Kahlua Espresso Granita with Whipped Cream


Amidst a flurry of seasonal sweets, I’d like to showcase a dessert that is decidedly a-seasonal. The reason is simple: in some parts of the world the weather does not coincide with traditional seasons. No, I’m not talking about the Southern Hemisphere; I’m talking about San Francisco.

Here in this “cool, grey city of love,” the summers are foggy and windy. Autumn is sunny, and we can break 90°F in October. Let’s not forget the five weeks of sunshine in January that preceded three months of torrential rain. I’m not complaining (okay, maybe a little). I’m just saying the weather here is a little odd. Consequently, one must be prepared with a foolproof ice-cold dessert for whenever the sun peeks through, whether it’s September or February. I think this Kahula Espresso Granita with Whipped Cream fits the bill perfectly.

A coffee lover’s dessert, this granita has more than one alter-ego: “deconstructed Frappuchino” or “a grown-up’s sno-cone” convey the idea. Just imagine with me for a moment—flakes of frozen coffee spiked with Kahlua, cushioned by a spoonful of whipped cream. Creamy and icy, and you don’t even need an ice-cream maker.

For those currently basking in the sun, enjoy this dessert as summer draws to a close and the sunlight softens into autumn’s glow. For my SF neighbors, don’t worry: this dessert does not discriminate seasons. Tuck this recipe away for a sunny day whenever seasonal inspiration is scarce.

granita diptych

I use decaf espresso to eliminate an evening caffeine buzz. I also omit the sugar in the whipped cream because the granita itself is just sweet enough. If you omit the Kahlua, increase the sugar in the granita to ½ cup to maintain the right sugar content for optimal freezing.    


2 cups cool brewed espresso or strong coffee
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Kahlua or other coffee liqueur
¼ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
¼ teaspoon finely grated orange zest

1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar, optional

Make the Kahlua Espresso Granita with Whipped Cream

Stir together espresso, 1/3 cup sugar, Kahlua and zest. Refrigerate at least an hour to chill well. Pour into a metal or plastic pan or bowl and place in the freezer. When ice crystals being to form around the edge (after about 30 minutes), stir well every 15 minutes until completely frozen (another 30-45 minutes). Fluff crystals lightly with a fork and leave in the freezer to dry for about an hour before serving.

In a cold bowl with cold beaters, whip cream to firm peaks. Whisk in 2 tablespoons sugar, if using. Spoon granita into sherbet glasses, top with a generous dollop of whipped cream and serve immediately. The granita is best served the day it is made.

Recipe from Cookwise by Shirley Corriher (p 449).

4 Thoughts on “Kahlua Espresso Granita with Whipped Cream

  1. Crescent on September 1, 2011 at 5:54 AM said:

    Ooooh! What a fascinating dessert. I don’t think I’ve heard of Granita before. Looks delicious. Your writing is delicious, too. ;)

    • Ha ha, thanks girl. ;) Granita is essentially shaved ice, except that instead of adding flavor to the ice, the ice is made from juice or in this case coffee. I’m much more a fan of coffee granita with whipped cream because I love the coffee flavor and the whipped cream makes it not so icy, but grapefruit and lemon granitas are pretty popular.

  2. It’s starting to cool down in the Boston area but I’m still in denial and would like to pretend like summer is in full force. Love how refreshing this dessert looks and the contrast between strong icy espresso and the creamy whipped cream :)

    • Thanks, Elina! I wish we had more defined seasons here in CA like you do in Boston! I hope you are able to enjoy many more sunny days before the cool Boston winter sets in. :) And you’ve hit the nail on the head—the contrast between creamy and icy is what makes this dessert shine. :)

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