Chocolate's Cousin: a Quick Look at Cocoa Butter

Cocoa butter isn't quite chocolate, but it's almost as much fun. Check out this article to learn more.

Let's get one thing straight from the git-go: cocoa butter isn't chocolate, white or otherwise, no matter what candy purveyors might have you believe. It is, however, a necessary ingredient of all chocolate, and either alone or in combination with other ingredients can be a devastatingly creamy delight.

That being the case, we here at X-Choc thought it best to provide a little primer on this unrepentantly delicious vegetable fat, which isn't really chocolate as such but makes chocolate what it is.

Hidden gold

You could say that cocoa butter is an off-white, creamy vegetable fat with a high melting point, and that's accurate as far as it goes -- but that's like saying gold is an attractive, heavy yellow metal. In either case, you're leaving out a lot of the details that ignite fire in the human soul.

Unlike gold, nobody even knew this particular cacao product existed until 1848, when C.J. van Houten figured out how to press chocolate liquor in such a way that he ended up with two constituents: dry cocoa powder and a fatty, whitish cream that was solid at room temperature. Hmmm...

Ah, serendipity

Whole confectionary empires have been founded on the fact that cocoa butter is a solid with a relatively high melting point -- close to human body temperature, in fact. Experimenters soon realized that it could be recombined with cocoa and other ingredients in such a way as to make solid chocolate candy.

Eureka! No longer was chocolate merely a drink for the wealthy: the solid form was easy to make, easy to store, and easy to transport. Thank you, Mr. van Houten. If it weren't for you, chocolate might not be the supreme comfort food it is today.

But wait, there's more!

With its 6% fat content, cocoa butter is good for more than just a base for chocolate bars. It works well as an ingredient in skin care products and as a thickening agent in cosmetics, and it makes an excellent lip balm. It can even be made into soap.

If you just want candy, the cocoa can be left out to form a solid ivory confection known as white chocolate -- though as we mentioned earlier, chocolate it is not. It sure tastes good, though, when it's combined with a little vanilla and a lot of sugar.

One warning, though: tasty as it is, this particular cousin of chocolate tends to be mild. If you want to maintain your X-Choc credibility, you're going to have to supplement your cocoa butter consumption with something more extreme on occasion -- like, say, bacon chocolate, or chocolate-covered ants (yum!).