Every retailer or wholesaler of baked confectionery items knows that classics have a well-deserved place on any dessert menu or product list and that these items often serve as the bedrock of their businesses. Culinary trends come and go, with a few evolving into classics as they pass the test of time with flying colors. However, even passing fancies can benefit a business by providing consumers with something fresh and exciting, so don’t be afraid to explore emerging trends as well as those that are currently in full swing. Following are just seven of the trends you can expect to see gaining traction as we move forward with 2021.
Having a cup of hot coffee has long been a traditional grand finale to a well-prepared dinner, so it’s not much of a leap for drinkable confections to be seen dotting dessert menus. Drinkable desserts can be either geared for adults who desire a little alcoholic kick in its simplest form, the classic cup of hot chocolate is a quintessential drinkable dessert, but creative chefs are turning its flavor profile up several notches lately with ingredients such as chilis. Other examples of drinkable delights include smoked chocolate martinis, apple pie milkshakes, and boozy, blended fruit sorbets.
A natural progression from drinkable desserts, their cocktail-inspired counterparts pair classic cocktail flavors with traditional dessert forms such as pies, cakes, and mousses. Examples include bloody Mary pie, strawberry daiquiri cheesecake, and craft beer popsicles. The possibilities with this approach are almost endless, and you can satisfy the sweet tooth’s of the under-21 crowd with virgin variations of favorites designed for adults.
The savory element first began appearing on dessert menus several years ago in the form of salted caramel, which has evolved beyond a passing trend and is becoming firmly entrenched as a classic. Look for the arrival of takeoffs such as black pepper ice cream, tomato sorbet, and even cheesecakes stuffed with vegetables and spicy chicken lollipops.
Botanical elements in desserts may seem like an edgy new direction, but they were standard ingredients in Victorian kitchens. Candied violets were a staple on cakes, tarts, and tortes and are surprisingly simple to make — a light sugar wash painted on with a pastry brush is all it takes, and the same can be done with other edible blossoms. You can also expect to see more herb-infused delicacies as 2021 progresses, such as lavender/raspberry cheesecake, rosemary and chocolate torte, and ganches crafted with herbes de Provence.
The current move toward globally inspired flavors is a natural reaction to predominant trends of recent years that focused on locally sourced ingredients. Although the farm-to-table approach is still well-represented, global flavors, particularly those originating in Asia, are making a substantial impression on today’s dessert scene.
Not all dessert trends involve exciting new combinations of flavors, and one of the most well-represented trends you’ll be seeing as we move forward with 2021 will be the prevalence of individual desserts that go a step beyond the traditional approach of selling slices of cakes, pies, and cheesecakes. Instead, look for an increase of entire product lines featuring mono-portion desserts. And as history shows, the old becomes new again, and such is the case with mono-potion desserts. In 2009, the National Restaurant Industry’s survey results showed 83% of chefs stating mono-portion desserts were the next big thing in pastry.
Desserts aren’t traditionally associated with health benefits, although recent research suggests that dark chocolate has substantial health benefits when consumed in moderation. Consumers of the 21st century demand the best of all possible worlds, so it should come as no surprise that dessert items with nutritional value will be increasingly sought after in the coming weeks and months. Expect to see avocado ice cream, keto or paleo cakes, and all the “free” dessert options – gluten, lactose, sugar, dairy. With the Food Industry Association’s “The Power of Health and Well-Being in Food Retail 2020” report, which highlights how Americans’ definition of “healthy” is changing, it’s clear consumers are eating based upon individual or family health goals.
Experimenting with trends also offers pastry chefs, managers, and bakery owners the opportunity to keep their creative skills well-honed. Don’t be afraid to test the waters and put your own personal stamp on emerging trends — you may just stumble across one destined to reach classic status that will occupy a prominent permanent spot on your repertoire of tasty treats. And who knows, with the right combination of culinary creativity and awareness of your local market, you just might become a trendsetter in your own right.