Top Ten Dessert Trends on the Menu

Top Ten Dessert Trends on the Menu

Food & Drink

Top Ten Dessert Trends on the Menu


The Food Channel® presents its Top Ten Dessert Trends for 2009. The list is based on research conducted by The Food Channel and the International Food Futuristsâ„¢. Here’s what we see:

Ice Cream as the Star. Yesterday’s dessert was molten lava cake. Today it’s cupcakes and donuts. Tomorrow? Bring on the ice cream, gelato or frozen yogurt. Usually relegated to a topping or an accompaniment to the dessert star, frozen desserts are coming into their own with new flavors, styles and presentation. After all, of the top comfort foods of 2009 (according to volume searched on Google in the U.S.), ice cream was number one, beating out fried chicken, apple pie and macaroni and cheese.


Sippable Desserts. No, not the children’s juice boxes. We’re talking about desserts you can drink that go far beyond the old Malt Shoppe. Sippable desserts are big in non-alcoholic versions, but quite a few offer a kick reminiscent of pairing your coffee with your cognac. Two straws is still a huge draw.


Sharing Comes into the Open. How many dessert orders include the words, ‘and bring four spoons’? Sharing the price, the caloric guilt, and the experience means that more desserts will be topped with two cherries, will be split in the kitchen, or will be built to easily pass around without sharing germs. Mini desserts are part of this; they continue to hold a great attraction in this economy. There is nothing like a $2 shot of cake, cream and ganache to send you home feeling like you’ve had a real dinner out without breaking the budget. We predict more restaurants will bring shareable portions.


Out of the Ordinary Presentation. Appetizers help draw you into the dining experience. Why not end the meal the same way you start, only with a sweet instead of a savory? Think about how many restaurants now build the guacamole at the table, using fresh avocado, tomatoes, onion, garlic, cilantro, lime and a little salt. Restaurants will be adding a little more entertainment value to end the meal Рpicture flamb̩, which brings the same fireworks to the table as fajitas on a sizzling cast-iron skillet. We also expect to see more desserts finished or built tableside.


Interactivity. We’re not talking games online – after all, what’s the fun of building a dessert that you can’t taste? This is more like playing with your food. You’ll see more restaurants giving you something to do, such as pouring, dipping or rolling a dessert in another layer of sweet or salty. Dessert is the perfect place to create a great experience – after all, it’s the last impression of the meal, and it should give you something worth talking about.


Nostalgia. Retro with a contemporary twist is key here. In other words, the old standards still work, but you’ll see them contemporized in some way. You may find dessert selections offered in 140 characters or less (like Twitter). You’ll definitely find new flavor combos, or more desserts that combine savory with sweet. There may even be a little philanthropy to ease the caloric guilt, with an old favorite like Girl Scout cookies. Go back to your grandmother’s era and consider rice pudding, for the ultimate in comfort and nostalgia. You may see a scaled down version of what Chicago’s famed Alinea offers in one of its desserts, which has a little bubblegum flavor. Look for comfort cakes like Hostess Cupcakes, Tastykakes and Whoopie Pies to join you on your trip down memory lane. Two of the hot ideas that are new again are red velvet cake and bread pudding. In fact, at least one restaurant has mixed the two together for a Red Velvet Bread Pudding served with ice cream. The flavor combinations here are endless.


Portability. The new portability takes you beyond the takeout cup, cone, or the typical paper products. It includes edible containers, new packaging, heat and cool maintenance options, and more. With the ability to take your dessert on the go, you’ll never have to worry about them being too full again.


Novelties. It’s a grim world, and novelties such as candies, ice cream pops, and crazy straws all have a place in cheering us up. People are looking for smiles, and novelties bring a different experience that may surprise and delight. Try a bomb pop in a slushy, like the new Jolly Rancher® Bomb Pop from Blue Bunny® in flavors of watermelon, lemon and green apple, or the new Bomb Pop Gel Blastsâ„¢ that are filled with a smooth gel core. (See related story here).


International and unusual flavors. Chocolate still reigns as the top flavor but now it has a little surprise – chocolate and herbs (think basil or bay), or Fair Trade dark chocolate. It’s not just chocolate, though. Flan, soufflés, and other traditional European desserts are becoming more mainstream. New desserts influenced by the interest in South American flavors are starting to appear. This means new fruits served with pastry, cheesecake, ice cream or gelato. Look for the custard apple, the guanabana, and the mora berry to become as familiar as superfruits such as goji berry, acai and pomegranate – all of which are high in antioxidants and therefore seen as ‘healthy’ even in desserts. And, savory flavors offsetting the sweet are picking up steam, as is the move toward salts. Anything that gives you the opportunity to contrast and compare flavors steps up the experience and gives new sensory appeal.


Seasonal and local. Adding local fruits (or even vegetables – have you tried ice cream and beets?) gives a fresh sense to any dessert. The trend toward ‘localvore’ eating continues and is making its way to every course, not just the entrée. Restaurants are partnering with local pastry shops, farmer’s markets, and dairies to showcase their region as well as their desserts.


For our Top Ten Trends for 2009, click here.


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