As seasonal treats start appearing on menus, it’s time to start looking ahead at dessert trends for the new year. Menu-tracking firms show that pastry chefs are experimenting with new dessert forms and flavors and merging the new with the old to bring unique desserts to tables.
From the simple and nostalgic to the spicy and sophisticated, here are three delicious macro-trends to watch.
Trend 1: Hey there, hybrids
Don't call it a comeback. Fusion food may sound like a dated fad from the nineties, but on the dessert menu, it’s called a hybrid. Chicago-based research firm Datassential’s recent surveys find that 28 percent of consumers are interested in hybrid desserts, but currently, these desserts are a developing trend, showing up at independent, fine dining and ethnic restaurants.
Simple interpretations such as brownie-cookies are one example of this trend that has mainstream potential. Meanwhile, the ice cream sandwich, a classic form of dessert hybridizing, is back in a big way.
CREAM, a chain of dessert specialty stores with more than 20 locations in California and Nevada, offers 10 varieties of cookies and dozens of ice cream flavors for customized creations. For even more cross-pollinating, customers can try a red velvet or regular taco shell filled with three scoops of ice cream. Similarly, doughnuts are the “bread” of the ice-cream sandwich at Firecakes, a small-batch doughnut shop in Chicago.
Trend 2: Sweet memories
Nostalgia still runs deep in dessert desires, and many pastry chefs are finding inspiration in classic candies. As such, Chicago-based menu research firm Food Genius finds that candies and confections are common ingredients across menus. “Nutella and butterscotch flavors are popular across independents but have not shown large chain adoption,” says Eli Rosenberg, co-founder and vice president of marketing at Food Genius. “These flavors represent an opportunity for chains to differentiate.”
At Euclid Hall, an upscale beer hall in Denver, Colo., the Almond Joy dessert pairs chocolate and coconut pastry creams with coconut-almond crumble, vanilla whipped cream and butterscotch caramel. Houlihan’s Caramel NutCrunch Pie features crushed Snickers candy bar pieces, vanilla ice cream, an Oreo® and peanut crust and warm caramel and fudge sauces.
In fact, Nutella, an after-school treat adored by kids and adults alike, has reached cult-level status. The Eataly food hall in New York City features a Nutella bar and creperie, where the almond-chocolate spread stars in brownies, buttercream frosting, cheesecake, ravioli and grilled Nutella sandwiches.
Trend 3: Sugar & spice
For those who want to look to the future for dessert inspiration, Julia Gallo-Torres, senior foodservice analyst at Mintel International in Chicago, sees an emphasis on modern treatments of spice in desserts. “Our menu tracking finds spices are the fifth most-popular dessert flavor, and often the spices follow global food influences,” Gallo-Torres says.
At Blue Ginger, an upscale Asian concept in Wellesley, Mass., bittersweet chocolate cake is served with cardamom ice cream and a spiced sugar wafer for East Asian accents. And at New York City’s Prohibition Bakery, the desserts are spiked with spirits as well as spice. For example, they menu a cupcake called the Bee’s Knees, which, like the classic cocktail, is flavored with lemon, honey, gin, orange and bee pollen. The Margarita cupcake includes lime, tequila, triple sec and fleur de sel.
This post is sponsored by Sweet Street Desserts