Even if you’re a tea drinker!

By Stacey Ballis
January 19, 2021
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Yes, it's getting you through the WFH challenges of the pandemic, but coffee is far more than your workday wingman. It's a standout for baking: its bitterness and acidity, punchy roasted flavor, and intensity are all real strengths. Whether using actual cold liquid coffee, instant espresso powder, or even coffee extract or syrup, I love coffee in all sorts of baking, from pancakes to profiteroles, and everything in between.

And don't think the pairings stop at creamy, nutty, spicy, or chocolaty. Coffee flavor can also be shockingly good with less obvious flavors like lemon or banana.

So, let's get creative! Here are 14 delicious ways to use coffee in baking.

Credit: Getty / fcafotodigital

Coffee as the center of attention

Let's be real: Coffee is just a terrific flavor for baking, whether it is a coffee crème brûlée, a coffee ice cream, or even coffee cake with actual coffee in it! You can convert almost any vanilla recipe to a coffee version by swapping out coffee extract for the vanilla extract, and/or adding instant espresso powder to the batter or dough. Coffee extract can be used 1:1 for vanilla; if you want more intense coffee flavor, instant espresso powder can be added to the dry ingredients (between ½-1 teaspoon is usually enough).

Try this recipe: Coffee Meringues

Coffee as a chocolate enhancer

A little bit of coffee makes chocolate desserts (looking at you, weekday brownies) taste more chocolatey, so I am a fan of adding things like instant espresso powder to my baked goods, or cold strong coffee as part of the liquid in things like chocolate cake batter. If I am making a chocolate buttercream frosting, I may add a dash of coffee extract or syrup or replace the milk in a frosting recipe with coffee milk. You can also use coffee syrup to help keep cake layers moist.

Coffee as a grounding flavor

Coffee's bitter roasted flavor is wonderful for baked goods where there are other earthy notes, like musky spices, or bittersweet notes like molasses. So, if I am baking treats like gingerbread or spice cake, I add a teaspoon of instant espresso powder to the dry ingredients to bolster those flavors and provide a strong backbone. Coffee is especially good in dark breads like pumpernickel or dark ryes: Swap out a quarter of the water in the dough for cold coffee for subtle flavor. If you want strong roasted notes to come through in the bread, up that amount to half.

Try this recipe: Pumpernickel Rye

Coffee as a co-star

Coffee is great pals with many other flavors, so it doesn't need to stay in the background. Think about chocolate cake with mocha frosting, or a layered vanilla and coffee cheesecake, or a cinnamon pound cake with a coffee glaze. Think about the flavored coffees available at your favorite café and use those as inspiration for pairing coffee with other flavors.