30 Desserts Made Better By Adding Coffee

There are two things we absolutely love: dessert and coffee. The two often go together in an after-dinner pairing because the bitterness of the beverage contrasts the sweetness of the dessert, making for a well-rounded and palate-pleasing complement for cakes, pies, or cookies. But the more innovative way to amp up your dessert is to add coffee directly into the dessert itself. 

Adding coffee or derivatives like instant coffee or espresso powder can either act as a standalone flavor or help boost the taste of other ingredients. For example, adding a floral java complement can amplify your chocolate desserts.  If you're looking for an overwhelming java profile, you can experiment and play with the amount of the coffee ingredient you're adding to ensure the flavor is to your liking. 

Like cooking with wine, it's best to work with a plain coffee or espresso that you enjoy drinking. Moreover, to concentrate the flavor of your dessert, it's best to use strongly-brewed coffee or powdered concentrates. Here are some of our favorite desserts to caffeinate — for coffee-obsessed dessert lovers and flavor gurus alike. 

Chocolate chip cookies

Chocolate chip cookies are a staple cookie that every baker should know how to make. But the ingredient that will elevate your cookies to bakery-level is instant coffee powder. This ingredient is just strong enough to amplify the decadent chocolate notes but not enough to upset the precarious balance of sweetness and classic chocolate cookie flavor.

The key to using coffee in a cookie recipe is to always stick to using dried powder rather than liquid coffee. Cookie dough that is too wet won't hold together well and will end up splattering on the baking sheet. Instead, instant coffee or espresso powder will dissolve and flavor your batter perfectly.

Yeasted bread

You may not think about using coffee in your yeasted bread recipe, but it's the key to improving bread's texture. You'll want to substitute the water in your bread recipe for cooled coffee — either in its entirety or partially. Not only does the liquid add to the dough's hydration, but it also adds a slightly acidic element. Try substituting the water in pumpernickel or dark rye for a deeper flavor and plush texture.


Brownies are a delicious, sweet treat that is the perfect way to end a meal. Coffee is the secret ingredient that will take your brownies to a new level and enhance the chocolate notes in your recipe. You can add a little or a lot of espresso powder, depending on what flavors you want to shine through in your recipe.

If you want to harness the coffee flavor and make it a star in your mocha brownie recipe, you'll need to add a heaping ½ tablespoon of espresso powder. However, you should always taste the batter to determine how much espresso powder you'll need.

Chocolate cake

You should add espresso powder to any chocolate cake recipe to complement any cocoa notes. Simply stir a few tablespoons in with the rest of your dry ingredients — like the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and leavening agents. If you're working with a recipe that calls for adding liquid coffee instead of instant coffee or espresso powder, you can diffuse the powder in a cup of warm liquid. That way, you won't make your cake too dry. Like other recipes, unless you're drowning the cake in coffee or similar ingredients or adding mocha flavors to your frosting or as a soak, you won't really taste the ingredient itself. You will, however, find more spicy and floral notes in your dessert.

Cinnamon rolls

There's a multitude of ways to add a coffee element to your favorite breakfast roll. A rich coffee glaze is the sweetest way to add a coffee flavor to your cinnamon rolls. Instead of using water or milk in your glaze, substitute it part-for-part with strongly brewed coffee. You can also use espresso or dissolved espresso powder for more profound coffee notes.

The other method to infuse java flavors into your cinnamon rolls is to add coffee directly to the roll's filling. Mix instant espresso with brown sugar and melted butter to create a flavorful filling for your pick-me-up cinnamon rolls. You might just even feel more awake after eating one. 

Whoopie pies

Whoopie pies are a classic New England dessert. Each soft, cakey disc is sandwiched with a decadent whipped frosting filling; it's an ethereal experience that everyone deserves to taste at least once in their life. The only way to make this portable cake better is to infuse it with coffee. You can add a bit of espresso powder to the cake or consider infusing the filling with espresso powder or instant coffee. A couple of tablespoons of espresso powder may tilt the balance of these desserts high on the coffee flavor end of things, so it's best to taste along the way and dial back the powder if you need to. 


The world is undoubtedly a happier place with donuts. And it's an even better place when all of those donuts have a distinct coffee element. You can add coffee to your donuts in numerous ways, including adding it in place of water when you're mixing the dough, coating each in a sugary chocolate glaze, or adding an espresso bean garnish to the top of your breakfast treat. You can also serve your donuts with coffee. The two have been historically paired because the bitter flavor of the coffee contrasts with the sweetness of the pastry. 


Although muffins are often thought to be exclusively breakfast fare, many argue that the sweetness and heaviness of the carby staple make it fall into the dessert category. Whatever time of day you're enjoying a muffin, you should consider adding a bit of coffee to the mix. You can either substitute some of the liquid in the recipe for strongly-brewed coffee or add a scoop of espresso powder when you're mixing the dry ingredients. The coffee's taste pairs well with many classic muffin flavors, including cinnamon, chocolate, and bran.

