Baking with espresso powder: A trick for enhancing chocolate recipes

Imagine a secret ingredient that could make chocolate taste more like chocolate. Too good to be true, you’re thinking, but such a miracle exists: espresso powder.

A pinch of espresso powder greatly enhances and intensifies the chocolate flavor in brownies, cakes, and more — without transitioning your treat to mocha-flavored. Think of it as a supporting actor that helps the star ingredient shine, much like a pinch of salt takes the flavor of cookies from flat to robust, without adding any savory flavor.

Baking with espresso powder via @kingarthurflour

Espresso powder is not the same as instant coffee. Espresso powder is made from darkly roasted coffee beans that have been ground, brewed, dried, and then ground to a very fine powder. It’s much more concentrated than instant coffee, which means you only need a teaspoon or so in your chocolate recipe to do the trick.

This one ingredient will instantly enhance your chocolate recipes! Click To Tweet

Don’t let the name fool you; in small amounts, espresso powder doesn’t add any coffee flavor to your baked goods. It merely makes chocolate tastes more intense and rich.

Try baking your favorite brownie recipe, any one you like, without espresso powder and with it. You’ll notice a subtle difference. The batch made with espresso powder will have a more complex, deep chocolate flavor. This is a particularly useful baker’s trick for enhancing less fancy chocolate: If you don’t want to spring for expensive cocoa powder or chocolate, adding espresso powder can help “dress up” the chocolate flavor.

Baking with espresso powder via @kingarthurflour

A smart baker’s tip: Add a teaspoon of espresso powder to any of our chocolate mixes, like our Deliciously Simple Chocolate Cake mix, to dial up the chocolate flavor.

Many chocolate recipes (like these brownies, this cake, or these cookies) call for espresso powder as an optional ingredient. Keep in mind though that nearly any chocolate recipe will benefit from espresso powder, even if the recipe doesn’t explicitly call for it. You can’t go wrong by adding it!

Try adding it to buttercream frostings, chocolate sauces, or your favorite chocolate ganache.

To get you started, here are three of our very favorite ways to bake with espresso powder. Each of these recipes are fantastic and intensely chocolate-y in their own right, but are elevated to new heights with the addition of espresso powder.

Baking with espresso powder via @kingarthurflour

Chocolate Fudge Blackout Cake

If you want to impress a chocolate fanatic, this is your recipe. Don’t be deterred by the complexity of the ingredients; it’s perfectly doable for a baker of any level.

Let’s break down this tall, dark, and handsome cake into its parts: First, you make two moist, tender-crumbed classic chocolate cake layers. Next, you make a thick, luscious chocolate pudding for the filling.

Baking with espresso powder via @kingarthurflour

Chill both of these components (cold cake layers are much easier to slice and frost). Using a serrated knife, you level off the cake layers to make them flat and even. Save the excess cake trimmings for the outside of the cake.

Fill the layers with your pudding, then whip up a basic chocolate ganache and cover the cake with it. Crumble up the extra cake trimmings (I use a food processor or blender to quickly blitz the trimmings into crumbs), and then press them onto the outside of the cake.

And there you have it, the most wickedly intense chocolate cake that you’ll ever taste. Get the recipe.

Baking with espresso powder via @kingarthurflour

Double-Shot Mocha Chunks

Let’s say you do want some coffee flavor with your chocolate. Espresso powder can do that too: Just add more, and you’ll get a rich mocha flavor. Channel the buzz of your morning cup into cookie form, and you get these Double-Shot Mocha Chunk cookies.

Baking with espresso powder via @kingarthurflour

Dense, decadent, and brownie-like, they’re simple to mix up (and they call for melted butter so you don’t even need to remember to soften your butter in advance!). You can use all-purpose flour, or white whole wheat flour if you prefer. Get the recipe.

