For bakers, there’s never been more diversity of flavors or options for innovation. Whether you’re a professional trying to stay ahead of customer demands or simply a hobbyist baking for your family, the trends for 2017 will give you plenty of new recipes and approaches to try. Decadently rich flavors, designs akin to art forms, ingredients from the Middle Ages, and food-type mashups all make our list of our favorite baking trends for this year.
Wedding Cake Trends
The U.S. wedding industry is worth more than $50 billion, so it’s no wonder that bakeries have invested in expanding their cake offerings. The best wedding cake designers display an incredible amount of artistic talent – wedding cakes have become extravagant, ornamental, and creative to the point that you want to put them in a museum. Our favorite trends for 2017 in this category include:
- Greenery – Bohemian and rustic themes are all the rage for weddings these days. This more earthy, natural look has resulted in traditional roses being thrown over for plant-like greenery in bouquets and decor, and that same greenery is making its way on to wedding cakes. Bridal desserts have never looked so woodsy or natural as they have in 2017, bedecked with succulents, fern leaves, and wildflowers.
- Galaxy – With the huge movies like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 hitting the screens, it’s no surprise that couples have been giving subtle nods to Jyn and Star-Lord with space-age designs on their wedding cakes. Gradients of dark blues and purples (and even some black) cover the cakes, as white-colored icing is splattered on to look like sparkly stars. Blueberries, dip-dyed cookies, and any rounded fruits or sweets can be layered on top as “planets.” Some couples even add constellations in the icing.
- Hand-Painted – With an incredible amount of skill and delicacy, we’re seeing some beautifully hand-painted cakes. Ranging from a look of lovely vintage wallpaper to edgy graffiti, cake designers are using a variety of techniques and props to hand paint their cakes. These are certainly the baked goods that you’d almost rather stare at than eat.
Taste buds are continually demanding more and different flavors, and often get bored. Interesting flavors have made an appearance in 2017 to try to keep your palate entertained.
- Chocolate Chili – Flavor mash-ups are nothing new, but chocolate chili is a special combination that has grabbed people’s hearts (and mouths). Largely due to several studies that have proven the benefits dark chocolate has for heart health and cancer prevention, there’s been a rise in this sweet’s popularity. The sharp spice of chili is a perfect complement to the bitterness of dark chocolate and more bakers are using this flavor combo for muffins, cakes, and even pastries.
- Burnt Sugar – As delicious as sugar is, caramelizing it adds a different level of flavor. The caramel notes are enhanced and you get a smoky, rich taste. Burnt sugar can, of course, be used as a white or brown sugar replacement in baked goods, but it’s also becoming a standalone flavor in its own right. You’ll find burnt sugar ice cream, syrup for breads or breakfast foods, and cakes.
- The Classics – Classic, “vintage” flavors that bring to mind soda shops and doo-wop music have definitely become a big trend in 2017. Baked goods with nostalgic flavors like birthday cake, root beer, cotton candy, and strawberries and cream are making a huge appearance, in both their classic forms and with new twists.
It seems like every year there’s a “new” ingredient that explodes on the scene and is woven into the most unlikely recipes and baked goods. For 2017, these three, in particular, are our favorites for baking:
- Cardamom – A spice native to India, cardamom is made from various plants in the ginger family. There are two types of cardamom: black and green. It has a strong aroma that smells both floral and smoky. While cardamom has always been used in curries and rice, and is hailed for its medicinal benefits, it’s growing in popularity for baking. Lemon cardamom muffins, cinnamon cardamom bread, and vanilla cardamom peach pie are a few of our favorite ways to use this trendy spice when baking.
- Rose – Another fragrant flavor that we see on an uptick in is rose. Some people can’t get beyond an association with perfume, but a growing number of other are using rose flavors in their baking experiments. Dating back to the Middle Ages and also known for having curative properties, you can swap out your vanilla extract for rose water (for best results, make sure it’s pure rose water). Add it to cakes, tarts, muffins, and even cookie dough for a unique twist on the classics.
- Sorghum – A gluten-free ancient grain, sorghum is being frequently used to replace of white flour. More and more artisan grains are being used in baked goods because they are typically much healthier. Sorghum is not only gluten free, but also can be very high in antioxidants. Its flavor is neutral and just slightly sweet, which makes this grain ideal to use in a variety of baked goods such as cookies, cakes, and pie crusts.
Comeback Dessert Trends
Everyone loves a comeback and this year has seen the world of baked goods embrace a couple comeback kids.
- Pie – That dessert your grandmother baked to perfection or you only bought for holiday dinners is now experiencing a revival. Pies are appearing on the menus of hip bakeries and specialty dessert shops, not just small-town diners. The classic flavors like apple and peach are still popular, but bakers are taking liberties and experimenting with different grains for the crusts and seasonal fruits for the fillings. Some of the tastiest flavors we’ve seen are custard maple, caramel bourbon, and blueberry lime pie.
