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Wake up your cakes and cookies with a little coffee

When a friend told me she uses coffee as the liquid in boxed brownie mixes, I became curious. I have added a little leftover coffee to stews, spaghetti sauces, and even gravies, but as a baking ingredient, that was new to me. But why not? It could add a slightly different dimension to muffins, breads, cakes and even cookies, in a good way.

As I asked around and did some research, here’s what I discovered: Using a little coffee in anything chocolate, such as cake, enhances the chocolate flavor. A few tablespoons of coffee added to a chocolate frosting or glaze can make it even more delicious.

It makes sense that coffee added to some of the darker, heavier breads would be a natural and delicious addition. I’m thinking specifically of pumpernickel, or some of the darker ryes. Try swapping out some of the water for coffee, maybe 1/4 cup. Coffee would be a great addition in certain baked goods with more earthy tones, like gingerbread.

While you’re at it, you can go a step further and use coffee grounds before they’re brewed, too. These, when finely ground, can be used as a topping on coffee cakes or added to cookie batter. They do need to be finely ground to avoid a gritty sensation.

Another way to add coffee flavor to baked goods is to use instant espresso powder. Unlike coffee grounds, instant powder dissolves completely in water, eliminating the risk of that grittiness. Because it’s strong, use a very light hand. Just a small amount brings a subtle mocha flavor, while a tablespoon or two makes the flavor more assertive.

You can even make your own espresso powder. Here’s how: Dry espresso grounds on a cookie sheet in a 200-degree oven for 30 minutes or less, then crush them into a fine powder using a coffee or spice grinder.

Coffee Coffee Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons instant espresso powder, dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water


1 1/2 teaspoons espresso powder

2-3 tablespoons strong brewed coffee

3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a Bundt cake pan well.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. Combine butter and sugar in a bowl, and beat on medium until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Add vanilla. Add flour alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour. Mix until just incorporated.

Transfer about 1/3 of batter to another bowl, and stir in the dissolved espresso mixture, combining well. Next, spoon half of the plain batter into the Bundt pan and spread evenly. Top with coffee batter, spreading it evenly, then cover with the rest of the batter. Bake until golden and a skewer inserted comes out clean, 50-60 minutes. Cool in pan 30 minutes, then invert on rack to cool completely.

For the glaze, stir together the espresso powder and coffee in a bowl until powder is dissolved. Add powdered sugar, and stir until combined. Pour over coffee cake, and let cake stand until glaze is set. If glaze is too thick, add a little more coffee.

Coffee Blond Brownies

1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter

2 tablespoons espresso coffee powder

1 tablespoon hot water

2 eggs

2 tablespoons vanilla

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup semisweet chocolate bits

In a saucepan, heat brown sugar and butter over medium heat until butter melts. Dissolve coffee in the hot water, and stir into the butter mixture. Cool to room temperature. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 11-by-8-inch baking pan.

When butter mixture is cool, beat in the eggs and vanilla with a handheld mixer. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, and stir into the butter mixture with a wooden spoon. Stir in pecans and chocolate. Spread evenly in the prepared pan. Bake until lightly browned, 25-30 minutes. Don’t overbake. Cool and cut into 2-inch squares.

Post Bulletin food writer Holly Ebel knows what’s cookin’. Send comments or story tips to [email protected]