Baking with espresso powder via @kingarthurflour

Our Ultimate Chewy Brownies

We’re pretty serious about brownies, so we don’t throw the word “ultimate” around lightly. These brownies are everything you could want: thick and chewy with a delicate, crackly top. There’s no chocolate in the ingredient list, just cocoa powder, so espresso powder goes a very long way in intensifying the depth of chocolate flavor here. Get the recipe.

What if you don’t have espresso powder? My first recommendation is to stock up on it here so you never run out! Great chocolate desserts should never be out of reach.

However, you do have options if you run out. You can always omit the espresso powder altogether. You can also substitute dry instant coffee, but you’ll want to use about 50% more than the amount of espresso called for. Keep in mind this may add a slightly bitter edge to your baked goods, similar to the bitterness of brewed coffee.

Tell us, do you bake with espresso powder? What’s your favorite way to use it?

comments

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Kim, there is 31mg of caffeine per 1 teaspoon of espresso powder. To give you some context, there is about 95 mg of caffeine in a standard cup of coffee. (Keep in mind you don’t consume a whole teaspoon of espresso powder at once, but have just a small amount with each serving of dessert you enjoy.) Kye@KAF

    2. MarDee

      There is a brand, which I can’t remember off hand, comes in a green jar, that is totally Caffeine free.

    3. EL

      Hi MarDee (and KAF): I just tried to post and the post didn’t get posted (for moderation). Very annoying and this is not the first time (I also thought I had replied to a post on the pizza rolls).

      Anyway I want to thank you MarDee for posting about the caffeine free brand. I think I will try to find that as I don’t drink a lot of coffee and/or may want more than one chocolate treat. This way, I can get the taste without the buzz (especially at night). I think that a lot of older recipes actually use cold already brewed coffee, so decaf coffee might work as well.

    4. Ruthie

      I think instance espresso does the job fine. It is all on the taste of the person’ preference ! There aren’t just one way to do things.
      If yours t me to try a sample o will but I won’t Chabg my optnion. Until you offer a sample. Thanks.

    5. The Baker's Hotline

      We appreciate that different bakers have different preferences, Ruthie, and while we don’t have samples of our products to share, we do hope you’ll have a chance to give it a try sometime soon. Bottom line, though, whatever version of espresso powder you use, we wish you happy baking! Mollie@KAF

  1. Elaine Smith

    I don’t normally comment, but I have to disagree with this. If you hate, and I mean really HATE, the taste of coffee, there is a very good chance you will taste the coffee in chocolate baked goods. I certainly always do, and now that this trick is becoming so common, I rarely eat any chocolate baked good unless I’ve made it myself. Just something to consider before you add espresso powder to something a coffee hater will eat.

    Reply
    1. Posie Harwood , post author

      Thanks for weighing in Elaine! It’s a good point, if you truly hate the taste of coffee, probably not worth the risk — I’ll say that the more “chocolate-y” and intense the recipe, the less likely you are to taste any coffee flavor (think, a flourless chocolate torte), but something more mild (like a chocolate chip cookie), you’d be more likely to, so that’s a good rule of thumb to keep in mind also. -Posie

    2. Nancy

      I can agree with Elaine, as I used to be able to detect coffee also, though my taste buds are not as sharp now. And will add that sometimes intensely chocolate foods have a coffee note, even without adding anything coffee flavored. I once brought some intensely fudgy cookies to work, and my coffee-hating secretary took one bite and was done, saying there was coffee in it–and there wasn’t, because I don’t like coffee either.

    3. Rachel B.

      My husband does truly hate the taste of coffee. I use about 1/2 or 1/3 of the amount of espresso powder called for and he can’t taste it. It still gives the flavor a boost.

  2. Leslie

    I’ve made that Blackout Cake and it is A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. !!!
    THIS is the ultimate chocolate cake.
    A great reminder for Valentine’s Day!

