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Desserts And Coffee - How To Create The Perfect Pair
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Desserts And Coffee - How To Create The Perfect Pair

You’ve just pulled a batch of your grandmother’s secret-recipe chocolate cookies from the oven.

The warm scent of cocoa lingers in the air with a faint hint of walnut and oats.

The wafting aromas beckon you to your French press.

You coarsely grind your beloved Lifeboost dark roast, a bold selection perfectly suited for the sweet companion cooling on the rack nearby.

In one hand, you hold your favorite mug filled with freshly brewed dark roast, topped with a splash of heavy cream. In the other hand, a small ceramic plate holds a medium sized, imperfectly shaped, decadent dark chocolate chunk, walnut, and oat cookie.

Your sights are set on the cozy chair by the bay window, overlooking the snow-covered fields just past the fence line.

Coffee and dessert. Add a view, and it just doesn’t get much better, does it?

These two favorites, coffee and dessert, they go together like peas and carrots, like Forrest and Jenny.

But why? What is it about dessert and coffee, in particular, that make these such a likely pair.

I mean, of course, coffee connoisseurs will tell you there’s very few times when they wouldn’t enjoy a piping hot (or iced) cup of joe.

But, why is it that we don’t hear of these pairings instead: coffee and a side of steamed asparagus, or coffee and a plate of garlic and herb chicken?

It turns out, there’s actually a bit of science that explains the tantalizingly tasty duo of sweet treats and coffee.

So today, we’d like to explore this pair, taking a look at why they’re such a perfect fit, which coffee selections pair best with sweets, and as I’m sure you’re already salivating at the thought of a freshly brewed cup of coffee and a piece of some decadently sweet dessert, we’ll include a few tasty recipes as well. 

The Science Behind Coffee And Dessert

Did you know that coffee actually makes you less sensitive to certain tastes or flavors?

The caffeine in coffee blocks nerve cell membrane receptors, making it more difficult for you to detect sweetness, in particular.

This is why, when reaching for decaf, you may be able to lessen the amount of sugar you typically put in your mug, as opposed to regular coffee, where researchers at Cornell University determined sweetness to be a hard flavor to detect in caffeinated coffee.

Then there’s the bitterness of coffee, another key to the perfection behind these pairings.

Coffee is naturally bitter, and the sweet or sugary component of a dessert actually interacts with coffee on a molecular level, essentially changing the chemistry of coffee, reducing the overall bitterness.

Researchers from Aarhus University actually disagree with the Cornell assessment, their findings leaning towards coffee’s bitter notes alone being the reason (with or without caffeine) we gladly enjoy a slice of dessert alongside a cup of joe.

In other words, a cup of coffee, potentially regular or decaf, enjoyed alongside dessert makes the dessert taste even sweeter and the coffee taste less bitter.

Then, to dive a bit deeper, one classic dessert ingredient, chocolate, pairs even better with coffee, the reasoning also backed by a few scientific theories.

  • Scientists believe one of the reasons chocolate and coffee pair so well together is due to the fact that they are both the seeds of tropical plants generally grown in a range of roughly 20 degrees north and south of the equator.
  • Another similarity in this pair lies in how they’re processed, with both coffee and chocolate, cacao rather, being fermented for a period of time prior to drying and roasting.
  • Coffee and chocolate also have a similar chemical makeup, with both containing varying levels of caffeine as well as each being a source (at varying levels) of antioxidants. 

So then, coffee and sweets work well together, but is there more science to the story?

Let’s find out…  

Perfect Pairings

Certainly a broad look at coffee and desserts reveals the two to be a match made in heaven, but which desserts go better with which roasts?

Or, will just any dessert do, complimenting your cup of joe, hot or iced, latte or light roast?

It turns out, there’s a bit more to it than that.

Since we just did a specific deep dive into the similarities of coffee and chocolate, let’s first look at a few perfect pairings between this duo.

When pairing coffee and chocolate, most experts agree “like goes with like.”

For example, if the coffee you’re enjoying has a fruity element to its flavor profile, then the perfect chocolate pairing would include fruit as well, such as a decadent chocolate covered strawberry.

If you’re enjoying a coffee selection that boasts notes of nuttiness or hints of chocolate, then choose a chocolate pairing that includes nuts or select a nutty, toffee type dessert that includes these notes in a less obvious way.

You can, of course, also choose complementary flavors when it comes to pairing coffee and chocolate.

When pairing like this, think of how sweet and savory often seem like unlikely companions, yet they’re so delicious. For example, with a coffee flavor profile that contains more sweet notes, a salted chocolate would pair quite well.

Want some specific ideas for chocolate and coffee pairings? Consider the following: 
  • A rich chocolate truffle pairs well with a classic medium roast.
  • A decadent chocolate cake goes well with a bold shot (or two) of espresso.
  • A fresh pan of chocolate, fudgy brownies is a likely companion for an iced cold brew.

