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i need some help filling a refrigerated case.

i work as a baker at a little cafe. my specialty is cakes and cookies and blondies and brownies, but nothing that tastes better or should be refrigerated. well, the restaurant has a 4 shelf, 5 foot wide display case and i am really having a tough time coming up with new ideas. i don't know whether it is just that i am so exhausted that i can't get my creative juices flowing or that filling that case will not be my forte. :)

items that i have been stocking it with:
quiche (and LOTS of it!!! we go through about 18 slices of deep dish quiche a day!)
pecan pie
banana bread (not really a cold case item)
crumb cake (i use the one from cook's illustrated and it is FABULOUS!)
lava cakes

thanks in advance for any help you can give me.

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  1. Banana pudding with vanilla wafers. Nothing tastes better than a cold dish of banana pudding. Except maybe a cold dish of butterscotch pudding.

    1. If you sell quiche, then how about individual pot pies?

      Oh, and cheesecake! Yum, cheesecake!!

      1 Reply
      1. re: shaja

        Love the individual pot pie idea - you might also consider making the quiche available in family-sized pies for take home...
        Lemon Bars
        Individual -sized pies: custard, mixed-berry, coffee silk or fudge silk, key lime
        In-season: Strawberry shortcake
        Pineapple upside-down cake
        Worked in a really nice patisserie for several years, and our best-sellers were invariably individually sized, very decorative pastries: tiramisu, opera, white ginger chocolate torte. It sounds like you're going for a homestyle approach, which I love, but what I know for sure is that the indies sell like nobody's business. Something else to consider is doing just a few lunchtime sandwiches, maybe a pan bagnat or a nicoise sandwich, or a mufuletta.....all best made in advance and refrigerated.

      2. mousses, mousse cakes. Panna cotta cups with seasonal fruit coulis.

        A popular healthy snack/dessert is yogurt parfait with house-made granola and seasonal fruit jam.

        I like cold bread pudding, but I find many prefer warm . . . rice pudding?

        1. Make a basic sugar cookie dough and press into a pie pan or muffin cups. Fill with fresh fruit tossed with fine-ground tapioca. Can be blueberries, sliced apples, pears, etc. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar or cardamom sugar and bake. Variations include brown sugar cookie dough, or coconut cookie if using tropical fruit. Option: after cooling, glaze with melted jelly (apple, currant).

          1. Those dinky little custard tarts that look so cute with coffee (pasteis de nata). Lightly sweeted yoghurt cups with some fresh fruit. Napoleons with a creay filling.

            1. Pies: seasonal variations, now is the time of year for sweet potato, apple, pear, nut pies (try Spiced Walnut pie, for example) but you can also order the 5 gallon containers of fruit fillings i.e. blueberry, cherry, etc. Sell whole, by the slice or make individual tarts.

              Whoopie pies are very popular & can be made in endless flavors and sizes

              Agree with the cheesecakes; it's my absolute favorite dessert. If it's on a menu, I'll order it 99% of the time.

              Danishes; again, multiple flavor variations

              Other quick breads: Zucchini Walnut or Pecan, Glazed Cinnamon Raisin, Cinnamon Applesauce, Cheddar Bacon, etc.

              Honey Bun Cake

              1. tiramisu and and there are so many variations
                cream puffs & eclairs
                dulce de leche cake
                Pasteles De Guayaba (Guava and Cream Cheese Pastries)
                Cheesecake by the slice

                4 Replies
                1. re: HillJ

                  Good list....

                  I would add:

                  Cream Puffs

                  1. re: fourunder

                    cream puffs & eclairs were on my list, fourunder! (beer...hahaha)

                    1. re: HillJ

                      Just seeing if anyone was paying attention.......

                  2. re: HillJ

                    Thumbs up to flan!
                    I'll add to that: flan cake.

                  3. Do you need to stick with bakery-type items or can you expand the offerings? Would there be interest in "Take-It and Bake-It" items at your cafe? I'm thinking specifically of fresh pasta offerings, soups to be re-heated, pate, brie en croute, unusual salads (Mediterranean Wheat Berry, et al), doughs that can be baked at home, even pizza/calzones. Sandwiches? Is there an ethnic feature (French? Italian?) to the cafe? Those cuisines might inspire you.

