A Guide to Coffee and Desserts


Everyone loves a good coffee cake. Even children, who have zero interest in anything coffee-related, appreciate a good coffee cake. It is, after all, cake. And just like the perfect cookie can be complemented with an ice cold glass of milk, a good slice of cake pairs remarkably well with a fine cup of coffee. In fact, most desserts go well with a good cup of joe.


While it’s hard to go wrong with any combination of the two, there is an art to pairing the proper type of desserts with the ideal brew of coffee. Keep in mind that this is highly subjective, as one person’s tastes can be wildly different from the next person’s, but here are a few recommended pairings that most agree make for a harmonious outcome. Best of all, they’re fairly general, so there’s plenty of wiggle room to find the specifics that work for you.


Perfect Pairings

Coffee Cake


It only makes sense to start with the classic. Coffee cake is known for its cinnamon flavor, the perfect complement to the wonderful acidity that coffee offers. A medium coffee roast can really bring out the cinnamon’s natural sweetness. If you’re a cinnamon lover, however, you could always double down and go with a cinnamon-flavored coffee.



Tiramisu is quite possibly a better match for coffee than coffee cake itself. This is because espresso is an integral part of a tiramisu cake. This is why it pairs best with some sort of light roast, so you’re not overdoing it on the coffee side of things. It’s also a very rich dessert, so a light roast will contrast well with the richness.


Of course, much like drinking cinnamon coffee with coffee cake, if you appreciate all things coffee, you could try a richer, darker roast.


Carrot Cake


The perfect dessert for when you want to trick yourself into thinking you’re eating healthy. The dominant flavor in carrot cake is usually the delectable cream cheese frosting. Again, this is a rich flavor, so a light-medium roast would pair well with it. Better yet, if you can get a light roast with a fruity flavor, that would really play off of the cream cheese in a fun way.


Coffee Cake Recipes


Of course, some pairings go beyond the mug and simply incorporate coffee into the cake itself, much like the aforementioned tiramisu. There are several cakes that use coffee to bring about a certain robust flavor, but coffee can also be worked into just about any existing recipe. Let’s look at some of the more traditional coffee-infused desserts.


Instead of offering a fully detailed coffee cake recipe, we’ll simply run through a few items to give you a look at the possibilities.

Coffee and Walnut Cake


If you watch any baking shows with regularity you’ve no doubt come across this popular dessert, which is especially loved in the United Kingdom. Coffee is worked into both the cake itself and the frosting, for a nice, concentrated kick. Walnuts are also present in both, so the name of the cake is more than accurate.


Something that may surprise you is that many recipes use instant coffee rather than traditional ground coffee. That may sound unappealing to some, but you certainly shouldn’t knock it before you try it. This thing only takes an hour to make, so it will probably be well worth your time.


Literal Coffee Cake


When you hear the term “coffee cake,” you naturally think of cake that’s meant to be eaten alongside a mug of coffee. Some people take the term literally, though, which is how we got literal coffee cake. This is a fairly traditional cake with a generous amount of coffee worked into both the cake and the frosting. Again, the recipe calls for instant coffee.


The end result is a cake that’s perfect for coffee lovers. As for what to pair this with, it goes well with anything that isn’t coffee. Trust us, a slice of this thing is all the caffeine that you need.


Coffee Coffee Coffee Cake


That’s not a typo! The Coffee Coffee Coffee Cake is named as such because it incorporates three types of coffee - strong brewed traditional, espresso, and coffee liqueur. If the Literal Coffee Cake is perfect for coffee lovers, this goes an extra step and is only for coffee lovers.


It’s not all coffee, however, as dessert connoisseurs will happily enjoy the tastes of cinnamon, pecans, cardamom, and, of course, chocolate. Slap on a crumb topping and a latte glaze and you’ll be in java Heaven.


Coffee Liqueur


Finally, if you just can’t get enough of that addictive coffee flavor, you can turn to coffee liqueurs to give you one more dose of that familiar flavor. A cocktail with a coffee liqueur can be the perfect nightcap and a great way to bookend your day with coffee. Certain cocktails require coffee liqueurs, but like desserts, they can be worked into almost any drink.


Here are a couple liqueurs that you can’t go wrong with.


St. George Spirits NOLA Coffee Liqueur


Despite having New Orleans in the name, this liqueur comes from Oakland, California. The NOLA is a reference to the inspiration behind the liqueur: New Orleans’ famous chicory coffee. It combines Arabica beans, chicory root, and Madagascar vanilla for a sweet, earthy taste. It makes a killer White Russian but can also be enjoyed all by itself.



We can’t talk about coffee liqueurs without mentioning Kahlua, which is just over a decade away from being 100 years old. Even those unfamiliar with liqueurs would likely recognize the name, as well as the red and gold branding. It’s the best-known liqueur available and it’s stood the test of time because it’s simply that good. It’s a great way to incorporate a love for coffee into a variety of cocktails. It’s also very affordable, which plays a big part in its wide use.

March 17, 2022 — Guy Wilmot

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.