There are lots of things to be thankful for this holiday season, but after that fantastic meal and the loving company of cherished family and friends, after we toast to our health and good fortune and the promises of the holiday season to come—you know, all the typical Thanksgiving stuff—why not take a moment to give it up for coffee. Yes, coffee: The little black drink (or off-white drink, or whipped-creamy drink, hot or iced or whatever you prefer) is what gets us going in the morning, keeps the blood and creative juices pumping all day, and, when necessary, helps us power through a long night of work or crying babies or marathon-watching season two of Stranger Things.

One very special and very tasty way to say thanks to our old pal coffee is to pour a little into your Thanksgiving dessert. There are lots of ways to add coffee to the classics, whether it’s by brewing a batch and swapping it in for the water a recipe calls for, or even just tossing a few scoops of instant coffee or espresso powder into a batter. Here are a few of our favorites, all with a caffeinated twist.

Espresso Coffee Cake Monkey Bread

Hey Let’s Make Stuff

Pull-apart bread, a.k.a. monkey bread, is a holiday favorite especially at the kids’ table, where little paws love to dig in and get sticky after dinner. Jazzing the recipe up with a little jolt of java, however, moves this childhood fav back up to the adult desserts, though, and can even be a centerpiece of brunch the next day—if anyone has any room for it by then. Get the recipe

Coffee Vanilla Ice Cream

Behind every good pie is a great scoop of vanilla ice cream, but a dash of coffee ups the flavor ante and turns a plain slice of classic pumpkin into a deconstructed PSL. This easy recipe has only five ingredients and can be made a few days in advance of the big meal. (Pro tip: Save leftovers for morning affogatos or next-day milkshakes.) Get the recipe

Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies

Lemon Tree Dwelling

Take your coffee gratitude to the next level by pairing two caffeinated desserts—these espresso and chocolate-chip cookies, the above coffee-vanilla ice cream—for ice-cream sandwiches, perfect hand-held desserts that guests can take away from the table to go lounge in front of the big game after dinner.  Or simply pop a few on a baking sheet in an oven set on “warm” while you clear the table for the dessert course, and wow everybody with the simple pleasure of some ooey-gooey warm homemade cookies. Get the recipe

Coffee Cinnamon Rolls 

Perfectly Sprinkled

If you can have breakfast for dinner, why not for dessert, too? (Calling cinnamon rolls “breakfast” is the equivalent of pretending muffins aren’t just cupcakes without icing, anyway.) These sticky, cream-cheesy, cinnamony little heaven buns have just a kiss of coffee for an elevated flavor. Get the recipe

Chocolate Espresso Pecan Pie

Does your family have a love-hate relationship with pecan pie? (And do you pronounce it “puh-KAHN” or “PEE-can?”) Take the “hate” out of the equation by adding the one-two punch of coffee and chocolate. This sweet, nutty, fudgy dessert is almost the pie equivalent of a fresh-brewed mug of really fine Brazilian coffee, except you can sink your teeth into it.  Get the recipe

Coffee Cream

With A Blast

Like a Jell-O mold, but, you know, not at all gross—this recipe is reminiscent of flan, and definitely tastier than Aunt Lorraine’s wiggling pink bundt-shaped nightmare. Silky and smooth, it would be perfectly paired with a café con leche, a cup of strong-brewed coffee mixed with sugar or panela and topped with hot, freshly frothed milk. Get the recipe

Pumpkin Roll with Coffee Cream

All Day I Dream About Food

The pumpkin roll! A true classic of the Thanksgiving table, this spongy, cloud-soft cake is punched up with coffee cream, and it is so light and fluffy you’ll feel like you’re floating away from the mess of turkey carcass and the mounds of stuffing you just shoveled into your maw. Get the recipe

Cappuccino Icebox Cake 

Kitchen Nostalgia

Icebox cake is a classic Northeastern dessert that requires very little prep but makes a huge splash on the table: It’s kind of like a cookie lasagna, with layers of graham cracker (soaked in coffee, in this instance) smothered in freshly whipped cream and refrigerated until it becomes the most perfectly pillowy texture. Consider this cappuccino version the less time-and-labor-intensive tiramisu, and you might have stumbled upon a new family favorite, whether it’s a holiday or not. Get the recipe

Espresso Cheesecake 

The First Year Blog

Cheesecake is a traditional alternative to the fruit, pumpkin, or pecan pies that tend to come out at the end of a celebration meal, and there’s nothing better to complement a hot mug of coffee than the heavenly tufts of sweet, creamy cheese. Double that pleasure by adding espresso to the cake itself, and top the whole business off with a fine layer of bittersweet chocolate ganache. Get the recipe

Chocolate Espresso Brûlée Tarts

The First Year Blog

Oh, you fancy, huh? You want to show off your kitchen blowtorch skills? This is just the thing to finish your fancy French-inspired Jour de l’action de grâce (that’s “Thanksgiving Day” in French, though the holiday celebrated in October throughout Canada—who’s counting?). Like all fancy things, these tarts require a little more work and attention, so you might want to recruit a brûlée buddy in the kitchen to help whip them up, but trust us: Ça en vaut la peine. (It’s worth the trouble.) Get the recipe

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cake

The Life Jolie

Dust off the bundt pan and get ready to put the pumpkin spice to good use in this PSL-inspired cake. The best part of this recipe? It’s a boxed cake hack. (Though of course you can go the extra length and make your own sponge, you overachiever.) A dusting of confectioner’s sugar or a light glaze gives the “I spent all day on this” impression, even though the cake will probably take you less time to bake than you normally wait for your drink to get called out at the cafe. Get the recipe

Header image courtesy of The First Year Blog.

Erin Meister (you can just call her "Meister") is both a longtime journalist and a coffee professional with nearly two decades' experience. She has written about food, coffee, film, travel, music, culture, and celebrity for The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Rachael Ray Every Day, Saveur.com, Time Out NY, Chickpea Magazine, Food & Wine's FWx.com, BUST magazine, Barista Magazine, and more. She is the author of the brand-new book "New York City Coffee: A Caffeinated History (The History Press, 2017)".
See more articles