Add This Secret Ingredient for the Best Chocolate Desserts Ever

Updated: Feb. 08, 2024

Want your chocolate desserts to taste their best? Add just a teaspoon of this ingredient.

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It might be surprising to hear, but the secret to chocolatier desserts isn’t more chocolate, it’s another ingredient altogether: espresso powder.

You may have heard that coffee or espresso can accentuate chocolate flavors before and been wary, but I’m here to tell you that even a dash of this ingredient really does amp up your desserts.

Why Does Adding Espresso Make Chocolate More Chocolaty?

Now, I can’t say scientifically why adding a touch of espresso powder or instant coffee helps boost the flavor of chocolate, but I can say through lots of experimenting, that it does help accentuate the flavor of cocoa.

Think of coffee in this equation the same way you might think of a sprinkling of salt to your bakes. You’re not adding salt to make the recipe salty, you’re adding it to give the recipe balance and to amplify the flavors. In the same way, a bit of espresso bumps up the flavor of chocolate.

How to Use Coffee and Espresso with Chocolate

Espresso PowderLisa Kaminski/Taste of Home

Do not worry: Adding coffee to your recipes will not make your bakes taste like a mocha from your favorite cafe. If you add this ingredient judiciously, you won’t taste the coffee at all. In fact, my mom—someone who cannot stand even the slightest whiff of coffee—enjoys my favorite chocolate chip cookies with my secret ingredient: a teaspoon of espresso powder. She even asked for the recipe!

Here’s how you can add espresso and coffee to any dessert to elevate the chocolate flavors:

  • Add dry espresso powder or instant coffee: The easiest way to amplify the chocolate flavor of your desserts is to add a teaspoon of instant coffee granules or espresso powder to the batter or dough along with your other dry ingredients. I prefer espresso powder because it’s ground a bit finer but both products work just fine.
  • Bloom espresso powder with cocoa: If your recipe calls for you to bloom your cocoa with hot water, you can mix a teaspoon of instant coffee or espresso right into your cocoa powder. When you add the hot water, the coffee and cocoa flavors with blossom and develop together.
  • Add brewed coffee: In recipes that call for water, like this chocolate Texas sheet cake, you can easily sub in brewed coffee. To not overpower the chocolate flavor, I’d recommend subbing in only up to a cup of coffee; so if a recipe calls for two cups of water, use one cup of coffee and one cup of water.

You’ll notice that some recipes already call for coffee, even if they’re not coffee-flavored. Our top-rated Chocolate Comfort Cake uses coffee and totally satisfies cocoa cravings without the cafe kick.

So snag a jar of instant coffee or espresso powder and keep it in the pantry next to the cocoa powder. Be sure to reach for it next time you bake up a pan of brownies.