    Reply
  3. Denise

    I love KAF’s espresso powder. It really does add depth to the chocolate flavor. However, it seems to always harden into a rock solid clump. I’ve tried plastic wrap over the top and putting it in a zipped bag but it still happens. I’ve seen the suggestions about using a coffee grinder and/or using silica packets but I don’t have either of these. Any suggestions? I would use it more often but find that I usually end up skipping it because I don’t want to take the time to try to pulverize by hand.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel

      Denise, you might try keeping it in the fridge since, counter-intuitively, the fridge is a pretty dry environment. I’d transfer it to a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate. And when I get to the ends of my espresso powder and it hardens into a lump, I pour vanilla extract into the bottle to dissolve it, and just use this “espresso vanilla” in place of vanilla in chocolate recipes. Why not, right? 🙂 PJH

    2. Monica

      I have been keeping my espresso powder (in its original jar) in the freezer. It has never clumped or solidified. I have been through a few jars so far and have never had a problem.

    3. Judith Adams

      I’ve had the same problem. So I take the hard lump of coffee powder and grate it into the recipe, using a fine toothed grater/planer. The only problem with this is I never know exactly how much to use. I don’t know if the powder gets more concentrated as it dries, so I just use about a quarter teaspoon instead on a half.

    4. The Baker's Hotline

      That’s a great idea, Judith! We like using a Microplane Grater that collects the grated ingredient so you can measure it before adding it to your recipe. You can also consider grating it into a small bowl and measuring it before adding, if you’d like to be precise. We’d recommend using the full amount the recipe calls for, especially is you’re an espresso powder-lover! Kye@KAF

  4. Heather

    In the product description page for he espresso powder there is a photo of a bundt cake. Do you know what it is?

    Reply
  5. Shirley

    Just wondering how the brownies, cakes etc look so dark? Is it the use of the black cocoa or is it lighting or combination of both? I really love deep dark chocolate anything but find I can’t achieve that without adding black cocoa.

    Reply
  6. Kim Lawson

    The blackout cake is legendary. I made it for the first time a few years ago and now it’s the #1 request when I ask, “what can I bring?” I have even broken out the 3 components and mix ‘n matched them in other uses. The cake has worked well paired with vanilla or salted caramel buttercream; the pudding makes a great standalone dessert; and who doesn’t want an awesome chocolate frosting on pretty much anything?? P.S.- Unless you really can’t stand the idea of tasting coffee in your cake, do not skip the espresso powder!

    Reply
  7. Elaine

    I have used this trick for many years. These days I use Via, the microfine ground coffee by Starbucks. Decaf or regular. Not sure the difference between that and Espresso powder – but it does a good job.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Via is instant coffee, so you might want to try adding about 50% more of it if you’re using it in place of espresso powder in recipes. Enjoy! Kye@KAF

  8. shreejon

    I will Try to baking your favorite brownie recipe, without espresso powder and with it.
    if anyone wants to more about the mixer then visit bestreviewzon.com/kitchen-mixer-accessories/

    Reply
  9. Belkis

    You also can use home made “expresso coffee”, it means, you can adjust better the concentration of coffee, and the quality of final product will be much better. This way, the coffee flavor can be diminished. (sorry about my English, I am from Venezuela, I hope you can understand my tip) Good luck!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Marilyn, you’ll want to check with your doctor or nutritionist about if and when it may be right to introduce espresso powder, or any other ingredient, into your children’s diets. Mollie@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      That’s another of our favorites, Barbara–thanks for highlighting your love of it! Mollie@KAF

  10. Lisa

    Can you tell me about the cupcakes pictured above with the espresso powder information? I use it in brownies with drizzled Espresso frosting … an older KA recipe, and do often add it Tim our family’s old chocolate cake recipe.. it’s wonderful. And thanks for the vanilla tip!