                    This cold case could be your showcase! Once you establish a clientele, you could begin to take special orders. Check out "The Silver Palate" cookbook - this is exactly how the authors began their business; ditto for Barefoot Contess and many others. Good Luck, this could be a goldmine for you.

                    1. little strawberry short cakes?
                      egg, chicken or shrimp sandwiches or on greens
                      seasonal fruit
                      pinwheel sanwiches
                      tomatoe pie
                      pimento cheese

                      1. Sounds like your customers are interested in savoury dishes: how about mini-shepherd's pies, individual chili's with cornbread topping, small tomato pies, crustless quiche for those who are wrestlng with their carbs and those who need Gluten Free treats.

                        1. What state? Big city or suburbs? Who frequents the place ... singles and workers or families?

                          I couldn't see anything on your profile except one Florida post. If that is your origin, how about key lime pie? Cream pies in general - banana, chocolate, lemon, coconut

                          I liked the idea of rice pudding and cheesecake also. I also like the idea of single portions. I don't like committing to a whole cake or pie without doing a test run. So tarts, slices and bars (cheesecake bars) are appealing to me.

                          Whipped cream cakes are always good ... strawberries and cream, fruit basket, a whipped cream black forest.

                          It is not my thing, but bread pudding.

                          Old fashioned ice box cakes. Chow has a good sounding recipe for Chocolate Icebox Cake with Mascarpone and Blackberries

                          Other than that I'd need to know the area.. What sells in the city might not be as popular in a small town or suburbs. Even pimping up the ice box cake might not sell well in a small town

                          1. honestly! i have tears in my eyes right now!!! thanks so much for all of the replies! i will never get over how incredibly generous people can be helping complete strangers!!! thank you thank you thank you!!!

                            and, wow! what an amazing list!

                            i love the idea of the banana pudding and the the shortbread tart!

                            and cheesecake? how could i not think of cheesecake?

                            the chef has been throwing around the idea of the individual pot pies and that could totally be a winner.

                            as far as the made to go sandwiches and salads go, we have only been open a month and are really the desination in a very small town so we don't do alot of to go business yet, but that is definitely something that we are hoping will be in our future. :)

                            honestly, thank you so very much!!! i have printed off the list and am highlighting the ones i think could work and giving them a try! :)

                            11 Replies
                            1. re: raygunclan

                              THANK YOU for getting back to us with feedback! Too often a poster asks for information and nothing is ever heard again. Did it work? Can we tweak it some way? Sharing ideas is what CH does best.

                              Let us know how this goes for you, please. We've all started somewhere and wish you the best of luck in this endevor.

                              1. re: raygunclan

                                best of luck to you raygunclan. I hope you'll post on your progress.

                                1. re: HillJ

                                  thank YOU guys!!!

                                  without being armed with my new list, today i made the macaroons (among other things) from the "flour" cookbook (a bakery that i visited on a trip to boston). i have to say that they are the best macaroons that i have ever made!!! i made them about baseball sized (maybe a little smaller) and they were fabulous!!!

                                  i find that what really sells well are the ooey gooey desserts. red velvet cupcakes, two hander whoopie pies (you can't eat them with one hand), and blondies. and that is the type of thing that my boss is wanting for the case, but nothing that i have put in there ('cept them quiches!) has been a hit. well, save the lava cakes too. ;)

                                  another issue with the bakery is waste. when stuff doesn't sell, we are throwing it away, much to the chagrin of the boss lady (as it would be to me if i were writing the checks). but it is a double edged sword. if i don't make enough, the case and counter don't look full but if i do, we have waste. it really is quite frustrating.

                                  but the cafe itself is a success. we do breakfast and lunch and the owner did an amazing job converting an old convenience store into a beautiful restaurant. in fact, the only reason we call it a cafe is because we sell "upscale comfort food", but it could be fine dining via the decor. it is very exciting to be a part of such an amazing project, but there is so much pressure to be able to pull it off as well. :)

                                  1. re: raygunclan

                                    Waste can be a worry and a financial strain, but maybe there's a local shelter or food bank that could pick up excess (turning it into a charitable donation).

                                    1. re: raygunclan

                                      Or run in-store advertising that certain desserts are on special (at a special price or combo price) to nudge customers in that particular direction. I'm all for seeking out local areas of need but you have to be willing to examine and implement some guidelines for such food distribution. I've seen specials or special customer days do remarkably well.

