The Big Sweet: The 5 Mother Sauces for Dessert

Classic French cuisine has many rules. None are quite so important as that of the “mother” sauces. Renowned chef and creator of haute cuisine, Marie-Antoine Carême, was the first to codify these sauces. He grouped them into four categories. All other sauces were simply derivatives of the four foundational or “mother” sauces. Decades later, Georges-Auguste Escoffier would adjust these sauces along with so many of the antiquated techniques of Carême . Since then, any chef learning classic French cuisine has to memorize and execute them perfectly before he or she can move up within the hierarchy of the kitchen.

Much is made of the five sauces of Carême and Escoffier for the savory chef, but what is their equivalent in the world of pastry? We’ve broken down the five most important dessert sauces every pastry chef should know.

The Big 5

Simple Syrup

The Big Sweet: The 5 Mother Sauces for Dessert

While not always considered a “sauce” per se, simple syrup is one of the most versatile ingredients in the pastry chef’s kitchen. Perfect for adding moisture and sweetness to any baked good, it can also be used to create reductions, fruit sauces, and caramel. In a pinch it can replace corn syrup. When reduced enough, it can be made into edible glue. Simple syrup is the unsung hero of the pastry kitchen. That’s why we are placing it first and foremost among our “mother” sauces.

Learn How to Make and Flavor Simple Syrup.

Chocolate Sauce

The Big Sweet: The 5 Mother Sauces for Dessert

Chocolate sauce is a broad term. Technically, it could apply to any sauce with the addition of chocolate. But we simply cannot leave it off our list. Its versatility allows it to cross every culinary barrier. It is one of the only sauces you’re likely to find on the entree menu. The chocolate sauce we most often see is basically a hot fudge sauce made the same way as ganache, only significantly thinner. This is done one of two ways: by either using more cream than a traditional ganache or by replacing cream with none other than the mighty simple syrup.

Learn how to Make Chocolate Dessert Sauce.


The Big Sweet: The 5 Mother Sauces for Dessert

Served hot or cold, the Sabayon is a creamy sauce somewhere in the family of Créme Anglaise. Both are egg-based, but instead of using milk and cream, Sabayon is made with wine. Sweet, dry, or sparkling, this is our favorite kind of sauce to make, and one we find ourselves sampling again and again.

Learn how to Make Sabayon.

Créme Anglaise

The Big Sweet: The 5 Mother Sauces for Dessert

Créme Anglaise is the Hollandaise of the pastry sauce world. In fact, its ingredients are very similar. An egg-yolk based sauce, it is made of eggs, milk, cream, and sugar. Its flavor profile pairs beautifully with almost any dish. Use it with fruit pie or flour-less chocolate cake. It also doubles as the base to French style ice creams and should be your go-to in any time of crisis.

Learn how to Make Creme Anglaise.

Fruit Sauce

The Big Sweet: The 5 Mother Sauces for Dessert

All fruit sauces are reductions, but not all reductions are fruit sauces. A fruit sauce is generally referred to as a reduction. Made of fruit coulis, (uncooked fruit puree) it is reduced until it reaches a beautiful consistency: viscous yet pourable. This can be used in all manner of dishes, both savory and sweet.

Learn how to Make Fruit Dessert Sauce.

A good sauce can heighten the effect of any dish, adding layers of complexity previously unachievable. Never underestimate their power, not only in flavor but in presentation. The addition of that pool of Créme Anglaise, or the polka dot pattern of your blueberry confit can take your desserts to the next level making them look as special as they taste.

Which of the five sauces is your favorite? We’d love to hear about it! Don’t forget to share in the comments below or on any of our social media accounts. Follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and YouTube! 


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Hannah Abaffy

Pastry Chef & Recipe Development

Hannah Abaffy is a pastry chef and an active member of the culinary community. From working in kitchens to developing recipes, and creating menus for restaurants, she has been involved with food in one capacity or another for the past decade. After starting a food history blog, Hannah has been continuously writing and learning about the ever-changing realm of cuisine, its history, and its future. Since then her appetite to learn about and share all things that touch upon the world of food can only be described as voracious.

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