Last Updated on July 28, 2023 by Barry Gray
Coffee and desserts go together exceptionally well, but only when you have the right dessert.
But allow me to let you in on a secret.
I’m a coffee and dessert snob, and I’d advise you to be one too. I put it down to doing my coffee homework so diligently.
Coffee is more versatile with desserts than people realize. From Tiramisu to chocolate flavored desserts through to nuts, fruit and even cookies, coffee covers it all. But the best dessert depends on the coffee, so you must consider this before diving head-on into dessert heaven.
I have a lot to get through on this topic, so fire up your Moka pot and let’s get started.
Have You Ever Tasted Tiramisu In Italy? – I Have!
When I was younger, I had eaten Tiramisu in Italy, no less, and was taken to a land of sensory pleasure I had never experienced until then. Returning to mundanity is hard once you have experienced that taste of nirvana.
But this dessert has coffee contained within the ingredients itself so don’t make the mistake of thinking that’s the only way you can have coffee with dessert.
Instead, it’s way more complex and intricate than that. You see, it all comes down to one important aspect: the flavor of the coffee.
Creating Flavors That Have A Certain Harmony
When pairing desserts with coffee, I want the dessert to complement the coffee, not overpower it.
I also like the flavors to create a certain harmony.
One taste shouldn’t negate the other. The goal is to be like an orchestra; each element plays a part in perfect synchronicity.
It’s a Learning Experience Pairing Coffee with a Dessert
I recall visiting a coffee shop once where I ordered dark roast coffee. The barista recommended having it with a chocolate chip cookie. I decided to try it out but found the cookie too sweet.
At that moment, I realized that the sweetness of the cookie overpowered the bitterness of the coffee. It needed to be more balanced. Everything in taste is about balance.
That is why you cannot simply select a dessert and think every coffee will work with it. This will be impossible thanks to the way those flavors work together, or against one another in some instances.
People Are Searching For A Coffee Experience Now
I know this isn’t the end of the world, but many people wonder which dessert complements their coffee-drinking experience, and more and more people are looking for an adventure.
There are artisan, hand-crafted, and gourmet coffees. Why spoil your experience with the wrong dessert, whichever you choose?
But where do you begin? I think I’ll start with my own personal favorite: chocolate.
There Is Chocolate, And Then There Is Chocolate
Since my mistake with the cookie, I’ve learned to be more careful about which desserts I pair with coffee. Chocolate desserts usually work well, but I have to be cautious about the type of chocolate.
I prefer dark chocolate desserts because they have a richer flavor that doesn’t overpower the coffee. If your coffee is too bitter, it will not balance as each taste fights the other for first place on the taste buds.
Speaking of the Tiramisu experience, coffee cakes pair well with coffee, which includes muffins and biscuits.
Fruit And Coffee Are Magical – Who Knew?
Fruit desserts can be a good pairing with coffee if the fruit is not too sweet. I like to pair coffee with lemon, orange, or even blueberry muffins.
The tartness of the lemon or the sweetness of the blueberries helps to balance the bitterness of the coffee.
So, if you’re a coffee snob like me, I encourage you to be fussy about which desserts you pair with your coffee when some sort of fruit is involved. It’s worth it to find the perfect combination of flavors.
Food Makes Memories, So Does Coffee
Here is another experience I had that made me more fussy about which desserts go with coffee:
I was once at a dinner party where the gracious host served coffee with chocolate cake for dessert. The decor was great, the company fabulous, and the cake delicious, but the combination of the chocolate and coffee was just too much for me.
The chocolate was too rich, and the coffee was too bitter. It was a complete sensory overload, and I finished neither.
Whenever I think back to that dinner party, that memory overrides all other memories. That’s not a good thing.
I do admit that pairing the correct dessert with the right coffee will involve some trial and error on your part. Well, at least it gives an excuse to eat more dessert and drink more coffee!
The Types of Desserts That Work Well with Coffee
Desserts are wide and varied, but here are some ideas of which dessert goes best with certain types of coffee.
Cakes: Chocolate, carrot, and tiramisu are classic desserts that pair well with coffee. The rich flavors of these cakes complement the bitterness of coffee, and the sweetness of the cakes helps to balance out the acidity of coffee. The cake is often, but only sometimes, mild compared to robust coffees; a little bit of discretion is needed here. For example, a vibrant chocolate cake paired with a dark roast can be too much richness at once.
Flans: Coffee flan is a popular dessert in Spain and Latin America. The creamy texture of the flan and the rich flavor make it a perfect pairing for coffee.
But there are various types of flans, so here are some flans that are perfect to pair with coffee:
- Coffee flan: This classic flan is made with coffee, eggs, and condensed milk. It is rich, creamy, and has a subtle coffee flavor.
- Caramel flan: A soft yet tasty flan made with caramelized sugar, eggs, and condensed milk. It is sweet and creamy and has a slightly crunchy caramel topping. I’ve enjoyed this with a medium roast on several occasions.
