Dessert is a course that concludes a meal. The course consists of sweet foods, such as confections, and possibly a beverage such as dessert wine and liqueur. In some parts of the world, such as much of Greece and West Africa, and most parts of China, there is no tradition of a dessert course to conclude a meal.
The term dessert can apply to many confectionery, such as , , , , gelatin dessert, , pastry, , , , tong sui, , and fruit salad. Fruit is also commonly found in dessert courses because of its naturally occurring sweetness. Some cultures sweeten foods that are more commonly umami to create desserts.
The word "dessert" originated from the French word desservir,
meaning "to clear the table".
Its first known use in English was in 1600, in a health education manual entitled Naturall and artificial Directions for Health
, written by William Vaughan.
In his book Sweet Invention: A History of Dessert (2011), Michael Krondl explains that it refers to the fact that dessert was served after the table had been cleared of other dishes.
The term dates from the 14th century but attained its current meaning around the beginning of the 20th century, when "service à la française" (setting a variety of dishes on the table at the same time) was replaced with "service à la russe" (presenting a meal in multiple courses).
The word "dessert" is most commonly used for this course in Australia
, New Zealand
, and the United States
, while it is one of several synonyms (including " pudding
", " sweet
" and " afters
") in the United Kingdom
and some other Commonwealth countries.
Sweets were fed to the gods in ancient Mesopotamia
and ancient India
and other ancient civilizations.
mentions that Persians
meals featured many desserts, and were more varied in their sweet offerings than the main dishes.
German army officer Helmuth von Moltke whilst serving in the Ottoman Empire
noted the unusual presentation of courses with the sweet courses served between roasts and other savory dishes.
Dried fruit and honey were probably the first sweeteners used in most of the world, but the spread of sugarcane around the world was essential to the development of dessert.
Sugarcane was grown and refined in India before 500 BC and was crystallized, making it easy to transport, by AD 500. Sugar and sugarcane were traded, making sugar available to Macedonia by 300 BC and China by AD 600. In the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, and China, sugar has been a staple of cooking and desserts for over a thousand years.
Sugarcane and sugar were little known and rare in Europe until the twelfth century or later when the Crusades and then colonization spread its use. Europeans began to manufacture sugar in the Middle Ages, and more sweet desserts became available.
Even then sugar was so expensive usually only the wealthy could indulge on special occasions. The first apple pie recipe was published in 1381. Melitta Weiss Adamson (2022
, Greenwood Press, Westport, CT. ISBN 9780313321474
The earliest documentation of the term cupcake was in "Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats" in 1828 in Eliza Leslie's Receipts cookbook.
The Industrial Revolution in Europe and later America caused led to the mass-production of foodstuffs, including desserts, that could be processed, preserved, canned, and packaged. Frozen foods, including desserts, became very popular starting in the 1920s.
Sweet desserts usually contain cane sugar, palm sugar, brown sugar, honey, or some types of syrup such as molasses, maple syrup, treacle, or corn syrup. Other common ingredients in Western-style desserts are flour or other starches, cooking
such as butter or lard, Dairy product
, eggs, salt, acidic ingredients such as lemon juice, and spices and other flavoring agents such as chocolate
, coffee, peanut butter,
, and nuts. The proportions of these ingredients, along with the preparation methods, play a major part in the consistency, texture, and flavor of the end product.
Sugars contribute moisture and tenderness to baked goods. Flour or starch components serves as a protein and gives the dessert structure. Fats contribute moisture and can enable the development of flaky layers in pastries and pie crusts. The dairy products in baked goods keep the desserts moist. Many desserts also contain eggs, in order to form custard or to aid in the rising and thickening of a cake-like substance. Egg yolks specifically contribute to the richness of desserts. Egg whites can act as a leavening agent
or provide structure. Further innovation in the healthy eating movement has led to more information being available about vegan and gluten-free substitutes for the standard ingredients, as well as replacements for refined sugar.
Desserts can contain many and extracts to add a variety of flavors. Salt and acids are added to desserts to balance sweet flavors and create a contrast in flavors. Some desserts are coffee bean-flavored, for example an iced coffee soufflé or coffee biscuits.
Alcohols and liqueurs can also be used as an ingredient, to make alcoholic desserts.
Varieties and elements
Dessert consist of variations of tastes, textures, and appearances. Desserts can be defined as a usually sweeter course that concludes a meal.
