The secret to making the most delicious chocolate cake ever.

Chocolate cake.

One of the most requested cake flavors for bakeries around the world. We’re not sure if it’s childhood nostalgia that gives way to its popularity but the love for chocolate cake is undeniable. From birthday cakes to wedding cakes, there’s just something to be said about a delicious, decadent slice of chocolate cake. Nom nom nom.

We’ve made our fair share of chocolate cakes, trying out several different recipes throughout the years. Out of all the recipes we’ve made, what was the secret to baking the best tasting chocolate cake ever? The secret lies in… drumroll, please… the quality of chocolate of course.

Simply put, the higher quality the cocoa powder, the better tasting your chocolate cake will be.

The same holds true for red velvet cake recipes, brownie recipes, or any recipes where unsweetened cocoa powder is needed.

The “good stuff” costs more.

You might remember seeing this little tin can throughout the years or even growing up. It’s found in every grocery store and was a pantry staple for both my grandma and my mom. They used it religiously for all their chocolate recipes and it’s been around for ages. The good news is there are a lot more choices available on grocery store shelves these days than the iconic canister of Hershey’s cocoa powder. With that said, using a premium cocoa powder does come with a higher price tag. But trust us when we say — it’s really worth it! After testing several varieties, we’ve provided a few of our personal favorites below.

  • Ghirardelli 100% Unsweetened Premium Baking Cocoa Powder. Can usually be found in the baking aisle of most grocery store chains and even in larger retailers such as Target and Walmart. Slightly more expensive than the average Hershey’s cocoa powder. If you’re having trouble finding it, we recommend using Hershey’s Special Dark 100% Cocoa (not the one pictured, but the one with the red label instead).
  • Callebaut 100% Cocoa Powder. Featured as “Best Overall” in Cooks Illustrated Magazine and a popular choice for many specialty bakeries. Not found in grocery store chains or large retailers but can be easily sourced online via Amazon.
  • Valrhona 100% Pure Unsweetened Cocoa Powder. The priciest of the bunch, and hands down our most favorite cocoa powder out there. We use Valrhona for all our chocolate cake recipes. Not available in grocery store chains but often available in gourmet food stores such as Sur La Table. For those who don’t have such specialty stores nearby, it’s also easily sourced on Amazon.

So, if you’ve ever wondered why your homemade recipes never seemed to have that rich chocolate flavor the goodies in your favorite bakeries do, wonder no more. In most cases, we’re willing to bet it’s due to the quality of cocoa powder you’ve been using.

For the baking nerds who want to learn more about the science behind cocoa powder (or if you want to have more knowledge about cocoa powder than 95% of the US population), we recommend reading this post about cocoa powder published by King Arthur’s Flour.

Thanks for reading and happy baking! is a made to order online bake shop based out of San Jose, California. Catherine C. Eugenio, owner and founder, started​ experimenting with baking at the age of 7, and began operating her home-based bakery business as a passion project in 2011. You can follow on the web or Instagram. Life is sweet.