But, what about the world of desserts outside of chocolate?

The possibilities may be endless, but there are still some tricks of the trade to help achieve the perfect pairing. 

1- Texture Matters

When pairing coffee with a dessert that has a crumbly, rough, or firm texture, go with a piping hot cup of joe.

If you’re a fan of moist or soft desserts, these are generally temperature friendly, meaning they pair well with a hot cup or an iced variety of your favorite brew.

2- Body & Roast Matter

The strength of a roast and the lightness or heaviness of the mouthfeel of your coffee can determine the type of dessert that would pair best with your preferred cup.

Light roasted coffee has a brighter, slightly more acidic flavor profile compared to darker roasts. This makes such coffee selections pair best with meringues, fruit pastries or tarts, sugar cookies, shortbreads, and cakes that are light and fluffy (as opposed to more dense offerings).

Medium roasted coffee is generally considered more balanced, with a moderate mouthfeel and pairs very well with creamy desserts (such as tiramisu or creme brulee) and dense pastries (such as donuts).

Creamy chocolate (milk, white) are all said to pair well with a medium roasted coffee, though fruits and desserts containing fruit are commonly avoided as far as a medium roast pairing, as the combination can result in a sour taste for both the fruit and the coffee.

Medium roasts, when strongly brewed, can also go well with many dark roast dessert pairings. So, if you take your medium roast on the strong side, be sure to check out the pairings listed below as well.

Dark roasts are obviously a bolder selection, often considered full bodied, with a silky texture and a flavor that lingers in the mouth. Such roasts pair well with rich, heavy, buttery, or even dense desserts.

Some spiced desserts would also pair well with a darker roast (or a strongly brewed medium roast), such as those containing typical fall and winter flavors like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, even chai spices. (Think carrot cake, a cinnamon coffee cake, or apple pie here.)

Croissants, dense chocolate cakes or fudgy brownies, and heavy cheesecakes would also make great dark roast companions.

And, if you prefer flavored coffee selections, when choosing a dessert pairing try to stick with a similar flavor allowing the natural oils and extracts used to flavor your coffee to be enhanced by the dessert you’re enjoying alongside your brew.

3- The Type Of Coffee Drink Matters

Aside from various roasts, different coffee drinks, due to their varying levels of creaminess or sweetness, can each taste great…or not so great…depending on which desserts you choose to enjoy alongside them.

For example, if you’re desiring a dessert to pair with your latte, a coffee drink that incorporates bold espresso but also is composed of a healthy dose of creamy milk (and sometimes sugar), light desserts such as cookies or tarts would pair well here.

But, if you’re sipping a double shot of rich, dark, bold espresso without the creaminess of milk or extra component of sugar, a rich and heavy chocolate cake would be a better suited companion.

Broadly speaking, when pairing desserts with espresso, you’ll typically want to choose a sweet treat that can stand up to the level of intensity of your roast. And, since espresso packs such a bold punch, rich, dense, and heavy desserts make perfect pairings.

Do you prefer a cappuccino or a macchiato? Since these typically incorporate the use of varying amounts of milk or milk foam, they can contain a bit of sweetness (from the milk). Most often, such coffee drinks pair best with lighter desserts such as tarts or cookies (similar to a latte pairing).

I don’t know about you, but all this talk of desserts and coffee is making me want to get down to business and put on my apron!

So, now that we’ve explored why coffee pairs well with sweets and just what sweets pair best with specific coffee roasts and specialty drinks, let’s take a look at some delicious dessert recipes and see which roast of coffee would pair best with these tasty treats. 

3 Delicious Desserts And Their Perfect Coffee Pair

1- Flourless Chocolate Cake

The title alone may have given away the key description for this dessert. But, if not, just know that subtracting the flour makes this cake super rich, super decadent, super dense, and if you remember what we discussed above, a perfect pairing for a bold, rich coffee.

This is why we’re suggesting a shot or two of our Lifeboost Organic Espresso Coffee or a strongly brewed cup of our Lifeboost Dark Roast alongside a slice of this incredible cake.

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup dutch process cocoa 

For the glaze:

  • 1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
  • ½ cup heavy cream

Instructions: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. Lightly grease a metal 8 inch round cake pan. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the pan, grease, and lay in the bottom of the pan.
  3. To make the cake, put the chocolate chips and butter in a microwave-safe bowl and heat until the butter is melted and the chocolate chips are soft. Or, heat in a small saucepan over low-medium heat.
  4. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Reheat briefly if necessary.
  5. Transfer the melted chocolate/butter mixture to a mixing bowl and add sugar, salt, and vanilla, stirring to combine.
  6. Add eggs to the mixture and beat with a mixer briefly until smooth.
  7. Add cocoa powder and mix briefly, just to combine.
  8. Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pan.
  9. Bake for 25 minutes or until the top of the cake forms a thin crust and reads 200 degrees fahrenheit on a thermometer inserted into the center of the cake.
  10. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for approximately 5 minutes.
  11. Loosen the edges of the cake with a knife, then turn onto a serving plate and allow to cool completely before adding the glaze (the edges may crumble a bit, which is perfectly okay).
  12. For the glaze, place the chocolate in a heat safe bowl and set aside.
  13. Add the cream to a small saucepan and heat over low-medium heat until it’s not quite at a simmer but showing small bubbles around the edge of the pan.
  14. Pour the heated heavy cream over the chocolate in the bowl and stir only briefly to combine.
  15. Let rest for 5 minutes, then begin stirring the mixture again, first slowly, then vigorously until the chocolate is melted and the glaze is smooth.
  16. Spread the glaze over the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides.
  17. Allow the glaze to set completely before serving (several hours), and enjoy!

