When it comes to cakes, consumers want it all. “They want flavor and texture with clean labels and no chemicals. It’s got to taste good first and foremost,” says Rhonda Delaney, vice president, sales & merchandising for Lawrence Foods, Inc.
And, just in time for spring, keep the flowers coming, Delaney recommends, because “consumers love them! And everyone’s looking for the next unicorn… will it be llamas, flamingos or mermaids? Whatever you choose, make a bold display work for you.”
Mark Seaman, Certified Master Sugar Artist and specialty application chef for Barry Callebaut North America, points out that llamas are trending, without a doubt. “I call the llama the new unicorn,” he quips. “Create a display in your shop that shows a cohesive design for a llama-themed party: a cake, cupcakes, and decorated sugar cookies all featuring the llama.”
Also, tropical fruits are on the rise, so Seaman recommends incorporating guava or dragonfruit into your cake fillings and icings.
“Coconut sugar carries a healthy halo as an alternative sugar,” he adds. “Experiment with coconut sugar in your cake base. Or try Coco Niu, a coconut sugar-based chocolate from Van Leer. Oat milk is emerging as the next milk alternative for both lactose-intolerant consumers, as well as those seeking a healthy alternative to cow’s milk.”
Jean Hayes, technical sales representative for Dawn Foods, says that during the spring months, “we partner with our customers to help them deliver the best sweet treats possible for St. Patrick’s Day, Easter and Mother’s Day.”
At Easter, the items that have the highest spikes are cupcakes, dessert cakes and iced cookies. Specifically, the flavors for cakes that work well during Easter are Assorted, Yellow, Vanilla, Carrot, Coconut and Strawberry. Marshmallow flavors and inclusions are a great way for bakers to highlight the Easter holiday, as well.
Mother’s Day causes the largest seasonal spikes in the spring for bakery, according to Dawn. Sweet baked goods that sell best during this timeframe are cakes, specifically cupcakes, dessert cakes and decorated cakes. The top-selling cake flavors at Mother’s Day are Chocolate, White and Yellow, with some niche flavors gaining popularity, including Red Velvet, Cookies & Cream, Boston Cream, Strawberry and Marble.
Although St. Patrick’s Day is a smaller holiday, bakers experience seasonal spikes with Boston Cream Cakes, in addition to iced cookies and mini cookies. Top trending flavors during the spring overall are brown sugar sweet flavors, seasonal fruits and tangy flavor. Brown sugar sweet flavors like Sea Salt, Toffee, Banana Cream and Peanut Butter over index. Popular seasonal fruits include strawberry, rhubarb and raspberry. Top tangy flavors include buttermilk, lime and frozen yogurt.
Another flavor to incorporate is avocado, which has a mild flavor that pairs well with others including chocolate. “Avocado delivers a rich and creamy mouthfeel,” Seaman says, “and its natural fattiness accentuates a cake’s flavor profiles.”
Shawna LeMott, marketing manager for Lucks Food Decorating Company, agrees that cake artists should get ready for spring 2019 desserts that are good-for-you, in many ways.
“Customers are looking to treat themselves with indulgent pick-me-ups that make them happy, while also keeping an eye on natural ingredients,” she says. “Two of the dessert trends to watch for this coming season are Farmers Market and Happy Place.”
For an upscale yet humble style, the Farmers Market trend looks luxuriously homemade with subdued colors and decorations inspired by nature, according to Lucks. Messages appear handwritten and decorations are sweetly doodled or foraged from the meadow. Play with subtle textures, like monochromatic icing details, or use a putty knife to add interesting brushstrokes of icing that form petals or leaves. Get inspired by the textures of home like knit and needlepoint.
And don’t forget to stop and smell the flowers — pressed edible blooms, curling ferns and lovely butterfly wings take the cake this coming season. Farm animals and cute critters like lambs, chickens, cows and pigs bring sweet characters to these outdoorsy treats.
Bakeries looking to tap into their community’s fan base should feature locally sourced ingredients as special edition flavors. And of course, the trend for natural and clean label ingredients continues to grow, so incorporating natural food dyes is a great way to appeal to more customers.
