The wording of Dessert Menus

May 28, 2010

My blog is also appearing on the Inside Scoop Column of the San Francisco Chronicle website.

After I create a new dessert the next step is to decide how to describe it on the menu. This can actually be tricky. I don’t want it to be wordy but it needs to cover all the elements of the dessert. It should be enticing but not cute. When I worked at Stars I made a rendition of the Sacrapantina cake from Stella Pastry in North Beach. It was a white cake layered with Marsala- Sherry Zabaglione with chocolate shavings on top and crushed biscotti on the sides. The staff loved it but I couldn’t give it away. After a couple of days I realized no one was ordering it because they didn’t know how to pronounce Sacrapantina and they didn’t want to embarrass themselves by saying it wrong. I changed the name to Tuscan Cream Cake and it sold like crazy. Nuts are always listed so people with allergies will have a heads up. Flavor driving ingredients such as coconut, raspberry, coffee and mango I like to mention even when used as an accent. Their presence influences the overall flavor of a dessert. For example, not everybody likes coconut so I don’t want them to be disappointed if I serve a chocolate banana cream tart and it is covered with candied coconut. It can ruin their night. Unlike most pastry chefs, I am not a fan of chocolate and raspberry together. In a restaurant recently I ordered a warm chocolate cake with coffee ice cream. The cake and the ice cream were both delicious but I was bummed that it had raspberry sauce all over the bottom of the plate. It wasn’t mentioned on the menu and if I had known it was going to be on there I would have ordered something else or asked for the sauce on the side. I know it is a personal quirk of mine but raspberry is a strong flavor and overpowers the chocolate and coffee. The flavors stay separate in my mouth and don’t create a new flavor. Everyone has taste preferences and I want the customers who come to Waterbar or Farallon to be able to dig right into a dessert when it is placed in front of them and not be let down or surprised.


  1. I agree. When I read a dessert on a menu, I don’t want a definition as long as the encyclopedia, however, I do want a succinct description.

    I doubt very much if I would be disappointed in your desserts, wherever you make them.

  2. I just made these toginht! My sweet husband LOVES Raspberry. They are a hit with the family! Thank you!

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