What You Need to Know About Cocoa Powder

Alice Medrich

Alice Medrich is an award-winning author, pastry chef and teacher. She is one of America’s foremost experts on chocolate and chocolate desserts.

Tiger Cake

Tiger Cake Photo credit: Deborah Jones

From Seriously Bittersweet (Artisan 2013) by Alice Medrich

Extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of white pepper produce a subtly flavorful cake with a moist close-to-pound-cake texture. It’s not too sweet and the “stripes” are beautiful! This cake is even better on the second day. Try it toasted for breakfast.


Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 177° C (350° F). Grease and flour the cake pan.

In a small bowl, whisk cocoa, sugar, and water until well blended. Set aside. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt thoroughly and sift together onto a piece of wax paper. Set aside.

In a large mixer bowl (with the whisk attachment if you have a choice), beat the sugar, oil, vanilla, and pepper until well blended. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Continue to beat until the mixture is thick and pale, 3 to 5 minutes. Stop the mixer and add one-third of the flour mixture. Beat on low speed just until blended. Stop the mixer and add half of the milk. Beat just until it is blended. Repeat with another third of the flour, the remaining milk, and then the remaining flour.

Pour 710 ml (3 cups) of the batter into another bowl and stir in the cocoa mixture. Pour one-third of the plain batter into the prepared tube pan and top with one-third of the chocolate batter. Repeat with the remaining batters. Don’t worry about marbling the batters — that happens beautifully during the baking.

Bake until a cake tester comes out clean, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for about 15 minutes. Slide a skewer around the tube then slide a thin knife around the sides of the pan to release the cake. Invert the pan and invert again, setting the cake right side up on a rack to cool completely.

Bittersweet Teff Brownies

Bittersweet Teff Brownies Photo credit: Leigh Beisch

Excerpted from Flavor Flours by Alice Medrich (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2014. Photographs by Leigh Beisch

These moist and deeply chocolate brownies have a light, rather elegant melt-in-your-mouth texture. Teff flour has a nuance of cocoa flavor to start with, so it is a natural choice for brownies. If you need something dressier than brownies, bake the batter in a 9-inch round pan and serve wedges with whipped cream — and perhaps a scattering of seasonal berries — and call it dessert. Either way, the recipe comes together quickly and the results remain deliciously moist for a few days.


1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 177° C (350° F).

2. Melt the butter with the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl set directly in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir frequently until the mixture is melted and smooth.

3. Remove the bowl from the water and cool the mixture to lukewarm. Stir in the sugar, teff flour, salt, and vanilla, if using. Add all of the eggs and beat on high speed with the handheld mixer for about 2 minutes. The batter will get thicker and a little lighter in color, like chocolate frosting. Stir in the nuts, if using.

4. Scrape the batter into the pan and spread it evenly. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out fairly dry and clean (don’t worry; the brownies will be moist even if the toothpick is not).

5. Cool on a rack. Lift the foil ends to transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 squares. The brownies may be kept in an airtight container for 2 to 3 days.