Kahlúa & coffee give West Coast brownies a kick

Legendary dessert cookbook author Maida Heatter opined that her “West Coast Brownies” might be “more appreciated by adults than by children.” Whether or not these need to be segregated like the spiked eggnog, we definitely believe they deserve a place on the holiday buffet.

Espresso brownies

Heatter wrote that her recipe was a variation on “Brownie Points,” something made in the late Seventies by a Southern California baker/businessman, Richard Melcombe, who called himself “Richmel” and sold his goods “in leading stores across the country.” “Brownie Points” apparently never made it from SoCal to Kentucky’s “leading stores,” as neither of us had ever heard of them (though we have both earned the non-edible versions on occasion).


The brownies are a bit chewy and  a tiny bit boozy. (Though Heatter said it’s OK to use cognac, we were happy to find a bit of Kahlúa still hiding on our liquor cart.) We substituted chopped bittersweet chocolate for Heatter’s semisweet chips, so our version most likely is more robust and less sweet than hers. They’re nicely caffeinated, with a whole quarter cup of espresso powder in the brownie batter. They’re just a little salty (though not as salty as the recipe in the book, which, probably owing to a rare typo in Heatter’s always impeccably-tested recipes, includes a whole teaspoon of the stuff). And, Michelle made them even more rich by adding an espresso icing drizzled with chocolate.

Espresso brownie

All in all, they’re a glorious combination of chocolate, caffeine, booze and decadence. Which leads us to think that, while today’s children might appreciate them, they could very well be as inappropriate for minors as spiked eggnog.


  • Servings: one 9x13-inch sheet pan
  • Print

(brownies adapted from Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Chocolate Desserts/icing adapted from The Jekyll Island Garden Club’s Golden Isles Cuisine, reprinted in Time-Life’s The Good Cook: Cookies & Crackers)


  • 1-1/2 c. all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/2 lb. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
  • 3/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 3/4 c. brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 TB Kahlúa
  • 1 TB vanilla extract
  • 1/4 c. instant espresso powder
  • 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 1-1/3 c. nuts (we used walnuts and pecans), lightly toasted and roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 375° F and place rack in center of oven. Line the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13″ pan with foil.

Sift the flour, salt and baking powder together and set aside.

Melt unsweetened chocolate in a small pan over low heat. Stir occasionally. Set aside to cool.

Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixture. Cream, using the paddle attachment. Add both sugars and beat well, scraping down the sides occasionally with a spatula. Then mix in eggs, Kahlúa, vanilla and espresso powder. The mixture may curdle a bit, but that’s OK. Add melted chocolate, then dry ingredients and beat until just mixed.

Stir in bittersweet chocolate and nuts.

Place brownie mixture into prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 25-28 minutes, until a toothpick in the center comes out dry.

Cool in the pan for a bit on a rack. Then, cover with a large cookie sheet and invert. Remove the foil. Invert again, leaving the brownies right side up.


  • 2 c. confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 c. warm coffee
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Mix all ingredients together, using a stand or hand-held mixer. If too thick, add some more coffee. Thinly cover top of warm brownies with icing.


  • 3 oz. bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 tsp. vegetable shortening

Melt chocolate and shortening together in a small saucepan over low heat. Place in a plastic sandwich bag. Cut off a tiny bit of the corner of the bag. (Or use an icing bag with a small round tip.) Drizzle chocolate mixture over tops of cookies. Refrigerate or freeze until chocolate is set.



  1. I’m being pedantic, but I do wonder if one could add the liquor after cooking, because cooked booze is kid friendly. I do have a little Kahlúa to hand, but I need to restock for Christmas in case the Dude drops round and wants a White Russian 😉

    • I think one could, and indeed probably should, just pour a bunch on top. 🙂 Merry Christmas, MD. And, hey, did you know Lebowski Fest is held right here in Louisville?

      • That could be good – like pouring Pedro Ximenez over Tarta de Santiago. I just got out of bed and the first thing I thought of was Jesus on the bowling lane – I must need a White Russian for breakfast …Merry Christmas 🙂

  2. Coffee and chocolate is a combination you win me over instantly. and the coffee in the icing – I surrender! Happy holidays to queen and king of Gourmandistan + warmest greetings from the unwintery Paris– Sabine

  3. Always interested in brownie recipes..this one made me realise that I have at last found a reason to use the unopened bottle of Vendéen coffee liqueur, Kamok, that has been hiding in the recesses of a kitchen cupboard since we were given it:)

  4. Excellent excuse to keep the good stuff hidden from the children! Not that I have to worry about that in my house, but good to remember just in case. I’m also very intrigued by the comment to pour the Kahlua on after baking. Seems like something that I need to test out…sounds like the perfect treat to bring in to work this week!

  5. They look amazing, definitely those would definitely taste great as well. Now you gave me some idea on using creamy and coffee liquers on baked goods, it will be Kahlua and Baileys for me next!

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