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What does coffee do to chocolate cake and why?

If you’ve made enough chocolate cakes, you’ve probably noticed a trend in the ingredient lists: coffee, whether in powder or liquid form . This is not to add espresso taste to the cake, but to make it more chocolatey. Even if your cake recipe doesn’t call for coffee, you should add it nevertheless, even if you don’t like coffee. Let’s look at why this caffeine element is so important in chocolate treats.

Why Does Coffee Enhance Chocolate Desserts?

The tastes of coffee and chocolate are comparable. They’re both bitter on their own. Nevertheless, when they are combined, they enhance each other. To enhance the chocolate taste, coffee is often added to baked products and sweets. In fact, a 2020 research discovered that coffee boosts our sensitivity to sweet tastes while decreasing our sensitivity to bitter ones, however the exact mechanism by which coffee induces these changes in taste sensitivity is unknown. What we know is that a little coffee in chocolate desserts enhances the chocolate flavor without adding any apparent coffee flavor. Consider it a supporting actor who allows the star to shine, similar to how salt improves the taste of cookies that would otherwise fall flat without providing savory flavor.

How to Add Coffee to Chocolate Desserts

You may use these ways to add a little more flavor to all of your favorite chocolate sweets, such as cakes, brownies, cookies, and more.

Add Espresso Powder or Instant Coffee

The simplest way to accentuate the chocolate flavor in your baked goods is to add a teaspoon or so of espresso powder or instant coffee granules. Since espresso powder is more concentrated, you only need a teaspoon to get the job done. Just slip it in when you’re mixing your dry ingredients and you’ll have a much more complex and enhanced chocolate dessert. Since it is finer powdered, espresso powder may also be used in chocolate icing, sauce, and ganache!

Replace Liquid With Brewed Coffee

To enhance the chocolate taste in recipes that call for boiling water (such as this Dark Chocolate Cake recipe), you may replace up to one cup of brewed coffee. To avoid overpowering the chocolate flavor, don’t add more than one cup of brewed coffee; if your recipe calls for two cups of water, sub one cup of coffee and one cup of water.

Here’s an idea: save leftover coffee that would otherwise go down the drain and use it in chocolate treats. If the recipe calls for boiling water, you can simply reheat the coffee without brewing a whole new batch.

Several recipes, such as our Moist Chocolate Layer Cake and Black Magic Cake, already call for brewed coffee.


  • 15 Delicious Ways to Use Instant Coffee
  • Our Top 10 Favorite Chocolate Recipes
  • See our whole Chocolate Dessert Recipes collection.

Related Questions

  • What is the purpose of coffee in cakes?

    Coffee is manufactured to be used in baking. Its rich, bittersweet flavour adds depth to cakes, cheesecakes, pies, cookies, muffins, loaves, and soufflés.

  • Can I skip coffee in chocolate cake?

    Just replace the coffee with water, mix, and bake as normal, and voilà: chocolatey bliss!

  • Why does espresso make chocolate taste better?

    Since coffee and chocolate share many flavor qualities, espresso powder has the uncanny ability to bring out the rich caramel and deeper spice notes of chocolate, making it taste even more like itself.

  • Does coffee taste good in cake?

    Adding brewed coffee does something wonderful to the texture of the cake, too: it’s more moist and dense—one of our editors even called it “pudding-like.” Chocolate and coffee are an excellent pairing. Chocolate in coffee-flavored cake is an even better combination—decadent and indulgent like a mocha latte.