July 1, 2006
Haute & Sticky
By Maria Pilar Clark
Ingenious entries in the frozen baked sweet goods category are selling like hot cakes. Specifically, bakers are breaking from a one-dessert-fits-all mentality by offering consumers and foodservice operators portable formats and first-class flavors.
Kaka. No, it’s not what you think. Rather, it’s the ancient Norse word for cake. Hopefully, back in those days, horned helmet-wearing Vikings didn’t confuse kaka with more organic matter. While that word might not conjure up tempting images of the popular dessert, frozen baked goods manufacturers are ensuring that their sweet confection creations take the cake with one-of-a-kind, fork-free formats and unique, chic flavors.
Just look at what Jean-Yves Charon, founder of Galaxy Desserts and an acclaimed master pastry chef, has been doing to woo gateau gourmands since 1988 with his European-style, single-serve desserts that tout just a touch of California flair.
Charon’s traditional-but-trendy treats include cakes in flavors such as Mango Mousse and Chocolate Lava and cater to a far-flung audience, with distribution to 46 states on a regular basis. The Richmond, Calif.-based company has a strong foothold in mass-market, specialty and natural-food retailers and also sells its desserts under its Galaxy Desserts brand.
French-born Charon recently unveiled Dessert Duos, which were a runaway hit at the Fancy Food Show in New York. Each single-serve premium dessert is served in a mini, plastic shot-glass-sized cup — inspiration stemmed from the way in which similar desserts are presented to diners in France — complete with a lid that offers foodservice operators an opportunity to take advantage of the grab-and-go consumer mindset.
“The response has been unbelievable,” Charon notes. “I think this is the best product I’ve come up with since I started the company.”
Here’s the icing on the cake: Consumers have the chance to treat themselves to something indulgent and deliciously pretentious, without emptying their pocketbooks or expanding their waistlines in the process. C’est magnifique!
Charon prides himself on baking up creative, quality desserts with artful, handcrafted touches, making him the envy of the industry.
“This is what my son once said to me when I asked him if he’d like to be a pastry chef when he grows up: ‘Papa, I can’t. You’ve already invented everything there is to make,’” Charon says.
It’s that kind of motivation that keep his culinary wheels turning and conceptualizing new items such as the Dessert Duos, which will be packed 96 to a case and available to foodservice operators in mid-August. Additionally they will come in four sumptuous flavors: Cappucino-Chocolate Truffle, Crème Caramel, Chocolate Mousse and Lemon-Raspberry — the last flavor recently was showcased on the Food Network’s Sugar Rush.
Charon is considering taking the desserts to retail, as well, but still is tinkering with the details and proper packaging formats.
Cake It or Leave It
For some, school-day memories are filled with rosy scenes — football games, good grades and long summer vacations. For others, school was a virtual gauntlet, dodging wedgie-wielding bullies and “kick me” signs. Wisconsin Cheesecake Co. offers the mistreated and miscreants alike a chance to savor the good old days with a frozen treat that’s livening up the category … and maybe some of those flashbacks.
The Weston, Wis.-based company’s single-serve cheesecake on a stick, the Wedgee, is grabbing the category by the seat of its pants as a cheeky take on an all-American favorite. Cheesecake wedges, made with all natural ingredients, are served on a stick and designed for on-the-go snacking. Each Wedgee is hand-dipped in chocolate and comes in flavors such as Original, Cherry, Key Lime and Turtle.
Capitalizing on its blowout success, the company has added the Swirlee to its product lineup. The 4-oz. cheesecakes come in packs of two and are available in Strawberry Raspberry, Blueberry, Turtle and Golden Velvet flavors.
Cake It Away
In the frozen baked sweet goods category, foodservice often is a catalyst for change. For years, pastry chefs have inspired frozen dessert producers to mass-produce “white tablecloth” products that make restaurant quality treats accessible to every consumer.
Today, the foodservice, in-store bakery and retail channels are battling it out and producing higher quality baked goods that often compete with one another. In fact, the frozen baked sweet goods category has turned into a virtual cake-off, where flavor exploration and implementation is key. Everything from fruit to coffee to candy can find its way into cake creations, in part as a response to consumer demand for more worldly European flavors and some simple but clever twists on traditional favorites.
Macy’s Makes Piece Offering
There’s nothing like chocolate to appease life’s pitfalls. For many Chicagoans, one of this year’s biggest bummers is the city’s landmark Marshall Field’s department store being renamed Macy’s — of New York, no less. To ease the transition, Federated Department stores tapped Eli’s Cheesecake Co., a family-run Chicago institution, to create a Frango mint cheesecake exclusively for Macy’s, as a kind of peace offering for Windy City shoppers.
According to Eli’s, the first Frango cheesecakes are scheduled to arrive at Field’s, er, Macy’s State Street store in mid-August and eventually roll out to all 810 Macy’s stores nationwide, starting in the Midwest. The cakes will be made at Eli’s factory on the Northwest side of Chicago and will feature a lighter and creamier cheesecake, with a mint chocolate mousse and dark chocolate cookie crumb crust.
Batter It Out
On July 16, bakers in Rust, Germany, battled it out for a Guinness Book of World Records Title, claiming to have baked the world’s biggest Black Forest cake — 33 ft. in diameter and weighing three tonnes, or about 6,614 lb.
Bakers used more than 5,600 eggs, 185 gallons of cream, 1,750 lb. of cherries and 31.7 gallons of cherry liqueur to make the towering cake. The bakers believed they broke a Germany-based 1999 world record cake, which measured 5.8 meters in diameter.
Afterward, the enormous dessert was cut into 16,000 slices, and the proceeds were used to help children in need of heart surgery.