- Coconut flan: You either like coconut or not. This flan is made with coconut milk, eggs, and condensed milk. It is creamy, sweet, and has a hint of coconut flavor. I’m not a fan of coconut myself, but it does well for me with a more robust coffee.
- Chocolate flan: Made with chocolate, eggs, and condensed milk. It is rich, creamy, decadent, and has a deep chocolate flavor, and because it is a flan, it doesn’t overpower most coffees.
- Tres leches flan: This delicious flan mixes evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream. It is creamy, sweet, and has a light custard texture. It goes with most coffees.
When pairing flan with coffee, it is essential to consider the flavor of the flan and the coffee. For example, if you are serving a coffee flan, you would want to choose a coffee with a strong flavor.
But that’s not my only tip. Instead, choose a coffee with a chocolate undertone if you are serving a chocolate flan.
It’s a simple approach, but it’s one that works well.
Consider the sweetness of the flan and the coffee. If the flan is super sweet, choose a less sweet coffee. If the flan is not very sweet, choose a more sweet, velvety coffee. It’s all about allowing one flavor to complement another.
But if a flan is not your thing, what about cakes and other sweet treats? Here are three quick options that should appeal to most people.
- Cookies: Chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies, and shortbread cookies are all good choices for coffee. The chewy or crunchy texture of these cookies helps balance the bitterness of coffee, and the sweetness of the cookies helps to add a touch of sweetness to the coffee.
- Muffins: Blueberry muffins, banana bread muffins, and coffee cake muffins are all good choices for coffee. The moist texture of these muffins and the sweet flavor of the muffins complement the bitterness of coffee.
- Madeleines: Small, shell-shaped cakes often flavored with lemon or orange. The light and airy texture of madeleines and the citrus flavor make them a perfect pairing for coffee. One of my favorite pairings with strong chocolaty coffee is orange madeleines.
But I’m going to take these suggestions to a whole new level with desserts that could appeal to you.
- Chocolate desserts: Chip cookies, brownies, chocolate cake, tiramisu, chocolate mousse.
- Fruit desserts: Lemon bars, blueberry muffins, banana bread, apple pie, peach cobbler.
- Spiced desserts: Gingerbread cookies, snickerdoodles, carrot cake, pumpkin pie, apple crisp.
- Coffee-flavored desserts: Coffee ice cream, coffee cake, coffee truffles, coffee liqueur
My Tips on Pairing Coffee with a Dessert
With so many dessert options, I thought a few extra tips on how to pair the right coffee with your dessert would be useful.
Consider the flavor of the coffee: If you’re drinking a dark roast coffee, you’ll want to choose a dessert with a strong flavor. For example, a chocolate dessert would be a good choice.
Consider the beans: If the beans are mostly arabica, you will get less bitterness and a more mellow smokey flavor. If you’re drinking light roast coffee, you can choose a dessert with a milder flavor. For example, a fruit dessert would be a good choice.
Consider the dessert’s texture: Some desserts, such as brownies and cookies, have a chewy or crunchy texture. These desserts help to balance out the bitterness of coffee. Other desserts, such as cakes and pies, have a softer texture. These desserts can help to add sweetness to coffee.
Consider the temperature of the dessert: Coffee is usually served hot, but you can also enjoy it cold. If you’re doing coffee cold, you’ll want to choose a dessert that is also cold. For example, a coffee ice cream would be a good choice.
Specific Coffee Brands and Great Dessert Pairings For You
As a short round-up, here are a few suggestions according to the type of coffee roast.
Dark roast coffee with chocolate desserts, such as chocolate chip cookies, tiramisu, or carrot cake. Some popular brands of dark roast coffee include Death Wish Coffee, La Colombe, and Kicking Horse Coffee.
Medium roast coffee with pastries like apple pie, blueberry muffins, or cheesecake. Some popular brands of medium roast coffee include Peet’s Coffee, Starbucks, and Caribou Coffee.
Light roast coffee with citrus desserts like lemon bars, macarons, or madeleines. Some popular brands of light roast coffee include Clover Coffee Roasters, Counter Culture Coffee, and Blue Bottle Coffee.
Just East Coffee Cake With Your Coffee Already
I also enjoy coffee cake with coffee. Coffee cake is a moist, flavorful cake often topped with strudel or a crumb topping.
The coffee in the coffee cake helps enhance the cake’s flavor, and the streusel or crumb topping adds a nice crunch. It makes sense to play around with not only tastes but textures too.
Coffee is so versatile, which keeps drawing people to it, whether it’s a good experience or not. It’s a strange hypnotic bean that can send you off into a search that can take a lifetime.
I love how these desserts can transform a simple cup of coffee into an exceptional experience. The next time you’re enjoying a cup of coffee, I encourage you to pair it with one of these desserts.
You won’t be disappointed! The more up-to-date coffee shops become, the better the experience for drinkers. Those little cakes in plastic wrappers aren’t going to cut it. People are demanding more from their coffees, and why not? We are coffee snobs, after all!