Tuesday, January 3, 2012
HOSTING A DESSERT PARTY
If you were to ask me what are my two favorite things in life I’d have to say it’s friends and dessert. A really fun way to celebrate both of these is by hosting a dessert party. Out of all the parties that I’ve planned in recent years, the dessert parties have probably been the ones that have gotten the most rave reviews.
To make it clear up front, by “dessert party” I mean inviting any number of people over for a “drop in” or “open house” get-together, typically on a weekend evening, after the dinner hour, for dessert and coffee. The last dessert party at our house was one that I actually co-hosted with another friend. We invited about 70 people over on a Saturday night, and thrilled our guests with about 30 different desserts to choose from. The gal who I co-hosted with likes to bake as much as I do, so we both went crazy for a couple days baking up a storm.
Dessert parties are memorable and special. Who doesn’t like walking into a kitchen full of desserts to choose from? Obviously we couldn’t do these parties all the time, otherwise none of us could ever fit in our clothes! But every once in a while, a night of decadence can be okay in my book! It’s something we don’t do all the time, so we really remember it.
These kind of parties are perfect for co-hosting with someone else. That way you’re not the only one doing all the baking. You’re able to supply twice as many desserts for the evening, because someone else is baking as well as you. That’s really what makes these kinds of parties so much fun—you’re your guests walk into your kitchen or dining room and see desserts EVERYWHERE. Such extravagance!!! What a fun event to be able to host for your friends!
Of course, the smaller scale dessert parties can be fun too. You don’t have to serve as many desserts as I did when I co-hosted the party with my friend, and you don’t have to make it such a large group either. My husband and I have been to dessert gatherings when it was just 2-3 desserts and maybe 2-3 families. Those were still very enjoyable get-togethers.
If you don’t want to do all the baking yourself, you could certainly pick up a few desserts at a local bakery and maybe only make one or two cakes or platters of fancy cookies yourself. You could also do a “potluck style” dessert party where guests each bring a favorite dessert. I have been to those kind of dessert parties in the past and they have been a lot of fun. You should supply small note cards for people to write down the name of their dessert, to post next to it (that’s also a good idea if you supply all the desserts yourself). You might even want to have a contest for “best” or “tastiest” dessert, in which case guests would all be given voting cards that they could fill out and turn into you.
Plan your dessert party to start after the dinner hour. Somewhere around 7 or 7:30 pm is good. You might give your guests a range of time that they can stop by. That way, if they’re going out to dinner at a restaurant, they don’t have to feel rushed to get to your house at a certain time.
Provide a variety of desserts—rich ones, light desserts, and some that are in between, along with coffee and tea service, chilled water (sparkling and flat), and perhaps some after dinner wines and liqueurs in cordial glasses or edible chocolate cups (which you can make yourself or buy from stores like World Market).
I like to serve some really decadent, rich desserts at these kinds of parties (such as my chocolate Kahlua cheesecake, which I’ve already posted about on this blog), but those are going to be no more than a fourth of what I’m serving. Usually people like to sample a little of everything, and they’re not going to want to sample all rich foods. Have some “light” desserts on hand like fruit trifles, sorbet, fruit cups, etc., to balance out the super rich choices.
At the last dessert party we hosted, we served mousse cups, decorated cakes, cheesecakes (a couple chocolate varieties and then a fruit-topped cheesecake), cream puffs, fruit trifle, tiramisu, fancy cupcakes and petit fours, fruit kabobs, chocolate-dipped strawberries, Napoleons, baklava, flan, cannoli and fruit and chocolate cream tarts. (As much as I like pie, that’s a little too informal for a dessert party, so I made tarts instead of pies.). Provide a variety of tastes and textures, some traditional American desserts, as well as some ethnic classics from Europe, etc.
What I’m describing may very well sound like an over-indulgent, over-the-top evening, with desserts coming out of everyone’s ears. That’s just to give the guests the adult equivalent of a kid visiting Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I think everyone should be able to experience this at least once in their lifetime. Of course, there are bound to be lots of leftovers. That’s okay in my book. I like to send desserts home with people. That way, my family and I aren’t eating all the leftover dessert. Also, it can be really fun for guests to take desserts home to munch on later. So I recommend buying some of those disposable “to go” storage containers for people to choose dessert samples to take home with them.
Depending on how many guests you’ve invited, you may or may not have enough “real” dessert-sized plates, beverage glasses and wine goblets. Disposable serveware is perfectly okay. You could also borrow some plates and glasses from friends—that’s okay too. It’s not essential that all the glasses and plates match. Of course, if you do a party like this more than once, you may want to invest in some economical but nice serveware. That’s what I’ve done. Walmart sells glass dessert plates for about $1 each. You can buy glass wine goblets from Bed, Bath and Beyond, Target and World Market for around $10-12 for a case of 12. Those are great to have on hand for large gatherings. It’s much nicer to drink your port wine out of glass goblets, rather than the plastic, disposable versions. And in the end, after you’ve had a couple parties, the glass goblets have paid for themselves.
Well, that’s about the gist of the dessert party. I hope I’ve given you some fun ideas for hosting your own!