For Easter desserts, think speckled and earth-toned eggs amongst flower-filled baskets, Lucks recommends. Textures include woven patterns and grass, while hopping bunnies and lusciously green-topped carrots add seasonal touches.
For a bright and ageless Spring style, the Happy Place trend really brings customers to the counter and begs to be shared on social media, according to Lucks. Rather than your typical spring pastels, icing and color palettes are bold and saturated. Splashes of rainbow colors contrast shining metallic airbrushed details. Messages are humorous and spontaneous, full of imagination and often paired with expressive faces. Seascapes, tropics and citrus fruits find their way into spring treats, like a carefree escape to your happy place no matter the season. Inanimate objects like fried eggs and avocados add a cheeky touch to sweet desserts.
Novelty flavors are often sought after for the nostalgic, feel-good sentiments they provide. Strawberry lemonade, root beer and lavender are some popular ingredients for Spring 2019. Fresh fruit is a trendy garnish as well as flavor enhancer, pairing nicely with bright poolside scenes or seascapes. Small serve is a great way to go, so customers can take that risk on new flavors or get just enough dessert to share with their loved ones without overindulging.
For a Happy Place Easter think bright neon, pops of gold and geometric shapes. Egg-cellent messages and unusual flavor pairings or ingredient mash-ups will make customers shout “Hip Hop Hooray!” Get whimsical and creative, either with unexpected color tinting or overloaded edible icons like bunny ears, eggs and the odd cactus to keep them on their toes. Contrasting colors are often not fully mixed into icings for an artistic look, while tiered cakes feature a different shaped cake at each level. Small desserts combine for a creative and unique treat, like donut cakes, that can be shared and personalized.
LeMott at Lucks Food Decorating Company says the 2019 Pantone Color of the Year, Living Coral, fits perfectly into both spring trends. Make a pleasing pop of color within floral designs by pairing with more subtle colors. Or else throw it in with bright and shocking hues like pink, aqua and mint green for a happy, kid-again color palette.
Flavor Right technical counselor Joe Garza says the word on the wedding street for 2019 is shades and hues of purple — from fresh orchids to periwinkles, or purple gum paste flowers on cakes.
With color trends, it’s important to stay ahead of the curve.
“Here at Dawn, we always work ahead to research the colors that will be most popular for the upcoming seasons and ensure we are sharing these with our customers to help better inform the products offered at their bakeries,” Hayes says. “For example, our team typically turns to Pantone to see what they predict will be popular colors in each given season and then partner with our customers to help bring those colors to life. According to Pantone, it’s predicted that the spring months will focus on colors that have a more natural hue to them. With this information, we then provide color charts for mixing our Dawn Buttercream Style colored icings to customers to help them achieve what is on trend in their baking mix.”
Delaney at Lawrence Foods suggests chalkboard cakes with lots of flowers. “Black cakes iced with pastel and muted flowers make a statement for spring. We’re also seeing very mono-chromatic color schemes… simple creamy whites with richly textured sides and sculpted flowers: A very elegant presentation any time of year!”
Seaman at Barry Callebaut points out that tulips provide the canvas for a wide range of color experimentation. It doesn’t cost more to add color to gum paste flowers, but you can charge a lot more for them! Choose 2 or 3 varieties of tulips (Parrot, French, and Fringed for example) then produce several unique color palettes of each. Reference Dutch tulip seed magazines for inspiration.”
Rebecca Moesinger, chef and owner of 45 Surfside in Nantucket was voted "Best Cakes on Nantucket 2018," swears by Perfect Purée for her recipes. Her location on the bike path outside of Nantucket’s busy downtown appeals to people on their way to the beach or locals taking their kids to and from the nearby schools. She has been baking with The Perfect Purée for six years and keeps a variety of flavors in the freezer so she can fill any custom request. She appreciates them because they’re not too sweet and their vibrant colors complement her desserts.