                                      1. re: raygunclan

                                        Cheesecakes should be a good item since they keep well.

                                        In terms of waste, that is why single portion sizes or slices are great. People are more willing to invest a small amount than take home a whole cake or pie.

                                        As HillJ said, in-house samples are also a great way to promote interest And I always like the idea of special holiday desserts, especially in a small town. Not a dairy case item, but don't forget the hot cross buns at Easter ... unless the town is strongly Protestant.

                                        1. re: raygunclan

                                          Yes I often wonder how small business can keep their displays looking good with a nice variety, without losing money. If it's any consolation, if I see many many items on display in a small and/or quiet business I make the assumption that things are NOT going to be terribly fresh. So a smaller selection can be more enticing. I also notice how selection tends to dwindle over time, often the more interesting items lose out in favour of things like banana bread, how dull! It must be so frustrating!

                                          Individual trifles? should keep a few days... I also think that individually made cheesecakes etc, are more tempting than slices, again, because slices can dry out pretty quickly.

                                          Maybe think of other ways to fill the display that are attractive - fresh fruits and veggies that will go into salads, for example.

                                          edit: ooops, I have no idea how I ended up in a thread from JAN not JUN.

                                          1. re: julesrules

                                            I wonder how the OP's venture has fared? I can think of a ton of things that are good refrigerated and served/sold in individual portions. Some of them can even be kept frozen and thawed at need, like the cheesecake and crumb cake.

                                            And there's no need to throw out the excess food - donate it to a feeding program! Our church collects surplus pastries and bread from the local Panera Bread store once a week, and serves them up to the homeless every Thursday. We're terribly grateful for it because it's helping to fill 100 bellies every week.

                                            1. re: Kajikit

                                              hey kajikit- i'm still around chowhound but the restaurant? notsomuch. :) i ended up quitting when they decided to pay me per dessert sold. so i could potentially make $12 for a full day of work. no thanks. i didn't need that cash THAT much. ;)

                                              but i totally used a bunch of the recommendations that people were so helpful to give. i love chowhound!!!! :)

                                              jules- i will say that it was a challenge to keep the case full. what ended up being my biggest seller was the quiche. the place was a breakfast lunch place but it didn't open until 8 so we didn't really get the "grab a cup of coffee and a muffin" crowd, people were wanting to sit down to eggs and bacon. and then we had the issue that most people don't order dessert for dinner. but the quiche went like hotcakes!!! i made deep dish quiche and had some GREAT ingredient combos. but it was CRAZY how long they took to cook, which is why i haven't made them at home, much to the chagrin of my hubby and girls who LOVED them. ;)

                                              1. re: raygunclan

                                                OMG... Is that even legal?
                                                Their loss!

                                                1. re: LaLa

                                                  probably more legal than how they would switch me back and forth between salary and hourly. work 93 hours one week (literally)? salary. 37 another? hourly. but they knew i would never say anything and i didn't.

                                                  oh. and the 93 hour week was the week before we opened. the week before Christmas. and the week that all 3 of my daughters had flu b. there was no stress there. ;)

                                    2. Of course, you could also just offer fresh fruit salad or a melon salad, a citrus salad, a berry salad.......

                                      Chocolate pudding!

                                      1. You guys are simply amazing!!

                                        Best of luck Raygunclan, sounds like you've got a wonderful thing going!

                                        Yes, please check back and let us know how it goes...


                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: I used to know how to cook...

                                          don't you know i will! :)

                                          and i agree! people on here are SO incredibly supportive!

                                        2. Could you do individual creme brulees? Keep them in the cool case, and when someone orders one, take it out and torch it?

                                          Small Greek salad plates? Stuffed avocado halves? Fruit parfaits layered with whipped cream?

                                          1. And if you're having trouble making the case look full with food and are trying to cut down on waste, be sure to display everything so it takes up a little extra room -- stick the quiches on a larger platter and then have curly kale leaves hanging off the sides, for instance. You can take over another 6" of real estate that way. In between platters of sweets or on the edges of the case, stack/arrange lemons or tangerines or oranges. They keep a long time and you can always pluck a few out if you need the juice or zest for a recipe.