This definition includes a range of courses ranging from fruits or dried nuts to multi-ingredient cakes and pies. Many cultures have different variations of dessert. In modern times the variations of desserts have usually been passed down or come from geographical regions. This is one cause for the variation of desserts. These are some major categories in which desserts can be placed.
Cakes are sweet tender breads made with sugar and delicate flour. Cakes can vary from light, airy sponge cakes to dense cakes with less flour. Common flavorings include Dried fruit
, candied fruit
or fresh fruit
, nuts, cocoa powder
. They may be filled with fruit preserves
), iced with buttercream
or other icings, and decorated with marzipan
, piped borders, or candied fruit. Cake is often served as a celebratory dish on ceremonial occasions, for example wedding cake
, and birthday cake
. Small-sized cakes have become popular, in the form of
and Petit four
are similar to custards in that their base is cream or milk. However, their primary difference is that puddings are thickened with starches such as corn starch
or tapioca pudding
. On the other hand, custards are thickened using only eggs and are usually more firm.
Small cakes and pastries
A batched dough between a cake and pastry by the mix of ingredients. An Old French bescuit
, commonly spelt in English as biscuit, is a derivation of Latin for twice-baked
[See, for example, Shakespeare's use of "Twice-sod simplicity! Bis coctus!" in Love's Labour's Lost. ()]
A Dutch koekje
, commonly spelt in English as cookie, is a derivation of cake-ie
, meaning little cake.
This form of dough can have a texture that is crisp, hard, chewy, or soft – in the UK a biscuit is the former two and a cookie is typically the latter. Examples include a ginger nut, shortbread biscuit and chocolate chip cookie.
Other small cakes and pastries can also be counted as under these terms, due to their size and relative similarity to cookies and biscuits, such as jaffa cakes and .
, also called candy
, sweets or lollies, features sugar
as a principal ingredient.
Many involve sugar heated into crystals with subtle differences. Dairy and sugar based include caramel, fudge and toffee or taffy. They are multiple forms of egg and sugar . and similar confections. Unheated sugar co-adulate into icings, preservatives and sauces with other ingredients.
Theobroma cacao beans
can be a substitute or more commonly mixed with sugar to form chocolate. Pure, unsweetened dark chocolate contains primarily cocoa solids. Cocoa butter is also added in varying proportions. Much of the chocolate currently consumed is in the form of sweet chocolate, combining chocolate with sugar. Milk chocolate is sweet chocolate that additionally contains milk powder or condensed milk. White chocolate contains cocoa butter, sugar, and milk, but no cocoa solids. Dark chocolate is produced by adding fat and sugar to the cacao mixture, with no milk or much less than milk chocolate.
Mithai, derived from the Sanskrit word 'sharkara',
represents the range of Indian desserts.
These kinds of desserts usually include a thickened dairy base. Custards are cooked and thickened with eggs. Baked custards include crème brûlée and flan. They are often used as ingredients in other desserts, for instance as a filling for pastries or pies.
Many cuisines include a dessert made of deep-fried starch-based batter or dough. In many countries, a doughnut
is a flour-based batter that has been deep-fried. It is sometimes filled with custard or jelly.
are fruit pieces in a thick batter that have been deep fried. Gulab jamun
is an Indian dessert made of milk solids kneaded into a dough, deep-fried, and soaked in honey.
are a deep-fried and sugared dough that is eaten as dessert or a snack in many countries.
and shaved-ice desserts fit into this category. Ice cream is a cream base that is churned as it is frozen to create a creamy consistency. Gelato uses a milk base and has less air whipped in than ice cream, making it denser. Sorbet is made from churned fruit and is not dairy based. Shaved-ice desserts are made by shaving a block of ice and adding flavored syrup or juice to the ice shavings.
Jellied desserts are made with a sweetened liquid thickened with gelatin or another thickening agent. They are traditional in many cultures. Grass jelly
and annin tofu
are Chinese jellied desserts. Yōkan is a Japanese jellied dessert. In English-speaking countries, many dessert recipes are gelatin dessert
with fruit or whipped cream added. The vegetarian substitute for Gelatin is Agar
is also most commonly made with gelatin.
