Signature Desserts

July 21, 2011

When I write a dessert menu it is always interesting to think about which of my creations may become a signature dessert. Not all great tasting desserts raise to that level. Some  can be really popular but for some unexplainable reason they don’t become signatures.

What makes a signature dessert? It’s a dessert that if you take it off the menu you get phone calls and disappointed faces when diners scan the menu and don’t see it listed. It’s the dessert ordered by practically every table for individual hoarding or to share with the rest of the table.  Plate comes back clean every time.

I know restaurant owners who want chefs to create signature dishes even before a restaurant opens, but it doesn’t work like that. It’s more organic. Customers make a dessert a signature, not a chef.  You make desserts and over a six month period or so you see how they sell.  A dessert has to remain popular even with competition from your other desserts and over several seasons. For that reason, signature desserts are often chocolate based as chocolate is available all year long.

At Stars it was Chocolate Paradise with Champagne Sabayon; at Waterbar it’s Chocolate Pudding Cake. Other San Francisco restaurant signature dishes that come to mind are Coco500′s Vacherin with Coffee Gelato, Chocolate Sauce and Almonds; Elizabeth Falkner’s Rose Petal Crème Brulee; Delfina’s Buttermilk Panna Cotta; and Town Hall’s Butterscotch and Chocolate Pot de Crème.

What signature desserts did I miss that you love?


  1. Don’t forget teh East Bay! The espresso panna cotta at Dopo is amazing! Barely sweet, but so smooth.

  2. Scala’s Bostini Cream Pie is luscious…

  3. At the last restaurant where I worked they wanted me to find a recipe that would be called our signature dessert. I realized then that this restaurant was missing a point, sure enough it didn’t make it. Like you wrote, signature desserts are something the public chooses not the restaurant.

    • So true, Laura. Thanks for swinging by my blog. Where are you working now?

      • Thanks for asking.

        Sadly I am not working, I worked in two restaurants that never did well so i was laid me off, they couldn’t afford a pastry chef. Then I worked for a caterer in South San Francisco but the commute was a killer. My employment have been so spotty in the past few years that I don’t even get called for interviews when I apply for jobs. Working in the city for low wages is impossible coming from Marin and having to drive, good pastry jobs in Marin are scarce. Long story I know… I have been catering a little here and there.

        I am making your pear-caramel swirl ice cream with pecan cookies, the house smells wonderful from the cooked pears and the toasted pecans. I can’t stay away from desserts!

      • it is a tough business. at least you can cook ar home to keep the creative juices flowing.

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