Easy Kahlua Brownies by Cleo Coyle

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For the love
of chocolate...
and coffee!

Most culinary experts agree that chocolate and coffee are a perfect match. The reason? Both are made from roasted beans, so when you add coffee to chocolate desserts, it enhances that deep roasted flavor, making the chocolate taste richer and more intense. That’s one reason why Kahlua brownies are so popular. The other is the "spirit" of the rum in the sweet coffee liqueur, which brings the party with the flavor.

Unfortunately, retaining that flavor is tricky. Many recipes instruct you to add Kahlua to your batter, but during the baking, much of the taste and spirits are cooked away. Today’s easy recipe shares how Marc and I make our Kahlua brownies. Here's a hint. We were inspired by the affogato...

Affogato, which means "drowned" in Italian, is a deliciously easy dessert in which Italians simply pour a shot or two of hot espresso (or strongly brewed coffee) over a scoop or two of gelato or ice cream.

As for the brownies, get our easy recipe by scrolling down or clicking here or on the "Read More" link below. May you bake with love and...eat with joy!

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Cleo Coyle has a partner in
crime-writing—her husband.
Learn about their books
by clicking here and here.

These brownies make for a truly romantic dessert, sensuous and decadent. They're also addictive--and impressive to serve on party trays, so keep them in mind for Graduation and holiday celebrations. 

For convenience today, we're using a mix, but feel free to use your favorite scratch brownie recipe. Now let's start baking...

Makes one 9x9 pan of brownies (16 squares)


Butter (for greasing pan and foil)
1 box brownie mix ("family size," see my note*

Brewed coffee (to replace water in mix's direction) 
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso
4 Tablespoons Kahlua (or any coffee liqueur)
1/2 cup (or less) powdered sugar 
(optional) 1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, etc...)

Mixes also usually require vegetable oil and eggs (consult box directions)

*Note on selecting brownie mix: The "Family Size" mixes for 13x9 pans almost always give you the option to make your brownies in a 9x9 pan instead. We prefer this option for slightly thicker brownies.

Instant Espresso (in powder or crystal form) is freeze-dried liquid espresso. When used in baking, it brings fantastic flavor—and better flavor than freeze-dried instant coffee (which can be bitter or sour). Look for espresso powder in the instant coffee section of your grocery store or buy it online. Popular brands include Medaglia D’Oro Instant Espresso Coffee and Ferrara Instant Espresso Coffee.


Step 1 - Prep pan - Line the bottom of your 9x9 metal pan with aluminum foil, allowing some of the foil to hang over two ends (like handles). This lets you lift the brownies completely out of the pan for cutting. Generously grease the foil and unlined sides of the pan with butter or non-stick spray.

Step 2 - Add coffee flavor: Make the brownies as your package directs but start the mixing by completely replacing the water in the mix's directions with brewed coffee and whisk in 1/2 teaspoon of espresso powder...

Step 3 - Finish batter: Once the coffee has cooled off, whisk in the egg (or eggs) and the rest of the required ingredients (most likely vegetable oil). Add the brownie mix and finish the batter as directed. If you like nuts in your brownies, fold in 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans. 

Step 4 - Bake as directed: To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the brownies. If it comes out clean (moist crumbs are fine but there should be no wet batter), then the brownies are done. 

Step 5 - Cool and (carefully) poke: Give the brownies 30 to 60 minutes to cool off. You can speed this up by placing the (uncovered) pan on a cold back porch or in your fridge. Cooling off the brownies will allow them to set; make it easier for you to poke clean small holes on the surface; and de-pan and slice them. Use a toothpick to create these holes, which will allow the Kahlua to penetrate the crust and seep into the brownies.

For best results (small, clean holes)...
Insert toothpick and twist as you lift.
Wipe pick clean before poking again.

Step 6 - Pour your Kahlua: The best way to do this is one tablespoon at a time in each quadrant of the brownie pan. Pour the liquid evenly over the top. (My showy shot glass method, as you can see, wasn't quite even enough and I tipped the pan to help distribute the Kahlua over the surface.)

Step 7 - Allow to set, de-pan, and pretty up with powdered sugar: Give the brownies a little time to absorb the Kahlua (at least 15 to 30 minutes). Then de-pan by running a knife along the unlined sides and using the handles to carefully lift the brownies out of the pan.

Use a sieve to evenly distribute the powdered sugar over the top of the brownies. 

It looks so pretty, doesn't it? A snowy winter wonderland of chocolate, coffee, and Kahlua.

Step 8 - Slice and serve: We like to use a sharp pizza cutter, as shown below. The easiest way to get even slices is to eyeball the center of the pan and slice right down the middle of the big square. Then focus on each half and do the same thing, slicing down the center of each half. Use the same method across to create 16 even squares.

For nice, clean cuts when cutting cakes
or brownies, always wipe your
blade clean between each fresh cut.

Free Recipe PDF

Click here for a free,
downloadable PDF of
this recipe that you can
print, save, or share, and...

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Eat (and read) with joy! 

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Yes, this is me, Cleo (aka Alice). 
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