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2014 National Restaurant Association Culinary Forecast: Dessert

Dec 27, 2013 10:00:00 AM

2014 Restaurant Association Culinary Forecast: Desserts

Predicting the future is a difficult task, but 1,300 chefs from the American Culinary Federation have examined the upswing of food items, preparation methods and trends to give you a forecast for 2014. They are presented with dozens of items in a number of subcategories such as appetizers, produce, and prep methods. They have three options on which to rate a particular food item: “hot trend,” “yesterday’s news,” or “perennial favorite.” In part one of our forecast blog, we examined the trends expected to take center stage for alcohol, which you can read here.

This edition will focus on another profitable indulgence: desserts. Those polled were given 11 dessert categories to judge. There has been a renaissance in dessert making recently as food overall has become more widely specialized and artisanal. These desserts are finely crafted and use previously unconventional ingredients. We will go slightly in depth with more notable selections featured on the list.

Trend No. 1
Hybrid Desserts: 65% Hot Trend, 25% Yesterday’s News, 10% Perennial Favorite
Does a cronut mean anything to you? Don’t worry if it doesn’t. It’s one of the many hybrid desserts emerging in dining establishments and bakeries across the country. It is essentially a donut with a croissant texture, but with the normal fillings and glazed exterior you’ve come to know and love from a donut. It was created, and even trademarked, by famed New York City baker Dominique Ansel. The cronut kick started the hybrid dessert phenomenon that is sweeping the nation.

Desserts such as cheesecake cookies and ice cream cupcakes are just many of the delicious combinations that have taken the craze to a new level. Buzzfeed, the go-to website for anything viral, has 17 combination desserts that should give you a little inspiration if you’re looking to incorporate some of these desserts in your establishment. Desserts have become an innovative and profitable enterprise in recent years. Consumers are looking for new ways to satisfy their sweet tooth. Hybrid desserts are certainly worthy of meeting the challenge.

Trend No. 2
Savory Desserts: 61 % Hot Trend, 29% Yesterday’s News, 10% Perennial Favorite
What exactly is savory? The dictionary definition is something “having a pleasant taste or smell.” Savory desserts provide both boisterously. From cheesecake bars to cookie dough waffles, savory desserts have become a staple in restaurants looking to go above and beyond to please their customer’s sweet tooth. Often combining a variety of bold flavors, these desserts push the sensory limit to much fanfare. has just a few of the many savory desserts your establishment can try out.

Trend No. 3
House-Made/Artisan Ice Cream: 60% Hot Trend, 11% Yesterday’s News, 28% Perennial Favorite
This isn’t your mom’s homemade ice cream. Artisan ice cream is becoming a major player in the dessert scene of restaurants and parlors alike. Similar to many of the other trends found on the 2014 forecast, much of the allure of artisan ice cream is the use of local ingredients and simplified processes. The flavor, however, is anything but elementary. Artisan ice cream crafters are combining traditional flavors like chocolate, vanilla and strawberry with sweet potatoes, maple syrup and goat cheese. The possibilities are truly endless.

L.A. Creamery, based in California’s San Fernando Valley, has found popularity since forming in 2010. It has reached a nearly worldwide audience thanks to its shipping options. Their 12 flavors are all crafted naturally, free of high fructose corn syrup, hormones and artificial flavoring and have made them a popular dessert option in health-conscious Southern California. If your establishment is looking to feature house-made, artisan ice cream in the future, it could be wise to follow the same paths others have when choosing ingredients and flavor profiles. All-natural, local ingredients are becoming more popular than ever in dessert, especially ice cream. Though it may cost more, seeking local, fresh ingredients for your ice cream will make a difference.

Trend No. 4
Bite-Size/Mini-Desserts: 59% Hot Trend, 20% Yesterday’s News, 20% Perennial Favorite
Desserts are delicious, but sometimes they can be a little too rich. Restaurants everywhere have taken notice and are providing bite-sized desserts for their customers looking to indulge without going overboard.

Trend No. 5
Deconstructed Classic Desserts: 56% Hot Trend, 35% Yesterday’s News, 9% Perennial Favorite
If dessert making is an art, then deconstructing dessert is minimalism. As with minimalist art, the tools used to construct the pieces are often of high quality. Such is the same with dessert ingredients for these deconstructed masterpieces. Essentially, it is dessert with all the flavors side by side rather than mixed with one another. The individual flavor of the each ingredient showcases its quality. What is the draw to deconstructed dessert? Well, besides flavor, it’s all about the show.

Take this black forest cake recipe for example. The presentation is outstanding and unique. A few items like that on your dessert menu would certainly create some buzz. Strawberry shortcakes, banana splits and key lime pie are just some of the many desserts that have widely been deconstructed to perfection. While deconstructing dessert may seem like a fun trend to try, it is not at home in every environment. Take a look at the items you have on your menu and the type of crowd you draw. Deconstructing has seen its greatest success in higher-end establishments, largely owing to the expense of the top quality ingredients. For some deconstructed inspiration, take a look at these recipes from

Trend No. 6
Dessert Flights/Combos: 55% Hot Trend, 30% Yesterday’s News, 15% Perennial Favorite
Many microbreweries and gastropubs provide a “flight,” four of five samples of their products, for their customers to get a taste of their craft. Restaurants and bakeries have done the same by showcasing a few of their tasty treats together. Nation’s Restaurant News showcased the trend in an article this past April.

Trend No. 7
Desserts with Bacon: 46% Hot Trend, 48% Yesterday’s News, 5% Perennial Favorite
Bacon, bacon, bacon. Wherever you go, you’re bound to find it. Lately, it has become a major player in milkshakes, chocolate bars and pretty much every dessert possible. The delicious salty sweet combination has found fans everywhere, but members of the ACF view it as a tapering off trend. But as we know, bacon lovers are passionate. If you want to join in on the bacon dessert scene, has a list of desserts for you.

Trend No. 8
Gelato/Sorbet: 29% Hot Trend, 26% Yesterday’s News, 45% Perennial Favorite
Gelato, the more refined cousin of ice cream, has made a splash in the dessert scene the past few years. It’s typically smoother and packs more of a flavorful punch than traditional style ice creams, while also being a little more artisanal and expensive.

Trend No. 9
Cheese Plates: 26% Hot Trend, 25% Yesterday’s News, 48% Perennial Favorite
Can cheese really be dessert? The question lingers, but plenty of establishments provide cheese desserts on the back of their menus. Serving it for dessert requires a wide variety of cheeses. Have any more questions? has you covered.

Trend No. 10
Fruit Desserts: 23% Hot Trend, 19% Yesterday’s News, 58% Perennial Favorite
Fruit desserts, composed of sweet, citrusy melons and berries are indeed a perennial favorite. Strawberry shortcakes, peaches and cream, and blueberry tarts are just a few of the many traditional fruit desserts we love in both restaurants and home kitchens.

Trend No. 11
Dessert Crepes: 21% Hot Trend, 44% Yesterday’s News, 35% Perennial Favorite
If you love sweet pancakes, you’re probably going to enjoy dessert crepes. Customers certainly do, but the trend seems to be more of a thing of the past. Nevertheless, there will be certain patrons looking for a thin, airy dessert to round out their dining experience.

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