intense and darker chocolate flavor than regular cocoa powder.

Ratio or measurement: Substitute black cocoa powder for cocoa powder in a ratio of 1:1 and reduce baking soda or baking powder in your recipe by 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon.

10. Ground Cacao Nibs

Cacao nibs are roasted cocoa beans that have been crushed into small bits and are a popular ingredient in chocolate-making. Ground cacao nibs are a delicious and nutritious addition to baked goods rather than cocoa powder.

Ratio or measurement: Reduce the amount of flour in the formula by 1/4 cup for every cup of ground cacao nibs. Substitute ground cacao nibs for cocoa powder in a ratio of 1:1.

11. Hot Chocolate Mix – a tasty substitute for cocoa powder in a cake

If you have to improvise, a hot chocolate mix can be a straightforward substitute for cocoa powder in baking.

Ratio or measurement: Hot chocolate mix is usually a mixture of cocoa powder, sugar, and powdered milk, and it works as a cocoa powder substitute in a ratio of 1:1.

Be mindful that adding a hot chocolate mix may modify the sweetness level of your baked goods.

12. Chocolate Chips

chocolate chips are good cocoa powder in a cake alternates

Chocolate chips are a sweet and flavorful substitute for cocoa powder in some recipes. Simmer chocolate chips and some water over low heat and blend until the chocolate melts.

Ratio or measurement: Use your recipe in a ratio of 1:1. However, keep in mind that it may not provide the same texture as cocoa powder.

13. Pumpkin Puree – similar taste to cocoa powder in a cake

Pumpkin puree is a nutritious and flavorful substitute for the cocoa powder that provides a rich and creamy texture.

Ratio or measurement: Replace cocoa powder with pumpkin puree in a ratio of 1:1. The puree is a basic ingredient in making pumpkin cakes and brownies.

Tips on How to Choose the Most Suitable Substitution Option for cocoa powder in Cake

When choosing a substitution option for cocoa powder in a cake recipe, consider the following tips:

1. Flavor profile: Cocoa powder adds a rich chocolate flavor to cakes. Look for a substitute that can provide a similar chocolatey taste.

Options like unsweetened dark chocolate, melted chocolate, or carob powder can work well.

2. Texture considerations: Cocoa powder is dry and powdery, so you’ll want to choose a substitute that won’t significantly affect the texture of the cake.

Unsweetened dark chocolate, melted chocolate, or even chocolate chips can provide a similar texture when incorporated into the batter.

3. Adjusting sweetness: Cocoa powder is often unsweetened, so if you’re substituting it with a sweetened option like melted chocolate or chocolate chips, you may need to adjust the sweetness level in the recipe accordingly.

4. Quantity adjustment: Cocoa powder is typically used in specific quantities in recipes. If you’re substituting with another ingredient, be sure to adjust the amount accordingly.

Consult a substitution guide or recipe conversion chart for guidance.

5. Flavor intensity: Cocoa powder has a strong flavor, so consider the intensity of the substitute you’re using.

You may need to adjust or combine the amount with other ingredients to achieve the desired chocolate flavor.

6. Availability and personal preference: Consider the availability of the substitute in your area and your personal taste preferences. Experiment with various options to find the one that best suits your needs.

substitute for unsweetened cocoa powder

Cacao powder is a wonderful substitute for unsweetened cocoa powder, as it contains the same flavor profile without the added sugar.

To replace unsweetened cocoa powder in a recipe, use an equal amount of cacao powder and mix it until fully combined.

Carob powder is another great alternative to unsweetened cocoa powder. It’s naturally sweet and has a mild, nutty flavor.

To use carob powder instead of cocoa, start by substituting 1/2 cup of carob for 1/3 cup of cocoa. 

You may also need to add a little more sugar to the recipe since it does not contain any natural sugars like cocoa does.

Unsweetened dark chocolate is also a great replacement for unsweetened cocoa powder. Start by using one part of melted dark chocolate and one part of water to replace two parts of unsweetened cocoa powder in your recipe.

The ratio will depend on the intensity of flavor you want; if you prefer a richer taste, use more chocolate and less water.

You may also want to adjust the sweetness level depending on how intense your chocolate bar is.

Instant coffee granules can be used as an alternative to unsweetened cocoa powder as well.

Start by replacing 1 tablespoon of instant coffee with every 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa that your recipe calls for and adjust accordingly based on taste preference.

Be sure to dissolve the coffee granules in liquid before adding them to other ingredients for the best results!

Finally, Dutch-processed or alkalized cocoa is another option that can be used instead of regular unsweetened cocoa powder. 

Alkalized cocoas are treated with an alkali solution which neutralizes their acidity and gives them a richer, mellower flavor than regular cocoas have.

When replacing unsweetened cocoa with alkalized cocoa in recipes, use equal amounts; however, you may need to adjust other ingredients like sugar or baking soda depending on what kind of reaction you are looking for from your recipe!

Conclusion on substitute for cocoa powder in a cake

The seven best substitutes for cocoa powder in cake recipes are carob powder, Milo powder, black cocoa powder, ground cacao nibs, hot chocolate mix, chocolate chips, and pumpkin puree.

These alternatives not only add diversity to your baking but have excellent nutritional benefits and healthful ingredients. 

So, next time you crave a chocolatey cake and run out of cocoa powder, don’t fret; try one of these substitutes and continue baking your favorite chocolate cake or other chocolatey treats!

FAQs on substitute for cocoa powder in a cake

Q1. What is similar to cocoa powder?

Cocoa powder is similar to other powdered forms of chocolate, such as Dutch-processed cocoa, unsweetened baking chocolate, and baking squares.

Cocoa powder can also be combined with other ingredients, such as sugar, milk solids, and various flavorings, in order to craft unique recipes.

Additionally, cocoa butter is a popular ingredient used to make chocolate that’s similar to cocoa powder.

Q2. Can I replace the cocoa powder with chocolate in a cake?

Yes, cocoa powder can be replaced with chocolate when baking a cake.

The substitution should be done using equal amounts of chocolate and cocoa powder, but you could also use more chocolate than cocoa powder if desired.

The amount of sugar in the recipe might need to be adjusted accordingly depending on the type of chocolate used.

Darker chocolates will usually require less sugar, whereas milk chocolate is sweeter and might require more sugar for balance.

Using chocolate instead of cocoa powder will result in a richer, deeper flavor, as well as a darker color for your cake which can make it look much more attractive.

Q3. Can I use melted chocolate rather than cocoa powder?

Yes, you can use melted chocolate instead of cocoa powder. However, because melted chocolate has a lower cocoa content than cocoa powder, the flavor will be weaker and sweeter than if you used cocoa powder.

Additionally, the texture might be slightly runnier and less thick than when using cocoa powder.

To make up for this difference in flavor and texture, consider adding extra sugar or other ingredients to achieve the desired sweetness and consistency.

Finally, depending on which type of melted chocolate you are using (e.g., dark or semi-sweet), you may want to adjust any additional sweeteners accordingly so that it does not become too sugary.

Q4. Can I substitute the cocoa powder with a hot chocolate mix?

Yes, you can replace cocoa powder with a hot chocolate mix.

The hot chocolate mix is a pre-sweetened combination of powdered cocoa and sugar that can be easily stirred into hot milk or water to create a delicious hot chocolate beverage.

While it may not have the same intense flavor as natural cocoa powder, it does provide a sweeter option that will still give your recipe a nice chocolate flavor.

In addition, using the hot chocolate mix in baking recipes helps to keep them moist and gives them a richer flavor than what you might get from just using cocoa powder alone.

Leave a Comment