Pastries are sweet baked pastry products. Pastries can either take the form of light and flaky bread with an airy texture, such as a [[croissant]] or unleavened dough with a high fat content and crispy texture, such as [[shortbread]]. Pastries are often flavored or filled with [[fruits]], [[chocolate]], nuts, and [[spices]]. Pastries are sometimes eaten with [[tea]] or [[coffee]] as a breakfast food.
Pies, cobblers, and clafoutis
Pies and cobblers are a crust with a filling. The crust can be either made from either a pastry or crumbs. Pie fillings range from fruits to puddings; cobbler fillings are generally fruit-based. Clafoutis are made of batter poured over a fruit-based filling before baking.
Tong sui, literally translated as "sugar water" and also known as tim tong, is a collective term for any sweet, warm soup
served as a dessert at the end of a meal in Cantonese cuisine. Tong sui
are a Cantonese specialty and are rarely found in other Chinese cuisine
. Outside of Cantonese-speaking communities, soupy desserts generally are not recognized as a distinct category, and the term tong sui
is not used.
typically served with dessert. There is no simple definition of a dessert wine. In the UK, a dessert wine is considered to be any sweet wine drunk with a meal, as opposed to the white
(fino and amontillado sherry) drunk before the meal, and the red fortified wines (port wine
and Madeira wine
) drunk after it. Thus, most fortified wines are regarded as distinct from dessert wines, but some of the less strong fortified white wines, such as Pedro Ximénez sherry and Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise, are regarded as honorary dessert wines. In the United States, by contrast, a dessert wine is legally defined as any wine over 14% alcohol by volume, which includes all fortified wines - and is taxed at higher rates as a result. Examples include Sauternes and Tokaji
File:Apple pie.jpg|Apple pie
File:Baked Alaska (5097717743).jpg|Baked Alaska, ice cream and cake topped with browned meringue
File:Baklava - Turkish special, 80-ply.JPEG|Baklava, a pastry comprising layers of filo with chopped nuts, sweetened and held together with syrup or honey
File:Homemade Flan.jpg|Baked custard
File:Brennan's Bananas Foster.jpg|Bananas Foster, made from bananas and vanilla ice cream with a sauce made from butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, dark rum and banana liqueur
File:Plain cheesecake.jpg|Cheesecake, a type of dessert with a layer of a mixture of soft, fresh cheese, eggs and sugar
File:Cannoli siciliani (7472226896).jpg|Cannoli with pistachio dust, candied and chocolate drops
File:Chocolate mousse.jpg|Chocolate mousse, a chocolate variety of a dessert incorporating air bubbles to give it a light and airy texture
File:Coconutbar.jpg|Coconut bar, made with coconut milk and set with either Wheat starch and corn starch, or agar agar and gelatin
File:Creme brulee.jpg|Preparation of crème brûlée, a rich custard base topped with a contrasting layer of hard caramel
File:Egg custard tart by Stu Spivack.jpg|Custard tart, a pastry originating from Guangzhou, China.
File:Hwangnam bread (cropped).JPG|Gyeongju bread, a small pastry with a filling of red bean paste
File:씨앗호떡.jpg|Hotteok (a variety of filled Korean pancake) with edible seeds, sugar, and cinnamon
File:Kkultarae, Korean court cake.jpg|Kkultarae, fine strands of honey and maltose, often with a sweet nut filling
File:Jell-o cream cheese square.jpg|Jell-o cream cheese square
File:Lemon tart (cropped).jpg|Lemon tart, a pastry shell with a lemon-flavored filling
File:Mämmi, memma.jpg|Mämmi, a Finnish cuisine Easter dessert
File:Pastry assortment.jpg|An assortment of pastries
File:Rum cake.jpg|Rum cake, a type of cake containing rum
File:King of Spotted Dicks.jpg|Spotted dick
File:Tiramisu with blueberries and raspberries, July 2011.jpg|Tiramisu
File:Banana pudding, homemade.jpg|Homemade banana pudding
File:Homemade Flan.jpg|Flan, a type of custard.
Throughout much of central and western Africa, there is no tradition of a dessert course following a meal.
Fruit or fruit salad would be eaten instead, which may be spiced, or sweetened with a sauce. In some former colonies in the region, the colonial power has influenced desserts – for example, the Angolan cocada amarela
(yellow coconut) resembles baked desserts in Portugal.
