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Ices in an ice block from Jennifer Naylor Isaac Hernandez

Event Desserts Go DIY, Top Caterers Say

Top catering chefs say DIY desserts, mini desserts and adding herbs are top trends

Mini Baked Alaska

Who can pass up a choose-your-own ice cream float bar or a customized crème brulee station? Indeed, DIY dessert stations bring out the “kid in the candy store” in all of us, and are, hands-down, the most popular mode of dessert delivery at events.

“Guests love to choose from a variety of different flavors and either participate in finishing their own dessert or watch a chef put on the final touches,” says Debra Lykkemark, CEO of Vancouver, British Columbia-based Culinary Capers Catering. The caterer’s signature “Fire and Ice” station features baked Alaska-on-a-stick, wherein guests choose either a brownie or blondie bite topped with a dollop of ice cream, which the chef hand-dips in meringue and then finishes with a mini blow torch [in photo above; photo courtesy Culinary Capers.].

Similarly, a create-your-own petite cake station offers up an assortment of cake bites served with various buttercreams and ganaches, along with garnishes such as raspberries, hazelnut pralines, dulce du leche, and dark chocolate crisps.

Feeling the Burn--Blow torches come to the dessert table

mini creme brulee from Royal Park Hotel

At the Royal Park Hotel in Rochester, Mich., executive pastry chef Mark Slessor puts the chill on DIY desserts at old fashioned ice cream parlor stations, where guests can create everything from brownie sundaes and pie a la mode to ice cream floats using regional sodas. Additionally, a crème brulee station offers guests an assortment of flavor infusions and toppings such as lavender, salted caramel, orange basil and apple crumble streusel [above, photo by Arising Images].

Jerry Edwards, CPCE, chef and owner of Baltimore-based Chef’s Expressions Catering and Events, puts the burn on everything from the traditional crème to sugared bananas over oatmeal, and salt and sugar topped corn pudding at his popular brulee stations.

Adding Herbs to Desserts

French meringue with orange chantilly Culinary Capers

Though not necessarily a new trend, the addition of fresh herbs and savory spices to desserts is steadily increasing as desserts become slightly less sweet (i.e., naked cakes) and more fruit-focused.

“We are using a lot more savory items when making desserts,” says Gabrielle Moes, owner and executive chef at Ventura, Calif.-based Seasons Catering, citing her Meyer lemon-olive oil pound cake as example. “And we are incorporating a lot of herbs into our dessert menus. They add a different flavor profile to the dessert.”

Popular requests include lavender panna cotta, lemongrass ice cream with palm sugar, and rosemary-infused cookies. Slessor adds, “We like to enhance our desserts with sweeter fruits, such as pineapple and mango, and use agave nectar or honey. Fresh herbs and spices add small notes of flavor.”

Edwards puts basil berry ices, and tarragon and orange pot au crème on his herbal dessert menu, while Lykkemark spices up a chocolate cherry whisky cake with fresh cracked red and black pepper. In photo, Culinary Capers' French meringue cups with orange blossom Chantilly; photo courtesy Culinary Capers.


See the full story in the September-October issue of Special Events. Not a subscriber? We can fix that; just click here.

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