We live in a customizable food world where a morning coffee stop entails a mind-boggling number of flavor, sauce and topping choices, and burritos are hand-crafted from dozens of options.
In the dessert realm, customization can bring new interest to the sweets consumers know and love. Take cupcakes, for example. A year or two ago, trend watchers predicted these once-beloved treats were on their way out of fashion. But change portion sizes, flavors, frosting options and fillings, and suddenly cupcakes are new again. This mix-and-match magic is at work in a Portland, Maine-based truck called Love Cupcakes, where filling injections such as lemon curd or peanut butter cream take a carrot cake cupcake with coconut frosting in very different directions.
Rachel Royster, senior coordinator of editorial content at Technomic, sees custom cupcakes going strong in her city and beyond.
“A bakery in Chicago called Skinny Piggy offers customizable everything—cupcakes, brownies, cheesecake, malts and sundaes,” she says. “Customization includes one icing, one drizzle or one filling and one topping at a minimum, but the sky’s the limit. Customers can even top a cupcake with another cupcake.”
Cool and customized
For cooler options, Royster points to an international chain called Popbar, which lets customers create their own gelato pop with half or full dips of chocolate, drizzles, sprinkles, chopped nuts and other extras.
“There are so many possibilities for desserts, but the hallmark of a good customizable offering is a small, streamlined menu with a solid selection of high-quality ingredients for customization,” Royster says.
Baskin-Robbins recently introduced Warm Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches and Sundaes that can be personalized with warm cookies, ice cream flavors and toppings. Cookie options include Dark Chocolate Chunk, Double Fudge, Peanut Butter Chocolate and White Chunk Macadamia Nut Cookies. Guests can mix and match their choice of more than one type of cookie or "make it a double" with two scoops of ice cream and three cookies.
“We’re focused on offering guests ice cream flavors and frozen desserts they can enjoy year round, and our Warm Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches offer the delicious combination of cool ice cream sandwiched between two warm, soft and chewy cookies,” says Jeanne Bolger, director of R&D for Baskin-Robbins. “By offering such a wide variety of ice cream flavors, four cookie options and an array of topping choices, guests can really customize and create a Warm Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich all their own.”
Eggloo, a New York City concept, is introducing new fans to a Korean ice cream extravaganza that begins with egg-rich, chewy waffle cones that come in three flavors including original, chocolate and green tea. These hefty vessels can be filled with various toppings such as ice cream, Fruity Pebbles, M+Ms, mochi, diced nuts and topped with fruit, condensed milk, fortune cookies and more.
“In many ways, customers expect some level of customization. Mostly this is a ripple effect from the fast-casual boom of the last few years,” Royster says, pointing out that offering mix-and-match options can elevate a few menu items into endless possibilities, and the consumer is willing to pay a premium for those options.
Royster predicts a day when baked desserts will take a page from the fast-casual pizza segment. “I’d like to see customizable cookies baked in a high-heat oven, so you can get the cookies in just a few minutes,” she says. Or maybe donuts could be fried, filled and frosted to order.
This post is sponsored by Sweet Street Desserts