Add This Secret Ingredient for the Best Chocolate Desserts Ever

Legendary desserts don't have to take all day if you know when to add this extra ingredient.

Many a coffee drinker will tell you that a splash of chocolate syrup turns a cup of joe into a richer, sweeter treat. But bakers are just waking up to using this trick so coffee can return the favor.

Coffee + chocolate = a richer treat

Believe it or not, simply swapping brewed coffee for water in a boxed chocolate cake mix can transform it into a special-occasion treat. And sprinkling instant coffee granules (like this brand) or adding brewed coffee to your homemade chocolate cake batter will render it irresistible. The complementary flavors of coffee and chocolate are a match made in mocha heaven.

But it’s not about making a mocha-flavored cake. You shouldn’t be able to taste the java at all. Instead, the coffee will enhance and add complexity to the chocolaty flavor, resulting in a richer cake, cookie or brownie.

Both good cocoa powder and coffee should be a bit bitter, and they will often have subtle fruit and spice notes. So it’s not surprising that adding coffee to cake batter will boost these flavors in the cocoa. If you’re afraid of ending up with a coffee-flavored cake, don’t worry. A teaspoon of crystals or a cup of brewed coffee won’t overpower the chocolate flavor.

How to use coffee in desserts

When Taste of Home reader Christa Hageman of Telford, Pennsylvania, created her contest-winning chocolate Bundt cake, it was the jolt of java that raised it to the next level. The sugar, vanilla and buttermilk in Christa’s recipe make her cake moist and delicious, but the cup of coffee made it a winner in the chocolatyness category. Rich and elegant desserts don’t have to take all day if you know when to add that extra ingredient.

Coffee plays an important—but a strictly backstage—role in Christa’s cake. Reader Mary Houchi of Swansea, Illinois, gave coffee a more prominent place in her brownies by upping the standard teaspoon of instant coffee to a tablespoon. Make no mistake, the semisweet chips in Mary’s brownies guarantee they are plenty chocolaty, but tripling the java proportions adds a stronger, but well-balanced, coffee flavor.

Either way, for true chocolate lovers, instant coffee should be a pantry staple. (Here are more pantry items that last forever). It’ll keep for years, making all your chocolate baked goods legendary.

Desserts That Get a Boost From Instant Coffee
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Cathryn Jakicic
Cathy Jakicic has written about everything from business and bacteria to beads and baking in her career —but she greatly prefers the last two. She is a baker and a crafter and loves to try new recipes for both.