The Liqueur That Makes Every Dessert Better, According To Duff Goldman - Exclusive

Food Network star Duff Goldman has always wowed us with the aesthetic design of his cakes. The creations he displayed on "Ace of Cakes" often looked more like sculptures than food. But he never sacrificed flavor for looks — he cares just as much that his desserts taste good as that they look spectacular. And there's one ingredient that he reaches for time and time again when he needs to amp up the flavor of desserts: Kahlua.

As Goldman told Tasting Table in an exclusive interview, "Kahlua makes everything taste delicious. Kahlua is the pastry chef's little secret." While we've certainly seen desserts that are flavored with an assertive amount of this coffee liqueur, that's not what Goldman is talking about — instead, he likes to add a sneaky touch of Kahlua to bring out the other flavors in his recipes. "You don't tell people that it's in there because it's not a lot, but just enough that when you taste it, you're like, 'God, this is good. What am I tasting? What is that? This is delicious.'"

The secret of the Kahlua trick

Duff Goldman got the idea for using Kahlua as an all-purpose flavor enhancer from hotel pastry chefs. He said that it works particularly well in creamy desserts: "You're making a crème brulee, put [Kahlua] in there. You make some buttercream, put it in there. Literally anything — a chocolate pot du crème, put some Kahlua in there, just a little bit."

As for why Kahlua makes everything better, Goldman chalks it up to the mysterious mix of flavorings in the liqueur. Although Kahlua is just made with coffee beans and rum, the ingredients are blended in a way that makes the finished drink uniquely compelling. It's fairly easy to make a Kahlua substitute at home, but it might not have the same magical properties in pastries as the real thing. In his words, "Whatever the flavor balance that the people who make Kahlua have figured out, it's a well-designed flavor that tastes good to us. It pushes all the right buttons." He compared it to savory ingredients that improve pretty much every dish they're used in; he tends to reach for bacon and corn to rescue savory recipes that taste a bit flat.

Keep up with the latest from Duff Goldman on his website and Instagram.