Going Solo: Single-Serving Desserts

Going Solo: Single-Serving Desserts

Small chocolate and berry dessert with shards of Ruby chocolate in a bowl

Why are single-serving desserts so popular?

Customers are eating more desserts these days. Whether they’re seeking nostalgic desserts from their childhoods out of a need for comfort or looking for something over-the-top indulgent in a quest for new experiences, desserts are playing a larger role in people's daily lives all over the world. Currently, 38% of consumers eat dessert more than once a week, up from 24% in 2019.*

As we continue to seek comfort and indulgence, portion control becomes an issue! Single-serving desserts fit this need perfectly while also allowing customers to try a variety of flavors, textures, and concepts without committing to a large, family-style dessert.

This all sounds familiar to any baker or shop owner who found themselves entrenched in the cupcake craze! The popularity of cute and creative personal-sized desserts endures, but it’s time to think beyond buttercream. Pudding cups, parfaits, verrines, call them what you like, layered desserts-for-one served in cups or glasses are what many customers reach for today. Attractive layers of different colors, textures, and flavors appeal to the eye and the senses!

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What should you think about when constructing a multi-layered, single-serving dessert?

Layered, single-serving desserts are a plated-dessert experience distilled into a portable container, so every aspect of a dessert experience should factor into your plan for a single-serving version of the dessert and, as such, is up for consideration.

Flavor is, of course, the number one factor in a dessert’s success. Think about balancing sweet, salty, sour, even spicy, for a full flavor experience.

Classic flavors like chocolate, caramel, vanilla, and citrus are sure-fire winners. All-time favorites like s’mores, key lime, and strawberry shortcake are irresistible. Smaller portions allow customers a low-risk way to discover new flavors, so get creative with regional flavors, tropical fruits, exotic spices, and “limited edition” flavors too. Have some go-to flavors as menu standards, then add a seasonal item or daily special.  

For chefs, playing with texture might be the number-one feature of desserts in glasses. Create intrigue and excitement with layers that are creamy, fluffy, crunchy, gelled, chewy… you name it! You can see the appeal of added texture in your local grocery aisle. Do a little reconnaissance and notice how many yogurt, pudding, and cheesecake cups are available with a separate compartment of fun crunchy items and a swirl or layer of extra flavor.

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Remember that since all of the layers will be in contact with other layers for an extended time, preserving textures can be a challenge. Crunch, in particular, can be difficult to protect. Consider coating streusels or cookie bits in chocolate to keep them from becoming soggy, and stabilize whipped cream to prevent weeping. A crunchy topping or more liquid sauce could be offered in a separate container, maintaining the freshness and texture of the dessert and offering a fun interactive element for guests.

These desserts are perfect for grab ‘n’ go cases or even delivery, and your choice of container can be a factor in the success of your desserts. Earth-friendly packaging is no longer trendy - it’s expected. Biodegradable, compostable, or recyclable options are getting easier to find and more economical every day, and most customers are willing to pay a little more for them. A clear container that shows off colorful layers and exciting textures will do the selling for you! There are even packaging options that will allow you to keep all the dessert’s elements separate until the last possible moment when your customer then assembles them.

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What are some good ideas for single-serving layered desserts?

Think about your best-selling items. Can you offer a single-serving version? Simply making a selection of your customers’ favorites in a smaller format can open the door to numerous possibilities and higher sales. This can be as easy as offering a slice of cake instead of the entire cake or building the cake inside a cup or bowl.

Desserts in glasses are a great way to upcycle, too. Brownie bits, failed macarons, a batch of cookies that spread too much, a farmer’s market bargain that must be used immediately - all can be incorporated into a sundae or trifle that will delight your customers and reduce food waste.

Are there items you’d like to offer, but a traditional version isn’t in the cards? Perhaps shaping individual tart shells simply isn’t possible with your current staff or labor cost restrictions. However, a layered dessert of fresh berries, whipped cream, and buttery streusel offers all the elements of a fruit tart but can be produced quickly without special skills.


*Technomic Industry Insights: A roundup of noteworthy foodservice findings for the week of Nov. 1, 2021

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