Crème brulee

Crème brulee may be a dish you only get to enjoy at restaurants (after all, not everyone has a blow torch lying around), but it's one that you should consider infusing with coffee if you're making it at home. 

Since this dessert is a custard, which can be finicky with liquid, it's best to use espresso powder to add flavor to it. Boil the powder concentrate with heavy cream, some sugar, and vanilla before adding the egg yolks and the remaining sweetener. The combination of the sweet vanilla and the coffee is absolutely irresistible. 


Coffee custard is a dessert that you can master with a little bit of time and patience. The best coffee custard dessert, inspired by Camille Cogswell's Philadelphia restaurant Zahav is made Turkish-style and features a creamy coffee custard covered in a chocolate magic shell. The coffee flavor is made by infusing the custard mixture with coarse-ground coffee beans as its boiling, which adds java flavor without upsetting the vanilla undertone. The mixture is eventually strained to remove the small flecks of beans before being molded and baked until jiggly.

Pecan pie

Pecan pie is probably not a dessert you expected to add coffee to. But the coffee's sharpness can help balance the sweetness of the syrupy filling and round out your dessert's flavors. Our favorite rendition of the classic Thanksgiving dessert is a chocolate-coffee pecan pie made by adding espresso powder directly to the syrupy filling. The chocolate is added as a base layer between the crust and the pecans to both prevent a soggy bottom and add a new dimension to the dessert. 

Marble cake

Marble cake is the perfect dessert for the indecisive individuals among us. You get a little bit of vanilla, a little bit of chocolate, and with this mocha marble cake recipe, a little bit of warm coffee flavor. The cooled espresso is added to the cocoa powder to form a paste before adding in some of the vanilla cake batter. Then, the two are swirled together in the pan to create the quintessential marble cake pattern. 

Mud pie

Mud pie is a deeply under-appreciated cream pie. It's one of the easiest desserts to make at home, and with a no-bake espresso mud pie, you'll have a crowd-pleasing dessert ready in less than half an hour. Not only is the dark chocolate ganache infused with instant espresso powder, but the dessert also features a homemade espresso whipped cream and garnish of instant espresso powder and chocolate-covered espresso beans. It's the perfect dessert for anyone in your life who can't get enough coffee. 

Spice cake

Spice cake is filled with warm notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. Adding a strongly-brewed cup of coffee to your moist cake will amplify the floral notes of the spices in the sponge. We recommend adding liquid coffee to the sponge, rather than a powdered replacement, to increase the moisture in the batter and keep the cake soft. Top your spice cake with a coffee glaze or stick with a classic powdered sugar garnish. 

Coffee cheesecake

Who doesn't love cheesecake? There are tons of variations you can put on the classic dessert by playing with the crumb crust base or the filling itself. Instead of making a fruity or a chocolate rendition, try for a coffee-infused cheesecake. Add instant coffee granules to the cream cheese filling and garnish with chocolate-covered espresso beans for a simple yet elegant dessert. 

If you want to hybridize an Italian coffee dessert with cheesecake, try making a tiramisu cheesecake recipe with layers of coffee-soaked ladyfinger cookies, decadent Kahlua-mascarpone cream, and chocolate graham cracker crumb. 

Monkey bread

Monkey bread is an excellent yet simple breakfast treat that can really be eaten all day. While you can make the dish more complex by adding nuts and dried fruit, the absolute best way to improve your monkey bread is by adding some caffeinated elements. The best way to infuse coffee is by mixing instant coffee with sugar, melted butter, and vanilla extract to form a thick syrup. It will be the first flavor on your tongue when you bite into a bread chunk — and it isn't too liquidity that it will prevent the dough from sticking together. 


Truffles may seem difficult to make, but these bite-sized desserts require a little creativity and a KitchenAid stand mixer. Mix cream cheese with strongly-brewed coffee or instant coffee granules and melted chocolate to form the batter. Once the cream cheese and chocolate mixture has solidified, you can coat the balls with melted chocolate and some espresso powder. It's the perfect light yet classy dessert for a party or snack table at your next gathering. 

Ice cream and gelato

While you can take a stroll through the ice cream aisle at your grocery store, there's something homey and satisfying about making a frozen dessert yourself. Our coffee gelato recipe includes brewed coffee, cream, and sugar. You can use liquid or instant powder dissolved in water — just be sure you cool the coffee down before mixing it with your other ingredients. The java flavor is very strong in this dessert and each spoonful is a caffeinated punch of flavor. Consider adding a chocolate espresso bean garnish or coffee syrup to elevate your dessert to sundae level. 

