Mashup Mania

Cruffins.  Piecakes.  Boozy Donuts.  Dessert mashups are all the rage.  Here's what bakers need to know to capitalize on this trend. 


What were you baking when the Cronut hit? Maybe you were halfway through a batch of cupcakes—the baked good du jour before New York Pastry Chef Dominique Ansel first crossed a croissant with a donut. Or perhaps it was cake pops, the humble hybrid that few even consider a fusion dessert.

Wherever you were in May 2013, you likely weren’t expecting the reverberations of Dominique Ansel Bakery’s magnum opus: the trend of dessert mashups, from muffies to bonuts to piecakes to mallomacs. Though some expected the mashup mania to be short-lived, research published by Datassential found that two years after the Cronut launched, 28 percent of consumers were still interested in hybrid desserts. Mashups’ reign continues today, with artisanal bakeries, restaurant chains and food manufacturers offering products created from mixing unique flavors, textures, dessert types and more.

But combining desserts shouldn’t just be about jumping on a bandwagon. It’s innovation, pure and simple, that can breathe fresh life into a menu and get a bakery noticed. “Pastry as a whole has been held hostage by tradition since forever,” says Aaron Caddel, CEO and founder of Mr. Holmes Bakehouse, the San Francisco progenitors of the Cruffin (a croissant-muffin). “Our whole gig is to examine tradition and see what works and what doesn’t.”

What lies behind the hybrid dessert is the spirit of reinvention. What baker can’t get behind that?



Make Your Own Dessert Mashups


1. Seek Out a Challenge

Sometimes, the best ideas come when you’ve been put on the spot. The Pumpecapple Piecake was born after a food editor challenged Three Brothers Bakery in Houston to bake a pie in a cake. And baker Bea Vo created the townie—a brownie tart—after London Evening Standard tasked her with inventing a dessert mashup to rival the Cronut.

2. Anchor in a Bakery Staple

Familiar elements can help ensure a mashup’s longevity. “Even if you’re using a trend, you need to morph it into something that’s not a trend,” says Jamie Saunders, chef at Johnny D’s Waffles and Bakery in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and creator of the red velvet waffle. “Waffles are not a trend. People will be eating waffles until the end of time.”

3. Have a Clear Vision

Bakers need to experiment and tweak their recipes to perfection, but having a defined goal at the outset can save time and resources. “You have to have that visualization of what things will look like and how they’ll taste when you’re doing it,” says Three Brothers Bakery co-owner Bobby Jucker, who created the Pumpecapple Piecake.

4. Play Up the Scarcity

Consider launching new dessert mashups as exclusive, limited edition items. The novelty of the dessert won’t wear off as quickly as that of permanent menu additions, and if consumers respond to your creation with strong demand, you can revive it seasonally or periodically.

5. Put Social Media to Work

The rise of foodie culture and Instagram [AB1] have steered many bakeries toward photogenic desserts. “If you can create a product that resonates with your customer’s personal narrative, you can make your entire PR and marketing budget disappear,” says Rene Montelongo, brand director for San Francisco’s Mr. Holmes Bakehouse, creator of the Cruffin.

Click here to see the full Summer 2018 Batter Up issue.