2- Classic Carrot Cake

Just like grandma used to make, this classic carrot cake is moist, dense, and pleasantly pleases the palette with a touch of spice.

The creaminess of the icing and perfection of flavors in the cake make this a wonderful treat to serve alongside a large cup of Lifeboost Medium Roast or Lifeboost Dark Roast. 

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 ¼ cups oil (recipe calls for vegetable oil, but olive oil makes a good sub)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs (at room temperature)
  • 3 cups grated, peeled, carrots
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • ½ cup raisins (optional)

For the creamy frosting:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese (room temperature)
  • 1 ¼ cups powdered sugar
  • ⅓ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 12 chopped pecans, for topping 

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. Grease and flour the bottom and sides of two 9 inch cake pans.
  3. Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon into a bowl, combine and set aside.
  4. In a separate bowl whisk oil, sugars, and vanilla.
  5. Add eggs, one at a time, whisking after each egg is added to the mixture.
  6. Using a large rubber spatula, add the dry ingredient mixture (one third at a time) to the wet mixture, gently stirring with each addition until the batter is smooth.
  7. Stir in carrots, pecans, and raisins (if using).
  8. Divide the batter between the two greased and floured cake pans.
  9. Bake on the center rack for 15 minutes or until done.
  10. Carefully turn the cakes out onto cooling racks and cool completely before frosting.
  11. For the frosting: in a large bowl beat the cream cheese with a hand mixer until creamy (about one minute).
  12. Beat in powdered sugar, ¼ cup at a time until fluffy.
  13. Pour in the heavy cream and beat on medium speed for 2-3 minutes until the frosting is whipped and creamy (resembling the texture of whipped cream).
  14. When the cake layers are cooled, frost the top of one cake, then place the second cake on top .
  15. Add the remaining frosting and use a butter knife or small spatula to finish frosting the cake. Top with chopped pecans, and enjoy!

3- Mini Sugar Cookie Fruit Tarts

A light sugar cookie crust, sweetened cream cheese, and fresh fruit?

Sounds like a perfect pairing for a freshly brewed cup of Lifeboost Light Roast, its bright taste and smooth texture are a match made in heaven for this delicious, fresh fruit and cookie treat!

Ingredients

For the cookie crust:

  • 1 ⅓ cups, plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ¾ cup cane sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the filling:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Fresh fruit and berries for topping

Suggestions:

  • Strawberries (finely sliced)
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Kiwi (finely sliced) 

Instructions

  1. For the crust, grease a mini muffin tin, set aside, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar.
  3. Add egg yolk and vanilla and mix until smooth and fluffy.
  4. Mix flour, baking soda, and baking powder in a small bowl, then slowly add to the wet ingredients, mixing dough until combined, and slightly crumbly.
  5. Scoop small portions of dough to form round 1 ½ inch balls (roll by hand until smooth). Place each ball into the wells of the muffin tin and press down slightly.
  6. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the edges are golden. Allow to cool completely before removing from the tin.
  7. For the filling: cream together cream cheese and powdered sugar until thick and smooth, then add vanilla and stir together.
  8. Spread the filling into the cooled cookie shells.
  9. Top with fresh fruit, then store in the refrigerator until ready to serve, enjoy!

Check out Lifeboost Coffee Embolden Dark Roast.   

References:
https://www.tastingtable.com/740289/why-you-always-want-coffee-and-dessert-together-according-to-science/
https://bakedbrewedbeautiful.com/coffee-and-chocolate/
https://www.mccormick.com/articles/mccormick/coffee-and-dessert-pairings
https://thequeenbean.blog/2018/03/14/coffee-and-food-pairing/
https://flavouronline.co.za/why-you-always-want-coffee-and-dessert-together-study-shows/
https://specialcoffeeitaly.com/a-spoonful-of-sugar-in-coffee/
https://metrovoicenews.com/study-coffee-really-does-make-dessert-better/
https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/recipes/flourless-chocolate-cake-recipe
https://www.inspiredtaste.net/25753/carrot-cake-recipe/#itr-recipe-25753
https://www.thebakerchick.com/mini-sugar-cookie-fruit-tarts/#mv-creation-42-jtr

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