Adding Cocoa Powder to a Pancake Batter

Stack of freshly baked pancakes with chocolate sauce and raspberry
Mix the cocoa with the flour and sift it together. (Image: Анна Курзаева/iStock/Getty Images)

On a basic level, chocolate pancakes are made by adding cocoa powder to pancake batter. In reality, the process is not that simple. All recipes are like a science experiment, where the balance of the ingredients and their chemical makeup is needed in specific proportions to achieve a successful end result. Pancake recipes require the same precision. You can't just add cocoa powder to the batter. You'll need to make a few adjustments so the cocoa powder blends fully with the rest of the ingredients and results in a chocolatey pancake.

Some Flour Adjustments

Because cocoa powder is a dry ingredient, it will change the balance of dry to wet ingredients in the pancake batter. To prevent this from causing a problem, adjust the quantity of flour by the amount of cocoa powder you plan to use. A good measurement to use is 1/2 cup cocoa and 1 cup of flour. Most pancake recipes will call for 1 1/2 cups flour.

A Rising Problem

Another important adjustment to the pancake batter involves the leavener you plan to use. Traditional baking powder includes an alkaline ingredient -- sodium bicarbonate -- and one or two acids -- cream of tartar and sodium aluminum sulfate. Cocoa powder may also include an acid, making three acids in the batter. The resulting pancake will be overinflated. You must adjust for the extra acid from the cocoa powder by substituting the baking powder for baking soda -- sodium bicarbonate. For every 1 teaspoon of baking powder, you substitute 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. Experiment with this to get the level of fluffiness you like.

Choosing the Cocoa

Not all cocoas are the same. The Dutch-processed cocoa is processed to neutralize the acid in the powder. It has a mild flavor that won't overpower the flavors in the pancakes. Natural unsweetened cocoa has some acid in it, and this cocoa also has a stronger chocolate flavor. Dutch cocoa has a slight red color, while natural unsweetened cocoa is brown.

Other Tips

Your cocoa choice may lead to more adjustments. Dutch cocoa has no acid in it, so the batter must use the acid in baking powder to make it rise. Natural unsweetened cocoa has acid, so the cocoa adjustment must be made. To make sure the cocoa is thoroughly blended, sift the cocoa and flour together. Doing so will also help create a fluffier pancake.

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