Rice Krispie treats

Remember how excited you were to find Rice Krispie treats in your lunchbox as a kid? You can be gleeful about these grown-up Rice Krispies treats made with instant espresso powder. Mix together the melted butter and the marshmallows over a stove before adding in espresso powder and the cereal. After you've let your bars harden, we recommend drizzling them with melted chocolate for a sophisticated flair and elegant design. The coffee flavor really shines through in these desserts because there aren't any intrusive flavors blocking it. 

Pound cake

Coffee may not have been one of the original ingredients in the classic pound cake recipe, but it is one that you'll want to try to integrate into your next batch. Pound cakes are made to be dense, so this flavor element helps make the dessert feel a bit lighter and more complex. To java-ify your pound cake, add a bit of brewed espresso to the batter and swipe a layer on the top of the cake as well. 

Chocolate cream pie

Chocolate cream pie — it's a dessert, so perfect you won't want to mess with it. Until, of course, you consider adding espresso to the recipe. Espresso powder is a vital ingredient in a traditional chocolate cream pie because it helps balance out the sweetness of the sugar and helps round out the robustness of the chocolate. You'll want to add the custard ingredients, with the espresso powder, to form a smooth mixture that will be the base of the pie. We also recommend sprinkling the top of the pie with chocolate shavings and espresso powder to help highlight the chocolate flavor even more. 


Meringues are often seen as a dainty dessert, but that doesn't mean that meringues can't be complex in flavor. You can make espresso meringues to impress any coffee enthusiast in your life. After you beat the egg whites and cream of tartar, you can add both espresso powder and coffee extract to boost up the java flavor. Sticking to these ingredients rather than brewed coffee is important because meringues tend not to lend well to added moisture. 


How could anyone not love a decadent piece of classic fudge? The key to making the perfect chocolate fudge recipe is adding some espresso powder. It will help bring out the chocolate flavor in the recipe without taking the helm of flavor. You can further customize the flavor of your sweet tread by adding in some chopped nuts, candy cane pieces, or OREO chunks. If you want to make the confection more flavor-forward, add more espresso powder and swap the semisweet chocolate for white chocolate. 


These coffee milkshakes are bound to bring all the boys to the yard. One of our favorite ways to add coffee flavor to a milkshake is by using the classic Rhode Island staple, coffee milk, as the base for the milkshake. Then, add a few scoops of strong coffee ice cream and a shot of cooled espresso to make a flavor-forward espresso milkshake. There's no such thing as too much coffee flavor in this shake. 

Chocolate bark

Although we don't think chocolate bark is as traditional of a dessert as a slice of cake or pie, it does scratch the itch for something sweet. Plus, it's a customizable dessert depending on what nuts and other crunchy additions you want to include. Melt down a tablespoon of espresso powder with butter and pour it into the melted chocolate. We recommend pairing this caffeinated bark with some chopped dried cherries and almonds. 

Coffee cake

While coffee cake is not always made to have coffee in it per se, you can always go the extra mile to add a jolt of caffeine to your breakfast. We recommend adding brewed coffee and a bit of Greek yogurt or sour cream to keep your crumb moist. You can also add an expresso glaze to help bring out the coffee flavor or add espresso powder to the brown sugar in the streusel. Pair your cake with a cappuccino and you'll have a winning combination to help you power through the day. 

Sponge cake

Sponge cake is an essential cake that every home baker should know how to make. A coffee glaze is one of the toppings that will take your sponge cake to a new level. You can start by soaking the cake with cooled espresso; it will infuse a coffee flavor without obstructing the elegant appearance of the sponge. To add a subtle sweetness and richness to the dessert, you can also add a sweet layer of coffee frosting, made by mixing espresso powder into the buttercream. 


Biscotti is a cookie that pairs well for both dipping in coffee and infusing with caffeinated ingredients. Since Italian biscotti is only slightly sweet, coffee can take center stage as an important ingredient. Since these cookies are supposed to be very dry, you must add coffee flavor with instant coffee or espresso powder rather than liquid coffee. The flavor of the beans also pairs well with chocolate, almonds, or hazelnuts — meaning that you can get creative with a medley of textural additions. 


Popsicles are a portable frozen treat bound to keep you cool on hot summer days. Making a popsicle is one of the most clever ways to use up leftover coffee. Simply mix together cold coffee, milk or cream, and sweetener and pop the molds in the freezer until solid. You can also infuse your favorite coffee flavors, like pumpkin spice syrup and hazelnut creamer, to make your frozen treat into something unique. It might end up as a new alternative to your daily iced coffee. 


Trifle is a fun dessert that you can customize based on whatever sweet ingredients you have on hand. You can add crumbled coffee cookies, infused whipped cream, or flavored pudding to make your trifle java-centric. One of our favorite coffee components in a trifle is an infused pudding layer. Mix together milk and espresso powder before pouring in a pouch of vanilla powdered pudding mixture. Making a caffeinated and visually stunning dessert couldn't be any easier.