Boost the Flavor of Chocolate Desserts With This Ingredient

Instant coffee is the secret to more intensely chocolaty cakes and brownies.

Instant coffee

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There's a simple trick to making chocolate desserts taste even better. Sure, cocoa powder and chopped chocolate give anything a rich, chocolate flavor. But if you want that flavor to be more complex and intense, add a little coffee to the recipe.

You already know that coffee and chocolate are a match made in heaven when it comes to anything mocha flavored. The two ingredients also pair well in desserts like this Chocolate and Coffee-Hazelnut Meringue Cake and these Roasted White Chocolate & Coffee Truffles. But what makes them such a strong match?

Contrast is key here, in the same way a sprinkle of flaky salt brightens the flavor of cookies and brownies. In this case, the bitterness of coffee balances the sweetness of chocolate, keeping it from becoming cloying. At the same time, coffee adds another layer to the chocolate flavor, making it more complex and intense.

It’s easy to use coffee to give chocolate cakes and brownies even more flavor. Here are two ways to elevate chocolate flavors in baked goods with coffee:

Add brewed coffee in place of water or milk

You can substitute brewed coffee for some of the water in recipes like this Chocolate Blackout Cake. To avoid overpowering the other flavors in the recipe, substitute no more than half of the water with coffee. If you are substituting coffee in a recipe that calls for milk, add a splash of cream or half and half to the coffee before adding it in, so you still get that creamy flavor and texture.  

Add espresso powder or instant coffee to dry ingredients and chocolate sauces

Adding a teaspoon of espresso powder goes a long way towards enhancing chocolate flavors in your cooking. Since espresso powder is typically fine-ground, it dissolves in batters and doughs easily. If you don’t have espresso powder on-hand, use instant coffee granules; pulse them in a coffee or spice grinder if they are too coarse. Then, simply whisk in a teaspoon of espresso or coffee granules into the dry ingredients and proceed with the recipe as usual.

This method also works nicely if you are making a chocolate fondue or sweet or savory chocolate sauce. Adding liquid to a sauce may thin it out too much or cause the emulsion to break, ruining the texture and viscosity of the sauce. A pinch of espresso powder or instant coffee will add flavor without damaging the sauce.

Keep a jar of instant coffee or espresso powder in the pantry next to the cocoa powder so you'll have it ready to add that next-level flavor boost the next time you're baking a batch of brownies or cake, or any chocolate recipes.  

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