Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

Textural Play in Desserts Creative garnishes help make desserts signature

Social Tap Eatery’s Holy Sundae sees vanilla ice cream coated in crushed Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal and deep fried, yielding a sweet, crunchy counterpoint.

The dessert category is one that thrives in the familiar. When dining consumers get to the end of a meal, they generally seek comfort. Nostalgia. A known entity. But, of course, they also want to be surprised and delighted. So perhaps the dessert format is familiar—sundaes, puddings, cakes—but the description and presentation needs to wow them into an end-of-meal transaction.

Enter modern texture. In this age of complex flavor experiences, we’ve moved well beyond sprinkles and tuiles. “It is incredibly important—and fun—for the chef to figure out,” says T.J. Delle Donne, assistant dean, Culinary Relations and Special Projects at Johnson & Wales University, College of Culinary Arts, in Providence, R.I. “What can I batter and fry? What can I dehydrate, and can I puff or pop that? It allows chefs to drive home the dish—without skipping flavor, of course.”

Here are five examples of pitch-perfect textural play in modern desserts.

  • Holy Sundae—a layered combination of chocolate chip cookie, Oreo and fudge brownie topped with MooTime Creamery vanilla ice cream that’s been coated in crushed Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal and deep fried, finished with housemade bourbon caramel and chocolate sauces, and a Luxardo cherry
    —Social Tap Eatery, four locations in California and Arizona
  • Caramelized Banana Paratha with coconut crumble, mango mint cubes, cardamom ice cream
    —Vermilion, Chicago
  • Turkish Coffee Affogato: Mascarpone and cardamom ice cream, almonds, dark chocolate sauce, spiced lace cookies, Turkish coffee
    —Beatnik, Chicago
  • Brown Butter Blondie Sundae: Warmed homemade blondie, scoops of our Stumptown & Compartes Love Nuts and Freckled Woodblock Chocolate ice creams, hot caramel sauce, whipped cream, and crushed pretzel streusel
    —Salt & Straw, based in Portland, Ore.
  • Sweet Carrot Cheesecake with a cornmeal crust, sugared walnuts, caramel and cinnamon carrot chips
    —The Palisades Restaurant, Eggleston, Va.

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About The Author


Katie Ayoub serves as managing editor of Flavor & The Menu and content strategist for the Flavor Experience, an annual conference geared toward chain operators. She is president of Katie Ayoub & Associates, serving up menu trends expertise, content creation and food & beverage consultancy. Based in Chicago, Katie has been working in foodservice publishing for more than 20 years and part of the Flavor team since 2006. [email protected]