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Dessert Categories and Menu Items

By
Matthew Krimmel
Table of Contents
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Dessert is the sweetest course of the meal. It follows the main dish in a three-course meal. The course usually offers sweet foods, such as confections, and may include appropriate wine varietals or a liqueur.

Every restaurant should offer a good selection of desserts, including dessert wines and liqueurs that complement them. Which items do you already include in your menu? Read on to learn which desserts are trending for 2022 and find out some ideas that might work on your restaurant's menu.

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History of Dessert

Early Desserts

In ancient Mesopotamia, India, and several other civilizations, servants fed their gods sweets to stay in their good graces. Fruit and honey were the first desserts people ate before easier transportation of sugarcane became possible around AD 500.

The Influence of Sugar

Sugar has been an ingredient in cooking for over one thousand years in India, the Middle East, and China. In the 12th century, the Crusades and colonial expansion introduced sugar to European society. Desserts became more available in the Middle Ages when Europeans began to manufacture sugar, mainly for the wealthy who could afford them.

Mass Production

The Industrial Revolution in Europe and later America enabled the mass production of dessert items. They were processed, preserved, canned, and shipped widely in the 1920s with the invention of the freezer. During this time, desserts became a part of daily meals in many nations.

Nowadays, many countries offer desserts that are part of their national heritage. Some of these experience worldwide popularity and are included on dessert menus in New York, London, Paris, and Tokyo.

Dessert Etymology

The word "dessert" came from the French word "desservir" meaning "to clear the table." The term dates to the 14th century, but its first use in English occurred in 1600 in a health education manual.

It gained its current meaning at the beginning of the 20th century. "Service à la française" (setting various dishes on the table simultaneously) gave way to "service à la russe" (presenting a meal in courses).

The United States, Canada, and Australia use "dessert" as the name for the final course of the meal. In the United Kingdom, it's not uncommon to hear the synonyms "pudding," "sweets," and "afters."

Dessert Categories

The various categories include a variety of styles ranging from cakes and pies to fruit and nuts. Over time, many desserts came from past generations in certain countries and geographical areas.

This has resulted in a wide variety of desserts from regions in the world appearing on different menu types. In many areas of the world, it's natural to expect the opportunity to enjoy a dessert item after you finish the main course.

Here are eight main categories of desserts:

  1. Cakes are sweet and tender bread made from flour and sugar. They can be dense cakes made with less flour or light sponge cakes. Cakes are popular as celebratory dishes on birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries. They're filled with sweet sauces or fruit preserves, coated with buttercream icing, and decorated with fruit and marzipan.
  2. Small cakes and pastries have become popular, especially cupcakes, cookies, and biscuits. They are baked from dough and have a texture that can be crisp, chewy, hard, or soft.
  3. Confection, more commonly known as candy or sweets, is made from sugar heated into crystals. Caramel, fudge, and taffy are dairy and sugar-based candies. Theobroma cacao beans are commonly mixed with sugar to form chocolate.
  4. Custards have a thick dairy base cooked and thickened with eggs. Crème brûlée, or burnt cream, is a type of baked custard used as a filling for other desserts, such as pastries or pie.
  5. Dessert wines are sweet and typically accompany a small treat. In the United States, these types of wines legally include any over 14% alcohol by volume.
  6. Frozen desserts include ice cream, sorbet, and gelato.
  7. Gelatin is traditional in numerous cultures. They are created with a sweetened liquid thickened with gelatin or a related sweetening ingredient.
  8. Pastries are sweet baked treats and take the form of light and flaky bread with an airy texture, such as a croissant. They can also be unleavened dough with high-fat content and a crispy texture, such as shortbread. Pies and cobblers are desserts with a crust and filling made from either a pastry or crumbs.

Dessert Menu Ideas and Trends

We've reached out to our friends in the industry to get some menu ideas for the upcoming year to share with you. We asked them what their customers are talking about and what they're looking forward to eating in 2022.

Here's some insight they gave us:

During the pandemic, people relied on sourdough to feed themselves. Necessary goods, such as bread and yeast, weren't always available for purchase as supply chains slowed and community businesses restricted operations. Now, as our communities begin returning to normal operations, people are ready to visit their bakeries and try something new and exciting.

Consumers want new flavors and textures but are also showing interest in baked goods with added benefits to support their health. Many people want to order something colorful and exciting for a happy experience.

Here is a list of five trends to watch in upcoming months:

  1. Bubble cakes feature gelatin bubble toppers with many different colors. Pinterest reports that searches on their platform for bubble cakes are up by 55%. They're relatively easy to bake but need plenty of time to dry. Plan to cure them at least 24 hours before decorating your cake.
  2. Coffee and tea infusions are more specific versions of coffee cake with mocha, latte, chai, and lemon showing up on the menu.
  3. Jelly art cakes are making a strong comeback on menus and in bakeries. Jelly molds are another hot trend forecasted for the upcoming year, so combine jelly and cake to bring back memories of the past.
  4. Checkered desserts are also emerging as a hot trend in 2022. Everything from checkered cakes to checkered fashion is trending according to Pinterest.
  5. Dessert boards are set to be a huge trend for weddings, parties, and restaurants alike. It's a smorgasbord of desserts including pudding, cookies, candies, and fresh fruit- all in miniature form for sharing.
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Dessert Menu Delights

Now you know everything there is to know about the history, categories, and predicted trends for desserts in the upcoming months. You could consider if any of these delights would make a great addition to your restaurant's dessert menu.

You might want to keep some of your classic choices and experiment by adding a few ideas from our list. You can make it all fit the a la carte meaning with lots of complementary dishes. Recipe costing can help you maximize your profit margin and stay ahead of inventory.

People are ready to break free from the pandemic restrictions and try something new and bold. This might be the perfect time to sample some of these items. Visit your local bakery and see what they have to offer. This could give you some ideas for your bakery or dessert menu.

If you enjoy their taste, chances are your customers will also think they're delicious. After all, we all have a sweet tooth and crave something from the dessert menu from time to time.

BinWise is an end-to-end beverage inventory software solution for bars and restaurants. Save 85% or more of your inventory counting time, eliminate manual data entry, and track variance effortlessly. Book a demo now to see how our platform can improve your bottom line today. Note that product demos are a walkthrough of our software, not a source of business advice.