Bakers Journal

The Final Proof: Always Popular Homestyle

September 8, 2016
By Jane Dummer

Consumers desire foods that are less processed with wholesome ingredients

The classic apple pie strikes and emotional chord with consumers. Photo Credit: Thinkstock

In our fast-paced world, a familiar country apple pie or classic carrot cake made with simple ingredients brings a sense of comfort. Homestyle recipes continue to be a popular line for many bakeries and never really go out of fashion. We are seeing a modern twist on some of Grandma’s favourites that still bring a sense of ease, familiarity and a remembrance of things past.

“Our carrot cake and deep apple pie recipes date back to our humble beginnings in a basement kitchen,” says Debbie Gust, president, WOW! Factor Desserts based in Sherwood Park, Alberta. “These simple homestyle recipes are beloved by our customers as they are made by hand from scratch recipes with real ingredients at our Canadian facility.”

Gust was not surprised when after they launched a new category called the Dainty Cakes line this past spring the best seller was, and continues to be, a classic—the Apple Crisp Dainty cake. “It’s unbelievably decadent, warm, cozy, with all the familiar flavours.”

I was able to taste the new apple crisp melt-away in the name of research for my column. It’s full of apples with the taste and texture of fresh, just picked, under a delectable coconut cinnamon streusel. The homemade caramel sauce makes this a mouth-watering treat that I would purchase time and time again.

With the growing popularity of coffee shops, tea shops, independent diners, food festivals and food trucks, homestyle cookies, cakes and pies are making a big comeback. They go well with a variety of hot beverages and make a nice treat that reminds us of a simpler, slower-paced time. I’ve noticed traditional favourites with modern twists, such as classic shortbread baked with lavender and carrot ginger cake under an orange cream cheese icing.

Gust identifies that being innovative is important, and by creating up-to-date additions on nostalgic desserts a number of their products have stood the test of time. After 20-plus years in production, Gust confirms these classics continue to be much sought-after desserts.

Again, in the name of research, I sampled the WOW! Factor Desserts’ Colossal Carrot Cake, part of its line called “Tried and True” desserts. This spicy carrot cake is extra moist with crushed pineapple, coconut and walnuts, filled and covered with cream cheese icing. It’s topped with more sweet coconut, walnuts, with a modern twist of white chocolate drizzle on the top and toasted almonds on the sides.

Dana McCauley, CEO of Blue Unicorn Innovation in Toronto, explains: “Homestyle is much broader than it used to be. My grandmother (and most like her who raised families in rural Canada before the 1970’s) had a limited repertoire of seasonal ingredients. Specialty ingredients and fresh foods were limited to large centres and available only when in season here in Canada.

“Likewise, as a largely French- and English-based population, homestyle at that time meant meat, potatoes, two vegetables and baked goods that contained spices, local fruits and dairy.

“Today, with greater access to local and non-local specialty foods and a much more diverse population, homestyle can apply to ethnic offerings as well as to foods with ingredients (such as avocados or mangos) that are grown far away.”

As fewer people are cooking and baking from scratch at home on a regular basis, there is nostalgia for the Grandma foods we used to take for granted. McCauley reminds us that emotion is always a huge driver in food choices.

She provides the example of the huge response to items like Uncle Tetsu Japanese Cheesecake. Uncle Tetsu’s Cheesecake began on Oyafukou Street in Hakata, Fukuoka in the 1970s. Now you can get this exact cheesecake from a shop on Bay Street in Toronto, and you may have to wait in a 60-minute-long line-up for this taste of “home”.

Consumers continue to desire homestyle foods that are less processed with wholesome ingredients. Whether homestyle reminds you of Grandma’s baking or a delicious dessert from your homeland; cakes, cookies and pies made in the traditional way with the finest ingredients are definite must-haves for your menu.

Jane Dummer, RD (, known as the Pod to Plate Food Consultant, collaborates and partners with the food and nutrition industry across North America.

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