Prepared Foods talks bakery flavor trends with Diana Moles, senior vice president of innovation at The Eli’s Cheesecake Company, Chicago. A graduate of Culinary Institute of America, Moles joined Eli’s in 1987 and also served as vice president of R&D before her current role.

Prepared Foods: The past 18 months challenged restaurants and hampered menu trends. Where do you go for inspiration regarding new product flavors, tastes or texture? 

Diana Moles: For new product inspiration, I looked inside our company—as well as outside, to customers.  Our culinary talent and company culture enable us to share creative ideas, food experiences and dessert knowledge to create new products to meet today’s consumer’s needs.

Our customers also will request desserts and flavors that we can develop into something extraordinary. We also like showcase our creative abilities and elevate a concept.

During the pandemic period, I was able to spend additional time reviewing cookbooks, recipes and combing through social media, particularly Instagram, to get inspiration for new product ideas.  

Congrats on Eli’s two new NRA FABI awards! We just happen to have a July issue feature on bakery flavors.

PF: Although the National Restaurant Association wasn’t able to host its annual convention this year, industry judges still presented FABI awards to Eli’s for its Mini Dulce de Leche Pie and Confetti Cheesecake. Can you tell us a little about crafting your confetti cake flavor? 

Moles: The birthday flavor trend across food categories outside of desserts including snacks and confections gave us the inspiration to create a dessert for restaurants so consumers could enjoy a special occasion dessert that communicated birthday or celebration.

We went through several iterations until we developed a unique birthday cake and cheesecake layered composition that complemented each other and provided a unique and fun dessert. A vanilla cake batter is widely accepted as a flavor. The birthday cake cheesecake is hand-decorated with rosettes, so each slice says “birthday.”

The biggest challenge was sourcing an all-natural colored confetti with a vibrant color and would also not melt in the baking process.  

PF: What can you tell us about crafting Eli’s Mini Dulce De Leche Pie?

Moles: I was inspired by the alfajores cookie we bake for our Eli’s Cheesecake Café.  I took this sweet, delicious dulce de leche filling and paired it with our all butter cookie crust in the format of a mini pie.  Our dulce de leche filling is made by a women-owned business. This first generation business (hailing from Argentina), uses a traditional cooking method that’s all natural and delicious.

Popular Hispanic flavors are now part of our dining and shopping experiences. Dulce de leche, in particular, is a great flavor to pair in desserts.

PF: You certainly have a long tenure at Eli’s! In what ways would you say bakery flavors and/or flavor trends have changed most since 1987?  

Moles: In my 33 years here at Eli’s, I have seen trends come, go and return. The classic flavors are here stay – chocolate, caramel, pecan, fruits.  I’ve seen old flavors trends become new:  Rocky Road is now S’mores.  Then, flavors go full circle in the form of a redesign and repositioning.

In the 1980’s, we made Cherry Vanilla Cheesecake and today our new product is Cherries Jubilee Cheesecake. What hasn’t changed is plain cheesecake. It’s classic. 

PF: Anything you’d note to flavor ingredient suppliers? 

Moles: Our customers are demanding clean ingredient statements.  My ingredient “wish list” is to have a clean ingredient statement with no artificial colors or artificial flavors.