When it Comes to Fruity Desserts, Berries Take the Cake

February 9, 2022

Strawberries, wild blueberries score big on restaurant menus, but more exotic fruits also make gains

Exotic fruits from around the globe are becoming increasingly common on restaurant menus, but everyday berries such as strawberries, blueberries and raspberries remain favorites of both chefs and consumers when it comes to fruit and berry restaurant desserts, cakes, and pies.

In fact, strawberries, the most common fruit found on restaurant dessert menus, continue to gain traction, with penetration up 1% during the past four years, according to research from Datassential. The fruit, which is grown throughout the U.S., appears on 24.4% of dessert menus.

The second- and third-most commonly used fruits in restaurant desserts—apples (appearing on 17.6% of dessert menus) and bananas (17.2%)—were both down in double digits in that time frame.

The fastest-growing fruit or berry dessert option on restaurant menus is also a berry. Wild blueberries saw their menu penetration increase 105% during the last four years, and they are especially popular in the Northeast.

Examples include the Wild Blueberry Flapjack Cake, introduced last year at the Quentin Tavern Restaurant in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, which rotates its cheesecake varieties. The new dessert item was described as having “thick, buttery cake layers inspired by flapjacks,” baked with wild Maine blueberries and stacked in layers on top of smooth maple cream.

In Maine, treats made from freshly picked wild blueberries rival freshly caught lobster for top billing at local restaurants. McLoons Lobster Shack on Spruce Head Island, which was once crowned the champion of Maine lobster rolls by Yankee Magazine, is also known for its Wild Maine Blueberry Bread Pudding. The dessert features locally grown wild blueberries combined with cubes of fresh bread, white chocolate chips and homemade vanilla custard. It is baked and then drizzled with white chocolate.

Raspberries and blackberries have also been mainstays on dessert menus. Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, which has featured a series of berry-flavored, hand-held pies over the years, last year rolled out a Blackberry Cheese Cake Fried Pie, which features a blackberry pie filling, graham cracker crumbs and cheesecake inside a deep-fried, turnover-style crust.

Other berry dessert ideas include this Raspberry Bread Pudding recipe made with Chunky CHIPS AHOY! Cookie Pieces. Suitable for any breakfast, brunch or dessert menu, this soft, sweet treat includes dough made with raspberry jam and CHIPS AHOY! Cookie Pieces, topped with raspberry-flavored whipped cream and fresh raspberries.

Or consider this simple, yet visually striking Deconstructed Strawberry Sundae recipe, made with Golden OREO Cookie Pieces.

Other exotic fruits gain in popularity

Aside from the ever-popular fruit and berry dessert options for restaurants, other fruits that have been trending on dessert menus tend to be a little more exotic and lean toward the tropical. They include papaya, up 47% in the last four years; acai, also up 47%; guava, up 45%; and avocado, up 21%, according to Datassential.

The research firm also identified several exotic fruits in restaurant dessert menus that are regionally popular in the U.S., and that may gain traction as restaurant dessert ingredients, including:

• Salmonberry, as featured in the Salmonberry Jam Thumbprints from Grandma’s Kitchen Bakery & Gifts, Kake, Alaska;

• Mayhaw (the fruit of the Hawthorn tree), as used in the Mayhaw Tart at Josephine Estelle, New Orleans;

• Scuppernong (a type of muscadine grape), which is featured in the Peanut Butter Torte with Starlight Farm Scuppernong coulis at Starlight Café in Greenville, North Carolina.

As operators plan fruit and berry desserts for restaurant menus, they should consider mixing in some of the less common fruits alongside the favorites they know their customers will love. For more snack and dessert menu inspiration, visit the Mondelēz International Foodservice Culinary Center

Berry Good Dessert Ideas

With spring and summer approaching, berry-flavored desserts are in season, bringing fresh flavors and bright colors to restaurant desserts. In fact, research from Datassential shows that six of the top 20 fruits appearing on dessert menus for restaurants are berries, from strawberries at No. 1 to blackberries at No. 20.

Following are some desserts that feature berries as a star attraction:

Raspberry Bread Pudding made with Chunky CHIPS AHOY! Cookie Pieces

This colorful treat features raspberry jam spread between layers of soft bread pudding that incorporates the crunchy and sweetness of CHIPS AHOY! Cookie Pieces. It’s topped with raspberry-flavored whipped cream and fresh raspberries, and can serve as a fruit-focused comfort food perfect for breakfast, brunch or dessert menus.

Popeyes Blackberry Cheesecake Fried Pie

This limited time berry cheesecake restaurant dessert is one in a series of hand-held, turnover-style fruit pies that the Southern fried chicken chain has introduced. Others have included a blueberry lemon cream cheese pie and a raspberry cheesecake pie, as well as a previous incarnation of the blackberry pie.

Blueberry Bars made with NILLA Wafers

NILLA Wafers can be used in a variety of fruity desserts, including classic banana cream pie recipes. For this Blueberry Bar recipe, the finely crushed cookies are combined with flour, baking powder, salt and butter, and topped with a sweet mixture that includes fresh blueberries and blueberry jam. It’s ideal as a snack or blueberry dessert item at a restaurant, topped with fresh blueberries, whipped cream and NILLA Wafers.

White Castle Strawberry Swirl Cheesecake

Ideal for eating on the go, this strawberry restaurant dessert features cheesecake with a strawberry swirl and a chocolate cookie crust on a stick, making its debut on Valentine’s Day. The burger chain also offers two other desserts on sticks — a fudge-dipped brownie and butter cake.

Strawberries brighten restaurant dessert menus year-round, and can always be counted on to satisfy customers seeking a sweet treat. Strawberry desserts on restaurant menus also connote freshness and seasonality, making them perfect to rotate onto menus as limited-time offers.

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