Both cacao and cocoa come from the cacao bean. The difference lies in the process used to make the powders and this results in differences in taste and nutritional content.
Raw Cacao is just that, the bean is crushed in it’s raw form and the butter removed by cold pressing. It’s high in antioxidants and a source of magnesium, iron, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese.
Alkalized Cocoa is a dutch method where the beans are soaked in alkalized solution to reduce the Ph level and make it less bitter and then is processed at a higher temperature. The increased processing of the bean does decrease but not destroy all the antioxidants and minerals so it still has nutritional value.
Carob comes from the seed of the carob tree (Ceratonia siliqua) a native to the Mediterranean. The pods are then roasted and crushed into a powder. It has a chocolate like flavour and has been used a substitute for many years. It has a naturally sweeter flavour, caffeine free and higher in fibre than cacao.
I’ve been using raw cacao powder in my baking for a few years now and it certainly takes the humble chocolate cake flavour to a whole new level over your general supermarket cocoa. However in a taste test of the hot chocolates at home recently, our alkalized cocoa powder has a lovely dark chocolate flavour and was less bitter.
If you are looking to add cacao to your diet for purely nutritional reasons then I go for raw cacao but if you are looking for to add a rich chocolate flavour to your next cake or dessert then either will work.
If you want to change things up then you can easily substitute carob powder for cacao powder in recipes and possibly cut down on some sugar to boot, as you don’t need to mask any bitterness.