Chefs frequently turn to grandma’s dessert recipes to showcase exciting and indulgent new flavors. Coconut, Guinness, sour cream, guanábana, thyme, ginger, chipotle, bourbon and miso are just some of the ingredients now appearing in classic dessert formats. Reinventing recognizable desserts from the past, such as whoopie pies, cupcakes, bread pudding and apple pie, using foreign flavors, mixes nostalgia with adventure. Recently, chefs have been changing the original desserts and flavoring them with different, exotic flavors. The whoopie pie, for example, can be made many ways; from the original chocolate and cream filling to butterscotch toffee or red velvet with cream cheese.  These changes give consumers updated flavors in a recognizable way.  

Deconstructing the Traditional
Apple pies, tarts and crumbles, some of the country’s favorite dessert choices, are deconstructed by many pastry chefs.  Chef Mindy Segal, from Mindy’s HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar in Chicago, makes a warm apple confit with brown butter streusel, tart cider semifreddo, a pecan caramel candy bar and an apple butter cream puff. Pastry chef Maximo Santiago, of Miami, has created an apple crostada with bûcheron ice cream, aged balsamic vinegar and spiced apple clouds. Cupcakes with bold new flavor profiles, like chai-spiced, Key lime, tiramisu and Nutella are another new national trend. There are even stores dedicated solely to cupcakes, like Molly’s Cupcakes and Swirlz Cupcakes in Chicago.

Another important classic dessert is, of course, chocolate.  A dessert connoisseur’s favorite, chocolate has been paired with different fruit flavors for as long as one can think, but now chocolate is paired with every kind of flavor.  One example is the chipotle Mexican chocolate bar, which combines the spicy zing of peppers with dark chocolate.  Other important flavors that have recently been coupled with chocolate include cardamom, Earl Grey tea, red pepper flakes, orange zest and cinnamon.  Remember the drink, Ovaltine? Blackbird in Chicago is making a milk chocolate ganache containing Ovaltine, sesame and banana bread ice cream.

Latin, Asian and other international flavors are increasing in popularity. Ginger, for example, is featured prominently in the dessert sections of the Bon Appétit and Epicurious websites. It works well in desserts, because it has a slightly spicy, but sweet, flavor that consumers recognize from Ginger Snaps, a classic cookie flavor. Desserts, like Lemon Ginger Cake with Pistachios and Double Ginger Sour Cream or Bundt Cake with Ginger-infused strawberries, are just two of the tantalizing combinations available.

Coconut, a flavor found in established desserts, like macaroons and coconut cream pie, is now being utilized in coconut rice pudding with crispy coconut shavings, coconut flans and fruit parfaits with coconut sponge cake. The spice cardamom is used at Hot Chocolate in their Banana Brioche Bread Pudding, banana sherbet, malted liquid butterscotch, cardamom cream and a banana cake canolli. Spices from around the world are great flavors to incorporate into desserts, as well as specific fruits and staple ingredients of other nations.

Loving Latin Flavors
Latin influences are evident in the use of passion fruit native to Brazil; lulo from Ecuador, with its flavor similar to rhubarb and lime; and guanábana, from Central America, which features hints of sour strawberry and pineapple flavors and a creaminess resembling coconut or banana. These exotic flavors are now found in sorbets, ice cream and gelatos, as well as exotic cheesecake flights. Asian influences appear in rice puddings, Japanese rice cakes called mochi and versions of miso cakes. Warm Jasmine rice pudding with passion fruit or tropical sherbets are a great way to incorporate these exotic flavors into desserts.  

Blood orange, with varieties native to Italy and Spain, also make a great sorbet. An unusual fruit called pitahaya is a relative of the prickly pear, with a magenta color that adds beautiful and delicious flavor to desserts. Blackbird’s pastry chef in Chicago makes a dessert with the popular Brazilian fruit called cupuaçu, one of the latest Superfruits.  Diners there can feast on Criollo chocolate with cupuaçu, milk meringue and tonka bean ice cream. Not only is cupuaçu the new and attractive Superfruit, but açai, another recognizable Superfruit, is now produced in liquor form by VeeV.  

Liquor has long been used in many dessert applications and is increasingly seen in the sweet and savory profiles of today’s dessert menus, as chefs experiment with beer, liquor and wine to create bold and inviting applications. Beer is a common baking ingredient, because the carbonation affects texture. Stouts and other heavy, dark beers with hints of coffee flavors have found their way into ice cream floats, while sour beers are being coupled with tangy fruit to create exciting new gelato flavors. Bread pudding has virtually been reinvented using Guinness. Another amazing creation is house-baked brioche, using Guinness and Valrhona milk chocolate with Jameson caramel sauce. At Sona in Los Angeles, pastry chefs are making chocolate beignets using oatmeal stout and honey ice cream atop a beer waffle. Tecate cake is light, fluffy and moist, because of the carbonated Mexican beer that is used. Sweet and savory combinations in desserts tantalize the palate and keep the taste buds satisfied.  

Wine used in desserts is nothing new and has been used in reductions or for poaching. Hot Chocolate in Chicago offers Port wine-poached and -roasted local pears, quinoa- and tart-dried cherry pudding, and gingerbread and red wine cream cheese-frosted layer cake. New dessert flavor sources also include a variety of other ingredients, including olive oil, salt, herbs and surprisingly, bacon. 

Bringing Home the Bacon (Dessert)

The bacon revolution shows up in the dessert scene in bacon ice cream, bacon dark chocolate bars and even bacon Bananas Foster.  The salty, umami notes of bacon give desserts a unique burst of savory flavor that satisfies both sweet and salty palates.  Olive oil in desserts has been popular, as well.  Cakes baked with different olive oils offer unique flavors and moist texture. The spring desserts section of Bon Appétit online features an olive oil couscous cake made with crème fraîche and date syrup. These three savory ingredients (olive oil, couscous and crème fraîche) combine with the sweet date syrup to make a delicious and interesting dessert profile. Savory herbs and spices are also making their way into desserts. White pepper crème brûlée pairs well with basil and thyme. Basil, with its clean, fresh flavor, can be used in lemon custard parfaits with basil tuile cups, and thyme also goes well with fruit, such as thyme-roasted pears.

The plethora of ingredients available to chefs has inspired creative flavors. The ethnic trends around the world and various cooking techniques provide the foundation for endless possibilities. As the world has grown smaller, the list of available and sought-after exotic flavors has expanded, making dessert an even more appealing treat.  At the end of the day, “It’s All About Flavor.” pf

Website Resources: -- Type “dessert trends” in the search field for a plethora of articles on the latest trends in desserts -- Go to the desserts section for recipes and information on many trendy new dessert items