Baking with Chocolate

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cakettes on a wire cooling rack, drenched in chocolate ganache
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cakettes

Chocolate is romantic, dramatic, purported to have healing properties, and is absolutely delicious. The wonderful flavor is representative of devotion and love. Chocolate can come in so many forms that even those who don’t consider themselves chocolate fanatics almost always find a chocolate treat to love. Below you will find a primer on all things chocolate, so you can learn all the tips and tricks for baking with chocolate. When I set out to write Zoë Bakes Cakes the very first cake I put in its pages was my Devil’s food recipe, which is deep, dark, and full of cocoa. You’ll find cakes, pies, tarts, and many other chocolate desserts in this post.

Baking with Chocolate

Chocolate is made from the cacao tree and comes in the form of cocoa powder, bar chocolate, and chocolate chips, chunks, or feves (discs).

Chocolate Zucchini Cake | Zoe Bakes by Zoë François
Best-Ever Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Cocoa Powder

Cocoa powder is made from drying and grinding cocoa solids. I most often use Dutch-processed cocoa powder, which means it has been alkali-treated, making it less acidic and darker. Different brands may vary in color slightly, which can affect the look of your pastries. There is also natural cocoa, which is more acidic and can change the composition of your baking. Recipes that call for cocoa powder without specifying, usually mean the Dutch-processed variety.

Hot Chocolate Cake | ZoeBakes by Zoë François
Hot Chocolate Layer Cake

Solid Chocolate

Solid chocolate is made from fermented, dried and ground cocoa beans. The resulting paste is melted into cocoa liquor and then separated into cacao butter and cocoa solids. The cocoa butter gives chocolate its smooth texture, and is an ingredient you want to look for when choosing solid chocolate.

The percentage you see on packaging refers to the combined amount of cocoa butter and solids in the bar. For example, a bar that says 70% on the package is made from 70% cocoa butter and cocoa solids and 30% other ingredients, such as sugar and milk solids. 

I most often use bittersweet chocolate (70%), but you can also use semisweet (60%) in most cases. I usually advise bakers to avoid milk chocolate because it is too sweet and doesn’t behave the same as bittersweet and semisweet varieties.

A slice of chocolate cake with chocolate shavings on top
Chocolate Birthday Cake

Chocolate Chips, Chunks and Shavings

Chocolate chips are the classic little chocolate morsels that most of us think of in chocolate chip cookies. They are often sweeter and contain less cocoa than chocolate bars. You can, however, find them in different varieties and look for the same percentage as you do with bars.

Chocolate chunks and shavings can be made from a bar (you can also buy prepackaged chunks). To make chunks you can simply chop up a bar, and for shavings, you run a knife along the bar to create and collect the slivers.

Chocolate Microwave Mug Cake batter in mugs
Chocolate Microwave Mug Cake

My Favorite Chocolate Products

Valrhona cocoa powder

Droste cocoa powder

Guittard cocoa powder

Valrhona bars

Callebaut bars

Scharffen Berger bars

Guittard bars

Trader Joe’s 72% Cacao dark chocolate bar

Valrhona feves – there are several flavors of these chocolate discs, including some with fruit like passion fruit and raspberry!

Favorite Chocolate Recipes

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

Chocolate Microwave Mug Cake

Simple Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Guinness Chocolate Cake

Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

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