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Chocolate cake or chocolate chip cookies and coffee? Might seem like an odd couple, but the fact is chocolate and coffee go together like hand in glove. The latter adds richness without sweetness to cookies, cakes, puddings, and other desserts when chocolate is involved. Not so sure? Give these tried-and-tested recipes a go.

How to add coffee flavour

Is there anything as wonderful as the aroma of coffee? With all sorts of delicious flavour notes—chocolate, caramel, spice, and fruit—coffee is the “secret sauce” to so many chocolate desserts. Here’s how to jazz up tasty treats with java.

Any form of coffee can be used to make desserts, but a teaspoon of espresso powder functions differently in a recipe than a cup of brewed coffee does. Here’s how each one works best.

How to use brewed coffee or espresso

To extract their flavour, ground beans need to be brewed, so you’ll be adding liquid as well as that delicious coffee taste to recipes using this method. Brewed coffee or espresso imparts a subtler flavour than freeze-dried or powdered varieties and works well in mousses, puddings, and more—it’s a must for soaking ladyfingers to make tiramisu, for example.

Quick tip: While some cooks insist on using freshly ground beans for the best flavour, a good-quality ground coffee will work just fine in most recipes.

How to use ground coffee

Whether you grind your own beans or buy them already ground, just a small amount of coffee in this form adds a bold flavour hit to recipes. It works best in batters, doughs, and thick sauces, and it’s super convenient, since no brewing is required—just spoon it right in. And because ground coffee is readily available in a wide variety of flavours and roasts, it allows for a range of fun, delicious desserts.

How to use instant coffee granules and instant espresso powder

These are freeze-dried brewed coffees, not finely ground beans. They are easy to measure, will rehydrate in any liquid, and guarantee a reliable shot of strong flavour. Instant coffee or espresso is often used in cakes, cookies, and custards, where a small amount can be “activated” by any liquid, even eggs or butter.

Follow the recipe for best results

Use the style of coffee the recipe suggests. A dark roast or robust espresso will give rich, hearty treats plenty of depth, while a lighter, fruitier variety won’t overpower a delicate dessert.

Follow the recipe’s instructions for coffee temperature, too. Hot brewed coffee is best in sauces and chocolate cakes made with cocoa powder, where it creates a rich, fudgy texture while intensifying cocoa’s chocolatey notes and downplaying its bitter ones. On the other hand, cold-brewed coffee, or simply leftover coffee from breakfast, works beautifully in chilled desserts.

How to make cold-brew coffee

How to pair flavours with coffee

The best flavours to pair with coffee include chocolate, cinnamon, vanilla, nuts (such as almonds or hazelnuts), caramel, and certain fruits (such as orange zest, dried figs, or fresh cherries). You can combine these flavours with coffee in a variety of ways. Stir vanilla or almond extract into a coffee-scented batter or mix ground spices in with the dry ingredients. Or simmer equal amounts of brewed coffee and sugar together to make a coffee syrup. You can also infuse hot coffee with spices or dissolve instant in vanilla rather than water for an extra flavour hit.

Quick tip: Adding just a little coffee to chocolate makes the rich, dark flavours of cocoa pop in cakes and brownies—without actually tasting like coffee!

How to pair chocolate and coffee in baked goods

Coffee is made for baking. Its rich, bittersweet flavour adds depth to cakes, cheesecakes, pies, cookies, muffins, loaves, and soufflés. It boosts the chocolatey appeal of  Fudge Layer Cake with Chocolate Avocado Icing, Coffee Brownies  and soft, fudgy Coffee Chocolate Crinkle Cookies. Not a chocolate fan? Try a Coffee, Nut & Blueberry Meringue Cake  for a delicious finale to a special dinner.

Best chocolate-coffee gift recipes

Be the guest everyone wants to welcome! You’ll always be invited back if you arrive with a box of irresistible homemade coffee-flavoured treats, like  Chocolate Truffles  rolled in espresso powder or creamy Tiramisu Fudge. Or bring a jar of  Easy Chocolate-Coffee Sauce  for dipping juicy strawberries or drizzling over ice cream or profiteroles. If you’re lucky, your host might even share!

Coffee recipes

Dessert doesn’t have to be served on a plate or in a bowl. A fancy coffee drink is a sweet way to end a meal. For a warm finish, try a  Spiced Hazelnut Latte  (spiked with hazelnut liqueur for an extra special treat), an Eggnog Coffee or a Gingerbread Almond Latte . For a cold one, stir up a classic  Mocha Milkshake or an Espresso Martini with Homemade Irish Cream.

For more inspiration

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