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11 Apr '16

Cocoa vs. Cacao - What exactly is the difference?

Posted by Megan Henry

The last few years have seen a number of foods hit the shelves marketed as ‘superfoods’ and it seems everyone is totally enamoured with one of them - cacao. Which I kind of get. I’m one of the biggest fans of chocolate and chocolate flavoured 'stuff', but even I’ll admit it does kind of fall into the ‘sometimes’ food category.  Then along comes cacao and it’s actually a SUPERFOOD – so we can be eating as much as we want of a superfood right?  The thing is, it seems people have jumped on this bandwagon with absolutely no idea of what cacao actually is. And how it’s different from cocoa. And when you’re paying insanely high prices for cacao – even compared to really good cocoa, it’s probably worth knowing what you’re paying for. I’ve read a million different ridiculous explanations explaining the differences from ‘cocoa is full of sugar’ (no it’s not) to cocoa is processed and cacao isn’t (um- it came from a bean and is now a powder – that baby got processed). So let me explain the difference…..

On one level, the difference really is just a case of semantics. Theobrama Cacao is the botanical name for the tree that produces cocao beans - Theobrama translates as ‘food of the gods’.  When the shell of the cacao bean is removed you have cacao nibs. These are then processed to produce cocoa liquor which is just cocoa suspended in cocoa butter, which is then pressed to extract the cocoa butter, leaving behind  the cocoa presscake. The presscake becomes the powder we’ve come to refer to as cocoa and the cocoa butter is used to make chocolate (assuming you’re buying good chocolate anyway). 

Somewhere between the Mayans discovering how awesome this cacao stuff was and it being introduced to the Western World, the spelling got changed. And it became known as cocoa instead of cacao. Simple as that. Well until along came the ‘raw food movement’ and it became a bit confusing. While what we know as cocoa powder is derived from roasted cacao beans, the raw food movement have taken on the word cacao to differentiate the powder processed from unroasted, raw cacao beans. So the short story – cacao comes from a raw bean while cocoa comes from a roasted bean.  The rawness or roasting of the bean does not determine the quality of the original bean. Much like coffee beans there are high and low quality cacao beans.

The raw food movement will tell you that food in its raw state contain higher levels of nutrients that are killed off during cooking and that cacao is therefore healthier than cocoa. Other people (like me) believe the roasting of the cacao bean actually makes it healthier (this is because roasted cacao beans have lower levels of theobromine), and actually both are high in some great nutrients like magnesium. Whichever you choose to believe though, whether you’re choosing raw cacao or roasted cocoa, it’s good to remember that in their pure state they’re really not that much fun to eat unless they’re sweetened. They’re just not. Surely I wasn't the only kid to ever try a spoonful of cocoa powder only to be bitterly disappointed at how horrible it was on its own. So if you’re planning on getting a lot of your daily nutrients from cocoa and cacao, chances are you’ll be consuming a heap of sugar too. People seem to understand this when it comes to cocoa and ‘normal’ chocolate and treat it as a ‘sometimes’ food, yet common sense flies out the window with raw cacao thanks to clever marketing and terms like 'superfood'. 


10 Apr '16

Littlesweet Gingerbread Recipe

Posted by Megan Henry

Littlesweet Gingerbread Recipe

This recipe makes a mild flavoured gingerbread that kids (and everyone) will love. If you like your gingerbread really soft, reduce the baking time and if you like them crunchy - increase it by a few minutes. The dough will keep in the fridge for at least a week and the baked biscuits will stay fresh in an airtight container for at least a couple of weeks. This batch does make a lot so feel free to divide by half but I find that since the recipe involves a few steps it's worth doing the big batch. 

Oven 180 C. Makes approx. 80


300g butter (chopped)

1 cup (220g) brown sugar

1 cup honey                      

2 tspn bicarb (sifted)       

2 eggs (beaten)                 

6 cups (900g) plain flour            

1 tspn baking powder

2 tbspn ground ginger   

Smarties or similar for buttons


1.Place butter, brown sugar and honey together in a (medium - large) saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Bring to boil and remove from heat.

2. Add sifted bicarb and stir well. The mixture will rise in volume (that's why you need to start with a large pot). Leave to cool to room temperature.

3. Add beaten eggs to cooled honey mixture and mix till incorporated.

4. Sift together the flour, baking powder and ground ginger and then add to the wet mix until all is combined. Knead gently on a lightly floured bench until mix is not too sticky, divide into two disc shapes before wrapping and refrigerating for at least an hour.

5. Roll out your dough on a lightly floured bench until it is about 3mm thick (the gingerbread will rise and expand slightly with baking). Cut out shapes with your cookie cutter and transfer onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Add smartie buttons now, before baking.

6. Bake for 8 minutes at 180C (fan forced) until golden brown and allow to cool slightly on the baking tray before transferring to a cooling rack.