5 Coffee Pairing Ideas For Your Favourite Desserts

Piece of carrot cake with Vanilla Latte 

When done right, food and beverage pairings create a synchronistic relationship that brings out the best flavours in each item. Whether it’s wine and cheese, coffee and desserts, or a random combination that jives, the magical harmony of a great pairing is based on the distinct characteristics each item contributes to the duet. In this guide, we will explore coffee pairing ideas and share our favourite desserts that go with coffee. 

Considerations When Pairing Coffee with Dessert

Just because you enjoy two treats on their own does not necessarily mean they will go well together. Have you ever taken a drink of one thing and a bite of another only to realise the strong flavours of the beverage completely hide the delicate notes of the dessert? Different foods pair better than others for many reasons. We strive for the perfect pairing to enjoy desserts and coffee that truly sing together, creating something far greater than the sum of the two parts. 

It is totally possible to discover delightful pairings based on circumstance and luck alone, after all the science of food pairing is complex and sometimes surprising. Let’s take a look at some key factors that determine how well coffee and desserts go together. 

Tasting Notes

Ultimately, it all starts and ends with flavour, and coffee and desserts have many tasting notes in common. Whether it’s vanilla, caramel, spices, roasted nuts, chocolate, fruit, citrus, or smoke, carefully consider how the flavours of each item taste when enjoyed together. Also, consider the potency of each flavour. For example, one strong flavour could eclipse the delicate spices in the other item. 


Both coffee drinks and desserts have texture. Depending on the roast, brewing method, and added ingredients, the texture of coffee can range from crisp to velvety and luscious, and everything in between. The textures of desserts can vary widely, too. Just think of the humble chocolate chip cookie that can be made crispy, gooey, or some combination of the two. When pairing coffee and desserts, consider how the textures will relate. Do you want the texture to be consistently rich, or do you want to enjoy some contrast between bites? 


Temperature is one level in which it is fun to experiment, just be sure to consider how the ingredients will respond to one another at different temperatures. The beloved affogato pairs cold gelato with hot espresso, and the result is a melty and delicious combination, but the pairing might not be enjoyable if you prefer your gelato to stay cold and solid and your espresso to stay piping hot. 


When pairing coffee and desserts, bear the complexity of each item in mind. In general, it’s best to pair a simple item with a highly complex item to ensure all of the flavours can shine without overwhelming the palette. For example, if you want to enjoy a spiced and nutty cupcake with buttercream frosting, consider pairing it with something much simpler, like a cup of black coffee, instead of an elaborately flavoured latte that might overwhelm the palette. 


Flavours that pair well can relate to one another in different ways. Some pairings work because the flavours contrast one another and highlight the best parts of one another. Others work well because the flavours compliment each other, building layers of taste that delight taste buds. 

Coffee Tasting Wheel

What is the coffee flavour wheel, and how do you use it?

The coffee flavour wheel is a guide that was developed by the Specialty Coffee Association and World Coffee Research to help coffee tasters experience the vast world of coffee flavours and evaluate coffees with a shared language. The coffee flavour wheel contains more general taste descriptions in the center. The descriptors become more specific as you explore outwards. 

To use the wheel, begin by mindfully smelling and tasting a cup of coffee. Notice the flavours and focus on one at a time. For example, if you taste notes of fruit, begin to explore that section of the wheel to determine what kind of fruit you taste. Is it dried, baked, or fresh? Is the fruit from berries, citrus, or something else? Go through this process as many times as you need per cup to discover and articulate all of the flavours in the brew. 

What Coffee Pairings Work Best?

    • Flourless Dark Chocolate Cake and Espresso - The rich texture and strong flavours of each item compliment one another. The bitterness of the espresso cuts through the sweetness of the cake.  
    • French Vanilla Latte and Carrot Cake - The delicate vanilla flavour in the coffee and the soft spice in the cake compliment one another. The soft texture of both items allows each one to shine without overwhelming the palette. The tanginess of cream cheese frosting stands out nicely against the smoothness of the French vanilla latte. 
    • Cappuccino and Biscotti - Crunchy biscotti is perfect for dunking in an espresso beverage like a cappuccino. The crisp, double-baked cookie can easily cut through the foam to the rich coffee underneath, creating a harmony of flavours and textures in each bite. 
    • Americano and Chocolate Chip Cookie -The creaminess of the chocolate chips and the nuttiness of the cookie dough pair well with the sharpness of an americano. 
    • Cold Brew and Lemon Meringue Pie - The smoothness of a perfect cup of cold brew lets the acidity of a lemon meringue pie shine without getting pushed to the background. The sweet, velvety meringue showcases the fruity flavours of the coffee beverage. 
    Three coffee pairing ideas.

    5 Desserts That Go With Coffee

    Pretty much every dessert is delicious when paired with coffee. Here are 3 more of our favourites: 

    1. Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes - The nutty pumpkin, warming spices, and sweet frosting pair beautifully with a full-bodied cup of French Roast coffee.  
    2. Biscotti is the best dessert for dunking into a hot coffee drink. Enjoy this crunchy cookie with our Gourmet Blend
    3. Pomegranate Chocolate Cookies - The sharp, sweet, and chocolaty flavours of this cookie are the perfect compliment to our Welsh Blend

    To discover more delicious coffee, shop San Francisco Bay Coffee today!