Whether you’re a coffee enthusiast or simply just someone who enjoys drinking a cup of coffee every now and then, we can’t deny that there’s something truly magical about combining a well-brewed cup of coffee and a delightful dessert. With so many combinations to choose from, it can be quite difficult to know which ones to try and what would suit your taste. But don’t be overwhelmed! Here’s a guide for pairing coffee and dessert as well as a list of combinations that we recommend you to try.
How to Tastefully Pair Coffee and Dessert Flavors
Pairing coffee and dessert is a science and art form that requires you to understand and find complementary or contrasting elements between coffee and dessert to ensure that these flavors work together. It’s no wonder why most cafés prepare and suggest certain desserts to go along with the coffee of your choice because it tastes better if you match the flavors well! You can follow these guidelines to understand the reason behind certain coffee and dessert pairings:
Pairing based on the Coffee’s Flavor and Roast Profile
To successfully pair coffee and dessert flavors that will satisfy our taste buds, we must choose those that share similar flavors and are complementary. Generally, it is recommended that when you have light roast coffee, you pair them with light desserts, and dark roast coffee with heavy desserts. There are three types of roast profiles in coffee, and for each, there is a recommended dessert to match it:  
- Light Roast Coffee – This type of coffee has more acidic flavors that may be “brighter” or pop out more. They may also have fruity, floral, and citrus undertones. With this type, you can pair them with light desserts that will not overpower the flavor of coffee like a berry fruit tart, or a lemon scone. This way, the acidity of the coffee and the desserts will match together.
- Medium Roast Coffee – Among the three types, medium roasts have a balanced flavor and moderate acidity and body (or how long the taste of coffee lingers after a sip). With this, they may pair well with a wider range of desserts like chocolate chip cookies, caramel-flavored treats, and pound cake.
- Dark Roast Coffee – Being the most bitter of the three, has a bold and smoky flavor. This pairs wonderfully with rich, heavy, and indulgent desserts like chocolate lava cake and tiramisu. or a dense fudge brownie to balance with the intensity of the coffee.
Now that we know how to pair coffee and desserts based on their flavor and roast profile, here are 9 famous and specific coffee and dessert pairings that you can try ordering the next time you go to a café:
Coffee and Chocolate Cake
Good with the strong and bitter flavor of dark roast coffee, chocolate cake is a rich and sweet dessert that creates a balance between two strong flavors. A good cup of coffee can enhance the chocolate cake’s cocoa flavors which can create a harmonious blend of bitter and sweet. The most common examples of good coffee and chocolate cake pairings you can try are:
- Espresso and Chocolate Cake – While espresso can be made from beans that are light, medium, or dark roast, the latter is the most common and is known for its bold, smoky, and intense flavor. The espresso’s rich and slightly bitter flavor enhances the deep sweetness of chocolate cake which creates a harmonious blend.
- Ristretto and Hot Fudge Chocolate Pudding Cake – Ristretto is a highly concentrated and rich form of espresso that is stronger than the typical espresso. As mentioned previously, this strong and full-bodied drink is paired well with a similarly strong and rich dessert like a hot fudge chocolate pudding cake.
Coffee and Cheesecake
Even with a fascinating contrast of flavors and textures, coffee and cheesecake can still make an ideal pairing. The rich, creamy, and somewhat sour cheesecake balances the bold and strong flavors of coffee, providing a beautiful balance of sweet and bitter sensations. This contrast is also reflected in temperature, with coffee typically served hot and cheesecake chilled or at room temperature. The most common examples of good coffee and cheesecake cake pairings you can try are:
- Colombia Coffee and New York Cheesecake – The creamy New York Cheesecake which has a hint of lemon and vanilla is the perfect slice for medium roast coffee like Colombia coffee which has a fruity flavor and light acidity.
- Mexico Coffee and Blueberry Cheesecake – This medium roast coffee has a stone fruit and toasted nut flavor that can easily complement the tangy flavor of a blueberry cheesecake.
- Oreo Cheesecake and Honduras Coffee – Honduras coffee is a medium roast that has hints of cocoa and caramel which can complement the delectable classic chocolate-vanilla combination.
- Papua New Guinea Coffee and Maple Walnut Cheesecake – The medium roast Papua New Guinea coffee surprisingly has milk chocolate undertones that would be perfect for a rich and nutty dessert like maple walnut cheesecake.
Coffee and Tarts
The richness and depth of coffee can go well with the tarts’ flaky, buttery crust. It can balance the fruity or custardy fillings of the tart, bringing out their tastes. It is great to pair the mild bitterness of light roast coffee with the sweetness and coolness that fruit or custard tarts offer. Examples of good coffee and tart pairings you can try are:
- Latte and Fruit Tarts – Since lattes are a lighter version of coffee, they go best with anything with a lighter flavor. With this, tarts pair perfectly with this kind of beverage, especially if you choose a berry-flavored tart. You may also try vanilla tarts, but for the best results, make sure that the flavoring is on the milder side.
- Macchiato and Caramel Nut Tart – The Macchiato, being a close relative of the latte and cappuccino, emphasizes using espresso with less milk. Desserts made with nuts and caramel, like the Caramel Nut Tart, go nicely with strong beverages like this one.
Coffee and Cookies
Coffee’s rich and earthy flavor and mild bitterness can be a good balance with the sweetness of cookies which creates a good and satisfying contrast. Also, the warmth of a freshly brewed cup of coffee can enhance the flavors of the cookies especially when you dip them in it. This pairing is a timeless classic that people can enjoy. Examples of good coffee and cookie pairings you can try are:
- Cappuccino and Biscotti – A chocolate-dipped biscotti or a full-fledged chocolate biscotti, will go very well with a rich chocolate mocha coffee. The crunchiness of the biscotti cookie will prevent the pairing from being overly rich while the richness of the mocha latte will complement the richness found in chocolate-flavored pastries.
- Macchiato and Chocolate Chip Cookies – The Macchiato, being the stronger version of the latte uses a bit of milk which can be best paired with chocolate desserts such as thin and crispy chocolate chip cookies.
Coffee and Brownies
Like chocolate cake, coffee, and brownies can be a good and classic pair where the bold flavor of coffee harmonizes with the fudgy sweetness of brownies. The mild bitterness of coffee can cut through the dense sweetness of brownies to prevent them from being overwhelmingly sweet. An example of a good pairing under this category is dark roast coffee and dark chocolate chunk brownies.
Coffee and Cupcakes
Like other coffee and dessert pairings, the strong, warm, and aromatic qualities of coffee complement the sweetness and texture of cupcakes which creates a good flavor balance. The pairing of coffee and cupcakes is a pleasant and delicious that it pleases a variety of palates, whether it is a rich chocolate cupcake with a strong espresso or a vanilla cupcake with a creamy latte. An example of a good pairing under this category would be a dark roast coffee like the Americano paired with rich and indulgent vanilla buttercream cupcakes.
 Marciales, J., & Marciales, J. (2021). Trees Coffee | How to pair coffee with dessert (and cheesecake). Trees Organic Coffee. https://treescoffee.com/blog/2021/12/how-to-pair-coffee-with-dessert-and-cheesecake/
 Team, W. C., & Team, W. C. (2020). 10 Coffee and dessert pairings (and why). Waka Coffee & Tea. https://www.wakacoffee.com/blogs/coffeelifeblog/coffee-dessert-pairings-and-why
 Great coffee and dessert pairings you must try. (2022, March 25). https://www.poconodessertco.com/coffee-and-dessert-pairings-you-must-try