Converting a chocolate cake recipe to vanilla?

So I love that ubiquitous Beatty's chocolate cake recipe from barefoot contessa (oil/buttermilk/cup of hot coffee) but I have tried a million yellow cake recipes and have yet to find one I love as much as that one. The closest has been from the Flour cookbook. So I am thinking of attempting to try to de-chocolate the beatty's cake and see what happens. I'm planning to sub a cup of boiling water for the coffee but I don't know what to do about the cocoa powder. How much like flour is it? Should I replace it with an equal amount of AP flour? Or is cocoa powder less of a dry ingredient than flour? Are my ramblings making sense?



Cupcakeaddict October 1, 2018
The cocoa powder can be replaced with the same amount of the AP flour. And vice versa
Nancy November 24, 2014
agree with cautions about converting choc cake to vanilla & rec to use your best yellow cake recipe. Or try a pound cake recipe (with vanilla in or add your own) or an olive oil cake (very moist) with vanilla, e.g this Turkish recipe in Bonnie Stern column
Sarah November 23, 2014
Maybe try substituting milk powder for the cocoa powder instead of flour. For the coffee maybe try a half and half mixture of sour cream and buttermilk or just straight buttermilk instead of water. You may have to play around with the baking powder in the recipe to adjust for any acidity changes due to deletion of cocoa powder and addition of buttermilk/sour cream.
Laurie15 May 8, 2014
Great! I would ditch the boiling water and use buttermilk instead, for sure.
sarah K. May 8, 2014
So weird, I had this same thought today and started experimenting! I knew a straight up flour for cocoa powder sub wouldn't work, but I started there just to see what would happen (also subbed water for coffee). I actually really liked the texture of the cake, but the center didn't rise well and the top was very brown and spotty right in the center. Also, it tasted fishy, which was odd. I made it again and tweaked the powder and soda amounts, but the top center was still too brown and it tasted boring. :)
Oh so crazy! I just made and tasted it! Mine turned out pretty well, I thought! I upped the flour to 2 cups, subbed boiling water for the coffee, doubled the vanilla, but kept everything else the same. The cake is delicious and most but maybe a bit gummy-textured? Gonna try again with just a little bit more flour, but I'd call it a success!
mrslarkin May 8, 2014
I've always wanted to do this same thing!

My favorite yellow (almost white, really) cake is Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake. I've made it a bajillion times. Sturdy yet tender, not dry, looks great dressed up or down -- it's like the perfect boyfriend. I always use AP flour and it comes out great. I've baked this thing in many different shapes, including a TARDIS.

Here's the recipe link:

Keep us posted on your experiment!!
Ahh! Thank you friends, so much! I might still try this likely ill-fated experiment but I'm excited to try these other recipes too! Will report back for sure!
aargersi May 8, 2014
Hi AC! Have you tried sdebrango's tender yellow cake? That's my go-to - it's wonderful.
Laurie15 May 8, 2014
Great! If you've baked before (and it sounds like you have), you likely know the "batter" texture you are aiming for, so I would opt for that and see how it goes.

The other thing I would say is to nix the coffee and use additional buttermilk, instead.
Laurie15 May 8, 2014
I'm rather certain the cake won't taste like a perfect yellow cake if you convert this one to non-chocolate, however, I can perhaps help you to make this into vanilla cake.

I know that cake. And yes, it is glorious!

3/4 cup cocoa powder weighs 85 grams, but the most important thing is there are 24 grams fibre in the cocoa powder, and just about 6 in the flour. So cocoa here is going to act like a sponge and suck up all of the moisture, so it is impossible to swap it one-for-one. In addition, the flour (having gluten) is going to add a lot more protein to the mix and change the texture, too. You're not going to end up with the same cake.

Cocoa powder has more fat and acid, too, which will change the leavening.

Honestly, my first thought would be to just try a yellow cake recipe (one you haven't tried, perhaps?) But if not, then I would start with half the amount of flour, let the batter sit for a moment and see what the absorption factor is like, and then perhaps add a little more if needed.
This is amazing and just the kind of information I was hoping for! Thank you thank you! I will report back when I try it to share what happened and whether or not the results were edible!
Recommended by Food52