As for color trends, “it’s very often that you will get an order for a custom cake where a shade of color is very important to the client,” Moesinger says “With thousands of shades, everyone’s description of color is different. They could order a light blue cake but could be disappointed when the shade is baby blue rather than the desired sky blue. Sometimes bakeries will ask clients to bring in an object that has the desired color. The problem with this is now the bakery is responsible for that item whether it’s lost or damaged. Not to mention they need space to store a variety of items labeled and kept for each client.”
She has found the best way to avoid these problems is to ask customers to bring in a paint swatch. “This gives the color they are ordering a specific name and avoids any miscommunication, such as Benjamin Moore Melrose Pink. The paint swatch can easily be stapled onto the contract and put away.”
“Imperfect makes it perfect! Think broken chocolate, wafers, cookies, crumbs.”
Rhonda Delaney at Lawrence Foods, Inc.
Texture matters, and cake artists can do wonders with creative textures and toppings. As a prime example, buñuelos are a trending dessert, and Barry Callebaut’s Seaman suggests crushing them up and use them to garnish a buttercream or ganache-covered cake for a crunch.
Flavor Right’s Garza points out the naked cake was big for a while in 2018, “but from what we hear is that more intricate cakes will see a big request in 2019.”
Hayes at Dawn Foods says that textures can add elegance to a cake simply and easily and therefore are very popular with Dawn customers and their end consumer. “The way bakers add textures to cakes can be done through various ways, including using a spatula, cake decorating tips, or with edible embellishments such as sprinkles (pastel colored for spring!), chocolates, or grocery items such as cereals or pretzels.”
Delaney at Lawrence Foods agrees that “yes, texture is very big. On the sides, we’re seeing it cut into the icing, or piped on. We are also still seeing rustic horizontal ribboning on the sides, especially beautiful when combined with gorgeous muted flowers on top!”
LeMott at Lucks Food Decorating Company offers this time-saving suggestion: “Get bold icings with pre-mixed colors in Premium Gel or Paste formats – you add fewer drops to get the same shocking hues. Plus, pre-made decorations are so easy to add to fresh icing, especially when mix-and-matching and piling them high!”
Seaman offers another valuable idea to “use the downtime in January to make a stock of flowers for spring wedding and special occasion cakes. Peonies are most popular in white and pink and lily of the valley only grow with white blossoms.”
Dawn’s Hayes suggests using a spatula to create texture cakes very simply. “With just a spatula, you can create a homestyle look by just moving it up and down on the sides of the cake and then spiraling it on the top of cake. Textured cakes are very well received all year long, and with the right colors and flavors, they’re the perfect offering for spring.”
“Florals are in the spotlight right now: Big, bold, realistic blooms that catch the eye are definitely in,” Delaney says. “On the flip side, muted colors used to make beautiful succulent arrangements are hot as well. We are also still seeing quite a bit of the naked and semi-naked cakes still in vogue. And obviously still important is the trend to cross-showcase: Layering macarons, candy, cookies and mini donuts all lend flavor and textural interest to build sales.”
Seaman offers up a notable point: Consumers expect 60% of desserts to have chocolate. Incorporate a marbled tulip chocolate cup (available from Mona Lisa) into the cake decor. Fill it with cake scraps and top it with a buttercream flower, a chocolate decoration, or garnish to match the cake flavor.”
Flavor Right’s Garza says that couples are opting for late night snacks or an extra special or creative dessert, in lieu of favors like mini cookies, mini fun cupcakes with sweet and salty and caramel.
Hayes says the people at Dawn have a little extra fun and help kickstart creative ideas with customers around holidays and other seasonal moments in time. As a technical service rep, she typically starts the exploratory phase of this process by looking at what is trending on Pinterest and other social platforms. “When doing so, it’s important to bring ideas to life that are quick and simple to execute for our customers. For example, watercolor cakes are very popular, but a lot of our customers do not have the time to stand there and paint a cake. As a solution, we often recommend to our customers that they instead create cakes using color icings piped on the side of a white iced cake using a bowl or icing scraper to smooth and blend colors. This option looks beautiful and is also easily executable for our customers. Dawn keeps the designs simple, clean and on trend.”