Why give fair-trade chocolate to your valentine: A recipe for chocolate cake

“Is this slave chocolate?” my son Joaquin asked after he swallowed a big piece.

Seventy percent of the world’s cocoa beans are grown in West Africa, much of it produced using enslaved child labor. An estimated 1.8 million children are involved in cocoa production in West Africa according to a Tulane University report . This disturbing child slave/chocolate connection led Iowa Senator Tom Harkin and New York Congressman Engel to create the Harkin-Engel Protocol of 2001 (Cocoa Protocol), aimed at reducing child labor in cocoa labor. More than a decade later the practice remains widespread in West Africa.

The chocolate I offered my son was not “slave chocolate” but Fair Trade Organic Chocolate I found at Trader Joe’s for under 2 bucks a bar. The chocolate is certified by Fair for Life.

Fair trade certification ensures workers are paid fair wages and provide good working conditions. Fair for Life, certified companies must comply with several environmental criteria that include water conservation and ecosystem management in addition to being certified organic. Fair Trade USA is another certification organization that requires both fair wages for workers and environmental responsibility.

Fair Trade USA reports on their website that Ben and Jerry’s is committed to purchase only fair trade ingredients for all their delicious ice creams and Nestle announced it’s Kit Kat to source Fair Trade cocoa in the United Kingdom. It is a start, but we got a long way to go.

This is where  we come in, you and me, who buy 58 million pounds of chocolate on Valentine’s alone. Together we can end child slavery in Africa AND support farmers who grow cocoa sustainably with our purchase of fair trade certified chocolate. Ask your favorite chocolate brands to purchase fair trade chocolate on their Facebook page. Companies like Nestle and Cadbury purchase fair trade chocolate for the UK market. Why not for the U.S. market? I want a fair trade certified Kit Kat. Don’t you?

Check out these websites of chocolate brands that offer fair trade chocolate and ask for fair-trade chocolate options at your favorite market.

Alter Eco
Dagoba Organic Chocolate
Divine Chocolate Love the label. So pretty.
Equal Exchange
Theo Chocolate You can buy chocolate by the case for a discount
Taza Chocolate Chocolate with a Mexican twist. This chocolate can also be purchased bulk.

Now for my favorite chocolate cake recipe. This is the recipe that I used to make those pretty little cupcakes dressed in blue pleated paper cups pictured above.

Free-Trade Chocolate Cake
(Adapted from One-Bowl Chocolate Cake from Martha Stewart Living)

3/4 cup unsweetened fair-trade cocoa powder (Equal Exchange sells this as Baking Cocoa)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose organic dry farmed or rain fed flour
1 1/2 organic fair-trade sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs (preferably from a pasture-raised hen)
3/4 cup organic low-fat buttermilk (I like Organic Valley. It is coop of small family dairies across the U.S.. This brand can be found at large and small grocery stores. If not at your grocery store yet, ask and ask again.)
3/4 cup water
3 tablespoons organic oil like vegetable or canola
1 teaspoon organic pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans (2 inches deep) dusted with cocoa powder. If making cupcakes, butter the muffin tin just the same unless you are using cupcake paper cups. I found that one scoop of batter using a ice cream scooper works perfectly for each cupcake.

Sift all the dry ingredients into a big mixing bowl.

Beat ingredients together with a mixer on the lowest setting or with a whisk until just combined.

Add all the wet ingredients into the same bowl. Beat until all combined and batter is smooth about three minutes with a mixer and a few minutes longer when mixing by hand.

Divide batter into both pans and bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cupcakes do not take as long to bake. Check if the cupcakes are done after 20 minutes.

Note: to remove the cake from the pans with ease, you must let the cake cool off completely. This takes at least 15 minutes. While you wait make the frosting (frosting recipe to follow). Place one of the cakes on a cake plate. Frost the top of the first cake. This will be your yummy center. Place the second cake on top and frost the top and sides of the cake. I like to decorate the cake with fresh berries like blueberries or blackberries when in season…organic of course.

Chocolate Frosting
I love this frosting. The sour cream gives it a nice little twist. I have found that young kids are not as big on the slight twang to this frosting. When I am baking for a younger crowd I will replace with a butter cream frosting. If you are making cupcakes you can half this recipe.

makes four cups

2 1/4 cups organic powdered sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened fair-trade cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
6 Ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 sticks unsalted organic butter, softened (Organic Valley also makes butter or some farmers markets sell butter)
9 Ounces bittersweet fair-trade chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
3/4 Cup organic creme fraiche or sour cream

Sift together dry ingredients and combine in one bowl.

In a larger bowl beat together the cream cheese and butter at medium speed until smooth.

Gradually add the sugar-cocoa mixture into the cream cheese and butter mixture and beat until combined.

Pour in the melted chocolate.

Add the sour cream or creme fraiche and beat until all combined.

3 thoughts on “Why give fair-trade chocolate to your valentine: A recipe for chocolate cake

  1. Laurie Duffy says:

    Thank you for this important post! My kids help me stay on track as well! 🙂 btw. there are some super yummy FT (Guitard brand!) chocolate chips available at Groovy Candies. They were well-worth the extra pennies!


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