Is the flavor of a cake determined by the bread part or the icing?

When I got home from work today, I had the inexplicable urge to make a cake. While doing so I got a call from Lil Sis. She asked what I was doing, so I told her I was making a chocolate cake, sparking a playful argument we’ve been having since about 1992. Lil Sis opines that what I make for myself and the missus is not truly chocolate cake because, however tasty, there is no icing, just the bread part. I counter that the cakes I make for her on her birthday are, however tasty, not chocolate cakes because both the bread part and the icing are made with cocoa powder, not baking powder.

Which Rhymer would you say is right, if either?

(Anyone who feels the need to post his or her favorite recipes should by all means surrender to temptation.)

You’re making chocolate cake. In one case, unfrosted chocolate cake. Cocoa is chocolate. Baking powder is leavening and is usually in any cake of whatever flavor.

Yes, it’s chocolate cake. One might have chocolate cake with vanilla icing, chocolate cake with butterscotch icing, chocolate cake with chocolate icing (which would probably just be called “chocolate cake” for simplicity’s sake), or, as you do, chocolate cake with no icing.

So your sister is wrong, but you may be as well. I’m not sure how what you make for her would be disqualified as “cake.” If it’s got flour and eggs and butter (or other shortening) and is baked, it’s cake. Especially once you put icing on it.


Did you move to Trinidad?

The mention of baking powder in the OP is an error. I meant to write to the cakes I make for Lil Sis are made with cocoa powder rather than baking chocolate.

And cocoa is NOT chocolate. Cocoa is made by removing the fat from cocoa beans, while chocolate retains the fat. You can sub cocoa for chocolate by adding in butter or something else fatty, but the two are not synonymous.

Oh, my contention is that LS’s birthday cakes are COCOA cakes. They’re obviously cakes, but chocolate is an ingredient neither of the bread part nor the frosting.

It’s the cake part, not the frosting part, that determines the cake type. It’s the plant source, not the refining process, that determines whether it’s a chocolate cake. You and your sister are both wrong.

(Yes, I know the technical difference between cocoa and chocolate. But it’s ridiculous to correct someone who calls hot cocoa hot chocolate, just as it’s ridiculous to say a chocolate cake isn’t a chocolate cake because of the lack of cocoa butter in the recipe).

If what you make is not a chocolate cake, then there are very few chocolate cakes in the USA. Even Hershey’s Chocolate Cake recipe uses cocoa.

Chocolate liquor - which is what cocoais, defatted - is what determines “chocolate” in the US. Cocoa butter no longer need be in there.

Better not take it internationally and call it chocolate, though. :wink:

(I thought this thread was going to be about that hotly debated but clearly wrongheaded debate: is a yellow cake with chocolate frosting “chocolate cake”?)

IMHO you’re being a bit pedantic. After all:

German chocolate cakes contain no Germans

Red velvet cakes contain no velvet

Coffee cakes contain no coffee

Sheet cakes contain no sheets

And Bundt cakes can be anything from angel food to pineapple upside down


Hot cocoa and hot chocolate are not the same thing either. They don’t even TASTE the same, because cocoa and chocolate are different things.

Your heresy fills me with rage, and in punishment for your effrontery I have changed the timeline so that BIG BANG THEORY airs on CBS rather than HBO and in consequence neither Bernadette or the other blonde chick ever appears topless.

Now someone post a recipe. I have Alyson Hannigan and the history of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on repeater-scope.

Are you my little sister? The yellow cake thing IS where the discussion started. :wink:

Well, I laughed.

Icing? We don’t need no stinking icing.

Frosting. (Unless you mean the thin, drizzly stuff that goes on doughnuts and bundt cake.)

If it were the frosting that determined the flavor of a cake, would an unfrosted cake have no flavor at all?

Is chocolate really chocolate, or is it cocoa butter flavored with cocoa powder?

And don’t even ask about Girl Scout cookies.

For what it’s worth, we had a long discussion about this topicseveral years ago.

yes it would.

i have to eat Transparent apples by feel.

But, carrot cakes do actually have carrots.


In the hierarchy of “What is chocolate?” cocoa has to be included. So does white chocolate. Every version of chocolate is just a product manufactured from one or more components of the cacao bean. That’s why we have words like cocoa, baking and white in this discussion - they’re all descriptors that we have to add so that we can clarify the type of chocolate we’re talking about. Milk chocolate doesn’t even have that much chocolate in it compared to the added sugar and milk products.

As for the cake… if you say “chocolate cake” then I’m assuming that the primary flavor is chocolate. Probably, I assume that both the frosting and the bread are chocolate, though I can see the argument that the word cake is what the OP calls bread. Still, if you give me a white cake with chocolate icing, I’ll consider that within the realm of “chocolate cake” because the primary flavor is still chocolate.

Can I have a berry pie now? I’m not that big a fan of cake. Or chocolate.