The first quarter of 2023 sees the first three big events of the year appear on the calendar for Hospitality; Valentine’s Day, Shrove Tuesday and Mother’s Day. Making the most of special events takes time and a lot of planning. After the chaos of Christmas and New Year, many operators struggle to get menus and special touches in place to make the most of every occasion in what can be a slow 3 months.

If you have just finished mopping up the last of the festive fun, our panel of experts are on hand with a few ideas that will help secure success for the coming months ahead.

Richard Fowler, Head of Sponge

The first quarter of 2023 is a busy season for Sponge and the entire hospitality industry. To get ahead during this period and to continue providing our customers with quality cake recipes, we’ll be bringing back our popular Strawberry and Chocolate Cake in time for Valentine’s Day. Couples can share a pre-sliced wedge with a chocolate heart, best served with a tea for two for the ultimate romantic treat.

For customers wanting a takeaway treat to take home to their Valentine, there is a vast selection of Sponge’s iconic Baby Sponges, available in a number of flavours and perfect for those wanting to treat their better half to an intimate afternoon tea for two.

Danielle Maupertuis, Executive Pastry Chef & Author

As an Executive Pastry Chef who specialises in training chefs to create vegan desserts it will be no surprise that I would suggest making sure you have vegan options for Valentines. Remember that very often the vegan partner is the one that makes the decisions for couples as well as larger groups and catering with a vegan dessert will capture their hearts any time of year!

For Valentine’s Day, I propose a vegan ‘heart to share’ consisting of a heart shaped chocolate mousse and raspberry mousse. A lychee jelly inclusion brings a delicate perfume. Each heart is cut in half and placed on a chocolate sponge, alternating the colours of course!

For Mother’s Day, I created a stunning fine dining vegan afternoon tea: a shortbread shoe, a strawberry tartlet, a chocolate and hazelnut handbag and a lemon cream straw hat. Both desserts are a perfect balance between flavours and textures, isn’t this what pastry is all about?

Vittoria Meli, Head Chef, Zoom East Kitchen & Bar

A panna cotta is a simple dessert for Valentine’s Day that can be made extra special with some small additions. Pistachio is a popular ingredient in Sicilian cooking which works well with panna cotta. A popular panna cotta at Zoom East includes cardamon, saffron, rose water & pistachio which would be perfect for a Valentine’s Day menu.  

Sharing food is great for a Valentine’s Day menus. Sicilian food offers some great options for sharing platters and we have a good selection. Dishes like fritto misto and Arancini work well for a warm platter. Caponata, cured meats and confit artichoke are great options for a cold platter.

Henry Stephenson, Managing Director, Stephensons

The best afternoon tea services are about elegance. Think posh patisserie, eclairs oozing with cream, gilded teapots and opulent decor. Simply put, every aspect of the service is intended to make you feel special, and nobody deserves to feel more special than a mum on Mother’s Day.

One way to ensure your afternoon tea service is exuding elegance is with the right presentation pieces. An absolute must is a tiered cake stand. These regal-looking serving displays encourage sharing and are the perfect table centrepiece for fancy finger cakes, or scones. Don’t forget the different-sized plates for each tier though!

Hylton Epsey, Chef-Owner, Culture

Roast garlic rosemary potatoes are just the best side dishes to make a Mother’s Day Sunday roast special. Smoked beetroot and goats cheese salad with dukkah spiced nuts adds savoury, sweet and spicy notes too. I also think honey butter carrots and parsnips with caraway seeds adds a touch of nostalgia. 

I prefer savoury baking but if I was going to choose a cake it would be the chocolate fantasy cake from Books for Cooks (a cookbook store and café in West London’s trendy Notting Hill) or a chocolate fondant because it’s super easy and still impressive for a dinner party.

Rachel Green, Consulting Chef & Author

For a pancake treat that’s a little more than just a squeeze of lemon and sprinkling of sugar, I make my own chocolate nut spread using hazelnuts, caster sugar, whipping cream and dark or milk chocolate. I serve this on crepes infused with cocoa for that little bit of extra luxury.

Don’t forget that pancakes come in all sorts of variations – take a look at savory Malaysian Pancakes, Peking duck pancakes or even pizza pancakes! All it takes is a little imagination.

Mehak Kansal, Founder, Bindas Eatery

My go to Valentine’s Day dessert is Tiramisu! Nothing better than light airy cream cheese and sweet sponge-soaked coffee cake fingers. Or anything chocolate related! We have a delicious take on tiramisu that we call chaimisu on our menu at Bindas Eatery. We make cream cheese infused with biscoff and our sponge is soaked in our signature sweet masala chai and finished with lotus crumbles.

For Valentine’s Day I often make boards, and I make a chocolate board for my husband with salted pretzels, strawberries, raspberries, waffles, bananas, coconut wafer rolls, tangerines and mini muffins and melt different chocolate mixed with cream to create a mousse spread.

Zareen Deboo, Foodservice Channel Operations Manager, Ferrero UK & Ireland

With big ticket events like Shrove Tuesday, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day just around the corner, it’s crucial to get your offering right. With the help of Nutella®, cafés, bakeries, hotels and operators can elevate their dishes and give their customers what they’re after – the unique and delicious taste of the nation’s favourite cocoa hazelnut spread! Our Black Forest Cakes with Nutella® are the perfect addition to the menu for Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.

In addition to this, Ferrero Foodservice has a whole host of recipe ideas over on the website, from crepes to cupcakes, there’s something for everyone

Lee Hyde, Monin Beverage Innovation Manager

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with your significant other in style this year! The combination of rose and raspberry alongside a great gin makes for a great fruity and floral cocktail. To make this, you’ll need the following: three fresh raspberries, 10ml MONIN Raspberry Syrup, 10ml MONIN Rose Syrup, 25ml fresh lemon juice 50ml London Dry Gin, a pinch of salt, one egg white. Combine all in a shaker filled to the brim with ice, shake hard and fine strain into a chilled coupette, garnish with dried raspberry powder.

Marie-Emmanuelle Chessé, International Development Project Manager, Tipiak

Macarons are currently the darlings of pâtisserie. With their exquisite flavours and attractive colours, they more than earn their keep in any kitchen because they are so versatile. Serve them individually with coffee, as part of a trio of mini puddings, in an afternoon tea, or use them to decorate desserts.

One of the beauties of macarons is that they can be decorated and displayed in different ways to suit special days like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. Think pink for Valentine’s Day – and display macarons in a heart shape. For Mother’s Day, pop them into a gift bag for mums and grandmas dining out with their families. Choose gluten-free macarons to be inclusive of your coeliac customers.