Sweet Treats

Trends in the Baking Business

But in recent years the baking industry has seen a definite shift in consumer trends, as it responds to international trends as they meet Australian tastebuds. With cupcakes, macarons and whoopie pies rising to fame, Australian customers can now have their cake and eat it too. From cute cake pops to elegant croquembouche towers lacquered in toffee, the baking industry is boldly going where it has never gone before.

Baking Revolution

Trends in baking are seeing substantial interest from consumers and media. The recent ‘cupcake craze’, for example, has changed the way the public views these sweet treats. Cupcakes in decades past were primarily limited to vanilla or chocolate frosted creations; they were nothing fancy. With the recent revolution in baking, cupcakes are no longer being seen as ‘just for kids’. Grown women in stylish suburbs like Sydney’s iconic Bondi district order cupcakes by the boxful. They are now in fashion, and as a result have led to an influx of new flavours, colours, and styles.

In response to the cupcake craze, prominent players in the baking industry have started to manufacture premixed ‘bake-at-home’ cupcake kits with adventurous recipes. These recipes, while creative are still easy to bake at home for the average Mum. Sachets of sticky ganache and sprinkles turn any home kitchen into a gourmet bakery. Consumers can also mix in sachets of ‘just add water’ powdered frosting. Baking cupcakes at home has never been so easy and convenient.

At the other end of the market, high profile patisserie chefs have put their focus on creating cupcakes to impress consumers with irresistible flavours and delectable soft centres. The humble cupcake has become a miniature work of edible art. Entire bakery chains have appeared dedicated entirely to the art of cupcake making. Although profits are not as high as when demand for cupcakes was at its peak, they are still happily trading.

Following the cupcake craze, French macarons were said to be the next big thing in baking. Macaron sales were soon surging forward. Women across the country have been going mad for macarons in every colour of the rainbow; with flavours ranging from almond and raspberry to black sesame, there is something to suit all tastes. Macarons have proven to be incredibly popular. Sold fresh or frozen, individually or by the dozen, macarons are being produced, imported and enjoyed by consumers everywhere.

Macarons have a refined look consisting of two meringue-based cookie shells, sandwiched together with a filling of a creamy consistency. Macarons are admittedly more difficult for the average home cook to create than cupcakes. Still, store shelves are filling with ‘do-it-yourself’ macaron kits and glossy cookbooks promising perfect results.

Whoopie pies, the American cousin of the macaron, are the latest baked good to shoot to fame. Traditionally, whoopie pies consist of two chocolate cookies or cakes sandwiched together with a marshmallow filling; although there are several delicious variations on the original recipe. There is some debate in America as to exactly where did the tasty whoopie pie comes from. The state of Maine claims to be the birthplace of the whoopie pie; however, the citizens of Pennsylvania disagree and claim that in fact the Amish community should be credited with the invention. As he story goes, when children or husbands would come upon the treat with their lunches they would exclaim, “Whoopie!” Wherever whoopie pies came from, there is no doubt that Australians love eating them.

While cupcakes, macarons and whoopie pies have been the most evident recent baking trends, numerous other baked goods have won over consumer tastebuds. The sophisticated croquembouche tower is one such trend. Croquembouche towers quite literally take the classic wedding dessert profiteroles to new heights. A croquembouche tower consists of covering a central cardboard or Styrofoam cone in profiteroles dipped in toffee, to make them stick. The towers are decorated in a range of ways, from a light dusting of icing sugar to golden caramel, sliced strawberries and fondant flowers.

Croquembouche towers became popular with consumers due to the hit television series ‘Master Chef’. In one episode, contestants were challenged to create a croquembouche tower. The day after the episode screened, patisseries across Australia reported a wave of customers asking for croquembouche towers. Not long after the croquembouche trend was born, macarons also were seen assembled as multicoloured towers.

Cake pops are another innovative trend that puts a fresh spin on an old favourite. Cake pops are an individual, snack sized cake on a stick made from cake mix, baked in a ball-shaped mould. The lollipop-like result can be frosted, dipped in melted chocolate and rolled in a variety of toppings like coconut, chopped nuts and sprinkles. Cake pops are a convenient, no-mess treat that is proving to be a hit with consumers.

Sophisticated Flavours

Not long ago, baking was understood to be the domain of time-tested recipes. Baking manufacturers did not have to think far outside the box to stay in business. Flavours like chocolate, vanilla and strawberry dominated the market. Frostings and fillings for cakes and pies, too, did not stray from jam and cream. Today there is far more pressure for baking industry players to be innovative, creative and responsive to the latest consumer trends. There is a new emphasis in the industry to develop bold, new flavours like pistachio, salted caramel and even spicy wasabi: gourmet flavours to target sophisticated adult palates. By developing signature flavours to surprise and delight consumers, baking businesses stay competitive in the changing industry.

While chocolate is still as popular as ever, unusual savoury flavourings are in high demand with consumers who want to try something out of the ordinary. Although inventing macaron flavours like salmon, burnt toast and blue cheese is best left up to the experts and not the average home cook, consumers are hooked on the weird and the wonderful. That spark of curiosity prompts customers to pull out their wallets, and take a bite.

The new focus on experimental flavours has grown alongside a revival of classic flavours. Long-time favourites such as red velvet, banana, lemon and chocolate chip are back, adding a retro twist to the latest sweet trend. Red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting are particularly popular with consumers.

The Next Bite

So what will be the next trend in the baking world? Brownies, cookies, fried batter on a stick, pies and profiteroles are all growing in popularity as innovative bakers take chances in their craft. Profiteroles (also known as cream puffs) have already seen great success in the form of croquembouche towers. These pastries may exceed the popularity of the towers in singular form. Many American retailers believe that the humble donut will become ‘the next cupcake’. Only time will tell what treat will next take the lead in the industry.

Judging by past trends, the next big trend will be innovative and suitable to eat at any time of the year. The look of each creation is increasingly important, as consumers are beginning to fully consider the possibilities of baking and pastry arts. Celebrity endorsements and features on popular television shows further promote awareness of and interest in new baking trends.

The Australian baking industry has come a long way from floury scones and lamingtons. The industry is now more innovative, trendy and exciting than ever. The competition to create scrumptious treats has never been so fierce. While whoopie pies may be the latest sweet treat, soon a new product will take hold of the market. We are all hungry to know what it might be.

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June 19, 2018, 10:46 AM AEST