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I am making a Guinness chocolate cake and I need the color of it to turn out lighter to match the colors for a wedding. I have already used non Dutch processed cocoa but the lightest it got was maybe dark chocolate color. What I am going for is a carmel color. Is there anything I can do to bake a lighter cake?

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    ...not chocolate. If you get it as light as you describe, it won't be chocolate cake even if there is some cocoa in it. Match the color on the icing and let the cake be dark if a chocolate cake is desired. An insipid not-quite chocolate cake is going to be a disappointment. – Ecnerwal Mar 22 '15 at 15:53
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    Also, not sure about everyone else but I don't generally expect the inside of a cake to match a theme... that's why the cake is iced/covered with fondant... the outside matches the theme, the inside matches the couple's flavor preferences. – Catija Mar 22 '15 at 16:35
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    If you have a bridezilla who must have the interior matching, you could recommend that they pick another flavor or try using chocolate extract/oil, which I don't believe has much color... but it will likely taste really fake. – Catija Mar 22 '15 at 16:42
  • @Catija I think "chocolate extract is the best you can do, but it's not good" is probably pretty much the answer to the question... – Cascabel Mar 22 '15 at 16:53
  • @Catija The question already says they used non-Dutched cocoa. – David Richerby Mar 22 '15 at 20:37
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What you are asking for is physically impossible.

There is a reason why the color system when working with physical dyes (as opposed to colored light) is called additive. You cannot take out a color which is already there. When we are talking about a cake, cocoa powder or pure chocolate can be considered a pigment, and Guiness a pre-dyed liquid.

The first of three methods would be to add your cocoa and guiness as they are, but try to mix them with other stuff so You can use them to make new, darker colors by mixing in other pigments, or lighter colors by diluting them. You can certainly mix white cake batter with food coloring of other colors (yellow) and the right amount of chocolate to achieve a caramel color, but this will be very far from the proportion which gives you a chocolate cake which tastes of chocolate and has the right texture.

The second method would be to try to discolor the cocoa and guiness. But the problem is that you cannot change the color of a pigment without changing it chemically. Assuming that somebody can come up with a process which can bleach cocoa or chocolate, it will certainly change the taste a lot, if it is food safe at all. Probably not doable in a home kitchen either.

The third thing would be to replace the chocolate entirely. But there is no substitute which tastes like chocolate. I have never heard of the "chocolate extract" which Catija refers to, but even in cases where a flavor is dominated by a single note which is easily reproduced chemically (vanilla, banana, etc.), the stuff which makes up that single note does not taste like the real deal. And if something had exactly the same composition as cocoa, it would not only taste like cocoa, it would be cocoa, with its normal color. And that part concerns the flavor only. Even cocoa powder changes the texture of a cake, while real chocolate changes it much, much more. If you could make chocolate-perfumed cake, it would still not have the mouthfeel of chocolate cake.

Beside all the reasons why you cannot get chocolate flavor paired with a strange color, there is something else: Human perception is not limited to one sense. People rely a lot on vision when eating, and the experience of eating a strange-colored chocolate cake will not be the same "taste" experience as eating correctly colored chocolate cake. There are some fun studies with gummy bears and red/white wines which got lots of press about that, and some marketing gimmicks like the recent Mystery Mueller Milch in Germany, but this is not the place to elaborate. If you want your guests to enjoy a chocolate cake, you have to make a real chocolate cake, with the correct flavor, texture and color.


For completeness, you have the following options instead of making an amber chocolate cake (some already suggested in comments):

  • make a non-chocolate cake and use food coloring to make it amber
  • make a standard-color chocolate cake and decorate it with amber icing (again, use food coloring)
  • make a standard-color chocolate cake with any color icing, or without icing, and have some color contrast at the wedding :)
  • You are so right about the color issue. If it doesn't look like chocolate, people are unlikely to taste chocolate. – Catija Mar 22 '15 at 17:17
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Another possibility is to marble the cake, part with the correct flavors (and dark color), and part with the desired caramel color.

  • This seems like cheating. But it's smart cheating so +1. – David Richerby Mar 22 '15 at 20:44
  • I like it. Instead of marbling, the OP can also bake several layers, some of them chocolate, others colored yellow cake, and stack them. – rumtscho Mar 23 '15 at 10:41
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Much like vanilla or peppermint extract, there are chocolate extracts that will add chocolate flavor but little or no color. They don't generally taste quite right but if you absolutely must have a caramel-colored chocolate cake, it may be your only option. You can even make your own if you can't get it locally. I have not personally tried the linked product or the recipe, they were just top hits from a Google search.

There are also chocolate oils that are even more concentrated but have the same issue with a slightly off flavor.

Whichever of the two you use, you might consider subbing in a bit of white chocolate for texture purposes.

Best of luck in your endeavor... hopefully it will work out.

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Why not use a mixture of white chocolate and milk chocolate? Sure, the taste will be less like that of chocolate and more like that of white chocolate, but something has to give...

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