- Ice Cream Sundaes – This isn’t your average two scoops with some syrup and a cherry on top. The latest and greatest ice cream sundaes are outrageous and tall enough to make them hard to hold. Offering both standard (vanilla, chocolate, etc) and exotic ice cream flavors is only part of the fun. The sundaes are also piled high with virtually any type of topping you can think of: cookies, candies, cereal, fruit, edible flowers, and more. They are heavenly to eat, but also quite beautiful creations. Just look on Instagram to see how this trend is taking hold, and all the variety of sundaes you can get.
New Dessert Trends
The comeback desserts are one thing, and the new, never-before-seen desserts are another. These two newcomers are keeping bakers’ ovens and Instagram busy.
- Breakfast-Dessert Hybrids. Similar to the flavor mash-up trends, we’re also noticing some emerging food-type mashups. Notably, breakfast-dessert hybrids are proving to get incredibly creative in 2017. Many times, you’ll hear the food combination and either say “Why didn’t I think of that?” or “Really?! That doesn’t seem right.” But the professional bakers dreaming up these hybrids know what they’re doing and the result is invariably delicious. Some prime examples are croissants stuffed with cream and funfetti sprinkles, maple and bacon-flavored cupcakes, cinnamon toast crunch cheesecake, Nutella waffle cakes, and more.
- Rainbows & Unicorns. Unicorns themselves are having a major resurgence in pop culture, and rainbows certainly go hand in hand with unicorns. This whimsical trend has hit bakeries and one of the most popular manifestations is cake with each layer dyed a different color of the rainbow (yes, especially ambitious bakers do create all seven layers). The exterior of the cake is decorated with white and gold icing and topped with a single golden horn. Cake pops and doughnuts are also ideal shapes for this theme. The rainbow and unicorn trend has even extended to breads, with some shops offering rainbow bagels with birthday cake or sprinkles cream cheese.
Healthy Baking Trends
Even with all of the deliciously delectable new flavors and desserts available, there is a huge trend toward finding healthier alternatives to baked goods. People still want to indulge, and should, but in a more nutrition-conscious manner. Here are a few of the healthy baking trends we see emerging this year.
- Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free – Just as with the ancient grains like sorghum replacing white flour, soy milk, and coconut milk are replacing cow’s milk. Many Americans are struggling with celiac disease or lactose intolerance, but others are simply looking for healthier alternatives. This demand has encouraged bakers to find ingredients and recipes that are gluten- and dairy-free, yet don’t sacrifice the taste. This year more than ever you see online blogs offering recipes or bakeries presenting menus with these options. Baked goods like biscotti made with hemp seeds and graham flour or coconut brownies are satisfying cravings without the gluten and dairy.
- Muffins – A go-to breakfast staple, muffins have always been a favorite baked good but are notorious for being unhealthy (some rack up more calories than white chocolate mocha). Since muffins aren’t being thrown by the wayside anytime soon, there’s an evolving trend to reform the muffin and make it healthier. Instead of the jumbo-top muffins, we are seeing wholesome recipes with lots of fruit, seeds, nuts, and spices that will keep the calories down and keep this breakfast tradition solidly in place.
New Bakery Trends
The edible elements aren’t the only things shifting in this industry. Bakeries themselves are evolving quickly to meet customer needs and stay ahead of all these trends. The modern baker has to be a cutting-edge entrepreneur.
- Specialization – Bakeries and dessert shops are typically small companies and shouldn’t (and don’t want to) compete with the large corporations that are also producing baked goods. Instead, these small businesses are finding success by carving out very specific niches. Instead of being a bakery that offers a little of everything, the trend is to specialize in a single type of product. You’ll find that bakeries only offer cupcakes, or cakes, or artisanal breads, or specialty croissants. And those single products will have secret recipes or special ways of being baked that can’t be replicated by bigger companies and smaller competitors.
- Unique Packaging – When bakeries and dessert shops specialize, it’s a subtle way to brand your business. A more clear-cut form of branding is product packaging and bakeries are realizing how important it is. Smaller stores are investing in unique and attractive ways to package their products so they are recognizable when a customer walks out the door. Unusually shaped carry-away boxes, containers than mold to the shape of a dessert, reusable cartons, and the like are all becoming a priority for bakeries to brand and make a part of their specialization.
- Open Layouts – With baked goods, people shop with their eyes. Indulging is a treat and with all of the extraordinary presentations and unconventional recipes, seeing the product is incredibly important. Bakeries and dessert shops are now taking the approach that fashion stores have for a long time – big storefront windows. Grabbing the attention of those who passersby with the bright colors of the sweets and lovely arrangements tempts people inside, and then bakeries are maximizing space with large, wide glass cases. The large windows and open layout ensure the baked goods can be seen throughout the store.
Wrapping up 2017 baking trends
The trends we’ve seen so far in 2017 run the gamut of tastes and inventiveness, but what’s clear is that people who are creating, buying, and eating these baked goods and desserts want the highest quality. Only the finest ingredients, the most original flavor combinations, and best presentation will do. As more trends emerge during the rest of the year, we expect they will follow that path as well, and we will happily taste test them and report back.