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Small Groups are Getting into the Trend of Shareable Desserts

By Melissa Sersland

A deliciously indulgent dessert trend is giving diners the opportunity to dig in together.

Shareable desserts offer a supersized portion of sweets meant for multiple guests to enjoy. With eye-catching construction, from multiple-layer cakes to sundae bars complete with sparklers, these desserts will turn heads the moment they’re brought out from the kitchen. Better yet, enjoying a dessert as a group will create a shared experience that will build lasting memories.

Since diners can enjoy a few bites without the commitment of polishing off the entire plate by themselves, shareable desserts cut down on the guilt for calorie-counting guests. After all, what’s sweeter to bond over than dessert?

Chez Zee

Chez Zee offers desserts impressive for both their size and variety. There are at least 20 desserts on the restaurant’s menu at any given time; the restaurant’s specials are chosen by restaurant staff during their regularly scheduled tastings and vary throughout the year.

Owner Sharon Watkins says that because of the restaurant’s large portions, all of her desserts can easily be shared. “By the fact that we make four-layer cakes, they’re nine inches and four layers high,” Watkins says. “You have to cut fairly big slices, so they’ve always been very shareable.”

Chez Zee also prepares single pan pies meant for at least two. Chez Zee’s apple pie is served in a pool of homemade caramel sauce with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream (also made in-house).

For diners having trouble committing to just one of Chez Zee’s delicious desserts, the restaurant prepares a dessert sampler featuring three of the restaurant’s signature items: Coco Leches Cake, Mocha Fudge Torte and Lemon Rosemary Cake (a cross between a lemon bar, lemon pound cake and a lemon meringue pie, Watkins says).

When Watkins opened Chez Zee in Austin in 1989, dessert menus in restaurants seemed more of an afterthought, she says. Recognizing an opportunity to offer something different, Watkins made the desserts in her restaurant a priority.

“Everyone was making food,” Watkins says. “But not everyone made 20 fresh desserts every day. I always thought [desserts] were a lot of fun and something nobody else was doing.”

Over the past 30 years, Chez Zee’s desserts have been honored as some of Austin’s best by multiple area publications, including the Austin Chronicle and Austin Monthly magazine, Watkins says. As a result, the restaurant has a strong fan base among Austin locals who aren’t afraid to request their favorite dishes from years past. Diners will regularly inquire after Chez Zee’s pumpkin cheesecake, for example.

Chez Zee can also host private events for up to 150 people in The Gallery, a separate building located across a courtyard from the main restaurant.

Happiest Hour

Happiest Hour in Dallas offers several massive sweet and savory dishes that feed four or more guests. These include a five-pound burger (with a pound of bacon and a pound of cheddar cheese, served with five pounds of fries) and a barrel of pickles. Happiest Hour’s team drinks include the “Beerist Wheelers,” 50 ounces of five of the group’s favorite beers, and the “Hail Mary,” a bottle of flavored Stoli vodka, Red Bull Rainbow and chewy bear candies.

The inspiration for all of these shareable menu items is to provide a memorable experience for guests, says Happiest Hour General Manager Justin Beam.

“The idea behind all of our Texas-sized eats and drinks is that we want to create both an experience and a lasting memory for our guests,” Beam says. “It’s a lasting memory that guests can show and tell with their friends and family in the digital space, as well as in person.”

The sweetest item on the restaurant’s shareable menu is Everything but the Sink, a sundae bar that allows diners to personalize their own sundaes at their table. The dessert, which comes to the table complete with sparklers, is typically met with surprise and “huge smiles,” Beam says.

“As a general manager, it’s one of my favorite things to see in the restaurant,” Beam says. “Not only are guests surprised by the sheer scale of the dessert, they also enjoy seeing that it is actually served in a vintage sink custom-made for Happiest Hour.”

The dish includes a 1.5-pound brownie and 12 scoops of assorted ice cream (ice cream flavors are chosen by the chef and include strawberry, chocolate and vanilla). Diners then have a choice to top their sundaes with banana caramel sauce, gummy bears, cherries, vanilla cream, chocolate ganache or marshmallows. This dish and other shareable menu items are a favorite for events.

Nick & Sam’s

Nick & Sam’s Steakhouse is a popular location in Dallas for guests celebrating anniversaries, birthdays and other important moments. One look at the restaurant’s over-the-top desserts, and you’ll see why revelers choose the restaurant for their special occasions.

Nick & Sam’s oft-photographed rainbow cake features seven layers of vanilla cake, each tinted a different color of the rainbow, with buttercream frosting. For even more color, the rainbow cake is served with gummy bears and a side of cotton candy.

The restaurant offers giant slices of other varieties of cake as well, including chocolate, red velvet and carrot cake. During football season, Nick & Sam’s makes a Cowboy-themed spin on its rainbow cake, swapping out the rainbow colors for blue and grey and topping the cake with a football helmet. For guests in town from opposing teams, the restaurant will also make cakes in their team colors.

These massive slices make a perfect choice for a whole table to enjoy together, says Paulette Daly, manager for Society Catering by Nick & Sam’s. To up the presentation ante, Nick & Sam’s uses sparklers and dry ice as cake slices are delivered to the table.

“We put the cake on a cart, put some sparkers on it and put dry ice around it,” Daly says. “It’s really impressive when you see it.”

Diners can also order a massive serving of cotton candy, served with a glow stick to give it a neon light in the middle. The cotton candy is accompanied by chocolate truffles, chocolate chip cookies and macaroons.

The overall effect brings out the kid in everyone, Daly says. “It’s so fun to watch adults turn into complete kids.”