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This Baking Hack Can Instantly Upgrade Chocolate Goodies

A stack of three chocolate brownies on a plate.
Viktory Panchenko/Shutterstock.com

When it comes to baking with chocolate, getting the flavor profile just right makes a huge difference, and one surprising ingredient can do it for you. If you’re ready to take your favorite chocolate dessert recipes to the next level, pick up some espresso next time you’re in the coffee aisle.

If this one has you scratching your head, hear us out. Adding just a hint of espresso actually highlights the taste of chocolate. And while you won’t really be able to taste the coffee, you’ll absolutely notice the extra richness and dimension added to the chocolate. Just follow these easy tips, and you’ll be baking like a pastry chef in no time.

How Espresso Enhances Chocolate

To get a bit more “sciencey” about it, this baking hack works because chocolate and coffee have similar (but not identical) flavor profiles. Both have a rich, complex flavor and aroma, and they’re just similar enough to bring out the best in each other.

This key to this baking hack is using just enough espresso to bring out and deepen the chocolate flavor in your recipe, but not so much that it just tastes like coffee.

When you add just a bit (usually a teaspoon or so, but more on that later) of espresso to your favorite chocolate recipe, it enhances, but doesn’t overwhelm, the chocolate. This is because it enriches the flavors it shares with the chocolate, but it isn’t strong or different enough to overpower it.

Which Kind of Espresso to Use

A white cup full of espresso powder, with coffee beans on a tabletop in the background
Anthony’s Goods

First and foremost, always make sure the product you’re using is actually espresso. Unless you have a recipe that specifically calls for brewed coffee, steer clear of the ground, freshly brewed stuff. In most cases, you’ll need the stronger flavor of real espresso powder to get the flavor-enhancing kick that really makes chocolate pop.

Try out a few different brands until you find the blend that works best in those brownies or cupcakes. Whether you go with instant espresso or the powdered kind made specifically for baking, the key is to get a fine powder that still offers that rich coffee flavor.

Medaglia D'Oro Espresso Style Instant Coffee

The convenience of instant coffee combined with the rich flavor of espresso.

Anthony's Organic Espresso Baking Powder

Formulated to add maximum coffee flavor.

How to Add Espresso to Chocolate Recipes

A slice of chocolate cake on a dessert plate next to a mug of espresso.

For most of your chocolate dessert recipes, you’ll just add a bit of espresso powder to the batter. TO get the best results, just mix the espresso in with the other dry ingredients.

For chocolate cakes, cookies, or brownies, start by adding one teaspoon of espresso powder. As we mentioned previously, you’ll want to experiment with different brands and amounts each time until you find the perfect combo. Because espresso is strong, it’s better to start out with a smaller amount, and then adjust in later batches.

Some more advanced recipes might call for espresso in liquid form. For a regular-sized batch, you would most likely add approximately 1/4 cup of strong coffee or espresso. However, you might want to add a bit more flour to prevent the batter from being too runny.

If you try the liquid version of this hack, make sure your first attempt is in a recipe you know very well, so you can monitor the texture and adjust as necessary.

For desserts with a creamier texture, like frosting, you can use either the liquid or powder form of espresso. There should never be so much espresso powder in proportion to the other ingredients that it makes the frosting grainy.

However, if you’re concerned about that happening, adding between 1-3 tablespoons of strong, liquid espresso or coffee will work, as well.

Chocolate desserts are always pretty awesome, but if you want to upgrade your most decadent recipes even more, try this espresso hack! You’ll be surprised how much it enhances the rich, satisfying flavor of all those tempting brownies and cakes.

Amanda Prahl Amanda Prahl
Amanda Prahl is a freelance contributor to LifeSavvy. She has an MFA in dramatic writing, a BA in literature, and is a former faculty associate focusing on writing craft and history. Her articles have appeared on HowlRound, Slate, Bustle, BroadwayWorld, and ThoughtCo, among others. Read Full Bio »
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