This year, the desire to keep things interesting at the end of the meal had pastry chefs across the country getting creative. Here’s a look back at some of the tastiest dessert trends that dominated menus this year and will likely continue into the new year.
Desserts for two (or more)
Diners didn’t seem to want to indulge in decadent desserts alone, and chefs obliged by creating a plethora of options designed to share and even inspire socializing.
Many chefs added a classic dessert for two, such as the Chocolate Mousse Bowl for Two, a salad bowl filled with creamy chocolate mousse and topped with whipped cream, caramel sauce and hazelnut crunch, at Founding Farmers in Washington, D.C., while others kept popular desserts for deuces on the menu, such as the Tarte Tatin for Two made with Golden Delicious apples and served with crème fraiche at Alain Ducasse’s Benoit in New York City.
And though it was meant for two, three could easily share the Trio of Chocolates for Two, featuring chocolate mousse cake, profiteroles with vanilla gelato and mocha pot de crème at Kellari Taverna in Washington, D.C.
Then there were the over-the-top desserts designed to wow entire tables, created by restaurateur, designer and impresario Barton G. Weiss for his new Barton G. LA—The Restaurant in Los Angeles. Among Weiss’ outrageously shareable treats are Marie Antoinette’s Head — made with cotton candy atop a ceramic head, surrounded by raspberry and strawberry cream cheese petit cakes with fresh berries and schlag — and Pot Pie Garden, featuring Mississippi Mud, Pecan, Key Lime, Apple, Banana Cream and Cherry pies served in flower pots.
At global chain Max Brenner Chocolate Bar, a number of desserts were created to inspire sharing and socializing, including the indulgent Chocolate Dessert Pizza, featuring sweet pizza dough with melted chocolate chunks, crushed hazelnuts, bananas and roasted marshmallows, topped with melted peanut butter sauce.
Bourbon baked goods
With brown liquors “on fire,” as chef Jason McClure of Sazerac in Seattle put it, this year more bourbon began showing up, not just at the bar, but in desserts as well.
McLure’s contribution to the boozy trend is Banana Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce, a riff on the classic Bananas Foster, with sliced bread that is layered with bananas, pecans and a hard sauce made of whiskey, egg yolks and sugar.
Similarly, chef Erik Niel of Easy Bistro & Bar in Chattanooga, Tenn., makes a Blue Hubbard Bourbon Bread Pudding with blue hubbard squash puree, stale bread and bourbon custard.
The pastry team at Red Star Tavern in Portland, Ore., has Bourbon Apple Fritters with brown butter honey glaze and bourbon cream on its menu.
Also in Portland, Three Degrees features an upside-down pumpkin cake on its menu, with pecan-bourbon ice cream and toffee sauce.
There was no shortage of dessert mashups this year, in which chefs married traditional and modern elements to create new but familiar creations.
At Ruxbin’s in Chicago, chef Edward Kim combined the best of a fruit tart and a savory cheese plate to create his Pear Tart Tatin, served with seasonal fruit, candied walnut, Carr Valley Penta Crème ice cream (a blue cheese ice cream) and fried arugula, served atop a wooden slab.
At Sepia, also in Chicago, pastry chef Cindy Schuman used gourmet ingredients and derived inspiration from her favorite childhood Little Debbie snack cakes to create a dessert worthy of the restaurant’s Michelin star. The result was an Oatmeal Cream Pie, featuring oatmeal coconut cake with pumpkin, maple ice cream and coconut granola.
At The St. Regis Aspen Resort in Colorado, martinis meet marshmallows in Marshmallow Cocktails, a quartet of spirit-soaked marshmallows served in mini martini glasses. Flavors include Dipped Strawberry, with Godiva chocolate liqueur and crème de cacao; Candy Apple, with German apple liqueur; Hotty Toddy, with butterscotch schnapps and rum; and Candy Cane, with peppermint schnapps.