    Reply
    1. Posie Harwood , post author

      Hi Lisa! The frosting on the cupcakes is a malted milk chocolate frosting, which we don’t have a recipe for on the site, but I’d highly recommend this simple chocolate frosting recipe which is always reliably delicious and does call for optional espresso powder. If you want to add the malt flavor, swap 1/2 cup of the confectioners’ sugar out for malted milk powder. Enjoy! Let us know if you try it! Happy baking -Posie

  11. Heike Kubasch

    How much espresso powder would you add to a 9″x13″ fudge cake or to an 8″ or 9″ round or square cake?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Heike, one teaspoon is usually enough to deepen the chocolate flavor, while two or more teaspoons will result in more of a mocha flavor. Enjoy! Mollie@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Karen, you’re welcome to give it a shot if the espresso powder feels still slightly malleable. Adding a very solid chunk to your blender could possibly damage the blade or motor, so be mindful about the decision to give it a try. Kye@KAF

  12. Sheila

    Hi, I switched over to whole wheat white flour ages ago and don’t bake with anything else. The only issue I have run into is trying to bake a deep chocolate recipe like mentioned here. I find that the cocoa and/or espresso somehow brings out the”whole wheat” flavor in the flour. In any other case this would not bother me, but I feel it overpowers the chocolate flavor. I have tried to research this phenomenon but have found nothing at all. Does anyone at KAF or in this community have any thoughts on this?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Shelia, it sounds like your palate may be sensitive to the flavors brought out by chocolate and whole wheat flour together. It’s difficult to make sweeping statements about this since each palate has the opportunity to be unique. We do have some thoughts, however, on what you may want to try to mollify the flavor. Consider using orange juice to replace some of the liquid in your next chocolate-based recipe. Orange juice tends to make the flavor of whole wheat flour more mild, and it might be just the secret ingredient you need to make the chocolate shine. Good luck! Kye@KAF

  13. Doris Buchmann

    I’m glad to finally find a source of espresso powder!! Have looked but never found it in grocery stores, asked and the clerks act like I’m crazy! My dad was a baker in Germany and used it for chocolate items, but not every chocolate item. It’s true that some chocolate things taste as though there is coffee in them, but there isn’t any. Some people just can’t handle chocolate, same as some people can’t eat cabbage or broccoli.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Doris, we’re glad to hear you’ve finally found what you’re looking for! Espresso powder is one of our specialty ingredients so it’s exclusively sold through our online store and at our retail store in Vermont (not carried in grocery stores). Good thing you can order a never-ending supply here! Kye@KAF

  14. Laura

    I HATE coffee, don’t even like mocha, but I am a die-hard dark chocolate fan (weird, I know). I am always sad when I see recipes with espresso powder. Generally speaking, can I just leave the powder out and make the recipe? There are so many I’d love to make, then I read and see espresso powder and am afraid to try, even leaving out the powder.

    I understand the flavor might be different, but I’m always afraid of consistency changes, etc., if I leave out an ingredient.

    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Posie Harwood , post author

      Yes! You can definitely leave it out in most recipes, it’s generally optional (and usually the recipe will note that). -Posie @KAF

  15. Cecilia naughton

    i add a teaspoon of espresso powder to my chocolate chip cookies. The flavor is AMAZING. and my coffee hating husband can’t detect the cause.

    Reply
  16. Lorraine Lavoie

    When there is 1 or more ingredients in a recipe that I don’t like, I leave it out unless it is an essential ingredient one, have never had a problem, recipes are just guidelines .

    Reply
  17. Clare Templeton

    For people who are chary of a coffee taste, the very finely ground chicory also enhances chocolate without adding a different taste. It also works in chocolate pudding, pot au crème, and especially brown gravy–just “riches”’em up.

    Reply
  18. Brenda in Mpls

    I am also a “hater” of coffee. While I was worried about the flavor coming through, I gave it a try, only using half the amount. No coffee flavor noticed. I have since tried adding more and had no issues. Worth getting in my opinion.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for putting your trust in us and giving this special ingredient a try, Brenda. Happy baking! Mollie@KAF

  19. Beth O'K

    I would just like to add that I also use a bit of espresso powder in a rub I make for BEEF – whether roasting or grilling, it’s AMAZING!

    Reply

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