Asia, desserts are often eaten between meals as snacks rather than as a concluding course. There is widespread use of rice flour in East Asian desserts, which often include local ingredients such as coconut milk, palm sugar, and tropical fruit.
In India, where sugarcane has been grown and refined since before 500 BC, desserts have been an important part of the diet for thousands of years; types of desserts include Barfi
Bubble tea, which originated in Taiwan, is a kind of dessert made with flavored tea or milk and tapioca. It is well known across the world.
In Ukraine and Russia, breakfast foods such as nalysnyky
or oladi (pancake), and syrniki
are served with honey
In the Netherlands vla is a popular dessert. It is a custard-like dessert that is served cold. Popular flavours are: vanilla, chocolate, caramel, and several fruit flavours. There is also hopjesvla which is flavoured like a Hopje, a Dutch coffee and caramel sweet.
The traditional dessert for informal meals in France consists of cheese or fresh fruit with coffee. However, the French tradition of pastry is highly developed, and desserts in haute cuisine may be very elaborate, with generous use of cream and butter.
Because of its long Christian history, all countries of Europe have developed traditional desserts and sweet snacks for the Christmas season.
European colonization of the Americas yielded the introduction of a number of ingredients and cooking styles. The various styles continued expanding well into the 19th and 20th centuries, proportional to the influx of immigrants.
Dulce de leche is a very common confection in Argentina.
In Bolivia, sugarcane, honey and coconut are traditionally used in desserts.
is a Bolivian sweet fritter
prepared using sugar cane, and helado de canela
is a dessert that is similar to sherbet which is prepared with cane sugar and cinnamon.
Coconut tarts, puddings cookies and candies are also consumed in Bolivia.
Brazil has a variety of candies such as
(chocolate fudge balls), cocada
(a coconut sweet),
(coconut truffles and clove) and romeu e julieta (cheese with a guava jam known as goiabada
). Peanuts are used to make paçoca, rapadura
and pé-de-moleque. Local common fruits are turned in
and used to make
and ice cream
[Freyre, Gilberto. Açúcar. Uma Sociologia do Doce, com Receitas de Bolos e Doces do Nordeste do Brasil. São Paulo, Companhia das Letras, 1997.]
In Chile, kuchen
has been described as a "trademark dessert".
Several desserts in Chile are prepared with manjar
, (caramelized milk), including alfajor
and Rice pudding
Desserts consumed in Colombia include dulce de leche, waffle cookies,
puddings, nougat, coconut with syrup and thickened milk with sugarcane syrup.
Desserts in Ecuador tend to be simple, and desserts are a moderate part of the cuisine.
Desserts consumed in Ecuador include tres leches cake, flan, candies and various sweets.
In Australia, meals are often finished with dessert. This includes various fruits.
More complex desserts include cakes, pies and cookies, which are sometimes served during special occasions.
New Zealand and Australia have a long-standing debate over which country invented the Pavlova. The pavlova is named after Anna Pavlova, who visited both countries in the 1920s.
The market for desserts has grown over the last few decades, which was greatly increased by the commercialism of baking desserts and the rise of food productions. Desserts are present in most restaurants as the popularity has increased. Many commercial stores have been established as solely desserts stores. Ice cream parlors have been around since before 1800.
Many businesses started advertising campaigns focusing solely on desserts. The tactics used to market desserts are very different depending on the audience for example desserts can be advertised with popular movie characters to target children.
The rise of companies like Food Network
has marketed many shows which feature dessert and their creation. Shows like these have displayed extreme desserts and made a game show atmosphere which made desserts a more competitive field.
Desserts are a standard staple in restaurant menus, with different degrees of variety. Pie and cheesecake were among the most popular dessert courses ordered in U.S. restaurants in 2012.
[ Top desserts ordered in restaurants 2012. Technomic, Inc. September 2012. Retrieved 3 December 2013.]
Dessert foods often contain relatively high amounts of sugar
and, as a result, higher Food energy
per gram than other foods. Fresh or cooked fruit with minimal added sugar
or fat is an exception.
List of desserts
List of dessert sauces
List of Bangladeshi sweets and desserts
List of foods
List of Indian sweets and desserts
List of Indonesian desserts
List of Italian desserts
List of Pakistani sweets and desserts
List of Sri Lankan sweets and desserts
List of Turkish desserts