Researchers studying antioxidant levels of cocoa products, including cake, have found reason for bakers everywhere to stand on their bread-boxes and shout…after some minor recipe tweaking that is.
Researchers studying antioxidant levels of cocoa products, including cake, have found reason for bakers everywhere to stand on their bread-boxes and shout…after some minor recipe tweaking that is. Food scientists interested in the cooking and food processing effects on antioxidants recently concluded that chocolate cake, as compared to chocolate frosting, hot cocoa, and chocolates, retained the least amount of beneficial antioxidants. But why?
The main ingredient difference between chocolate cake and the other cocoa containing products is the use of baking soda needed to both leaven and ‘brown’ cakes. Baking soda and baking powder are both alkaline (a.k.a. basic, or higher on the pH scale), and when mixed with ingredients that are acidic, like cocoa, citrus or yogurt, react to create gasses that cause baked goods to rise. It turns out that baking soda is significantly more alkaline than baking powder, creating cakes with pH levels of about 8.3, as compared to 6.2 respectively.
So is the cake’s pH level really that damaging to cocoa’s amazing antioxidant powers? As it turns out, yes, and chocolate cake baked with baking soda only retains 5-54 percent of it antioxidants versus those baked with baking powder, which essentially demonstrate complete retention. But here we have another glitch; if you only bake with baking powder you will have a virtually flat cake! Luckily, food scientists recognize the general appeal of a tall, fluffy cake and tested a few leavening agent combinations. A mix of baking soda and powder was tested, and a final pH of 7.5 or less was necessary in order to leaven the cake and retain a majority antioxidants.
Natural cocoa powder, famous for its heart healthy, cardiovascular benefiting flavanols, high antioxidant content, as well as a variety of minerals and vitamin C, is always a popular treat especially in the form of sweets and baked goods. Usually hard to justify the indulgence, and stretch so far as to say its health benefits, chocolate cake may have a new selling point. Substituting a baking powder, baking soda mix for pure baking soda can bring your customers, the consumer, greater health benefits from the occasional indulgence.