TSG Tip 131

With the holidays right around the corner, we’ve already begun dreaming of all the desserts that the festivities will bring. To help us get ready to delight our guests with a decadent display, we asked Kristen Rowell, owner and executive pastry chef of Annapolis-based Sweet Hearts Patisserie, for advice on setting up the ultimate dessert table; here are her recommendations:

Choose a variety of textures, colors, and types of sweets. When planning the elements of your dessert table, think about the variety of options you want to have in regards to both flavor and appearance. You may choose do all similar desserts (cupcakes, for example) but in different colors and flavors, or you could use one color throughout, and vary the desserts (cake pops, macarons, cakes, petit fours).

Pick your pedestals. Think about height when your planning your display, as you’ll want to have your desserts at varying levels so they really stand out. Have fun when choosing the types of platters, cake pedestals, and servers to use. I usually recommend sticking to one color or style for all your serveware, but it can be fun to use an eclectic mix of antiques and heirlooms. You can even use large candleholders to hold cupcakes or small cakes, or pretty candy dishes to hold bunches of macarons. Look at what you have around the house and get creative!

Add accessories. While the desserts themselves are the stars of the show, feel free to add other accents to really make your dessert table pop. Fresh flowers always enhance the display, and soft votive candles can add a warm glow. A few elegant candelabras will really bring some drama to the arrangement, and a garland hanging below or above the table can make it even more festive. And don’t forget about signage! You can add elegant calligraphy signs in front of each dessert, or create a menu and put it in a beautiful frame to let your guests know what’s on display. Everything should tie together with your overall theme and color scheme.

Don’t over-do it! If you’re having a large party, don’t worry about stuffing your table with enough dessert for everyone—it looks less appealing if the table is too crowded, and you can always go back and re-fill once your guests start picking. You want the initial appearance of the dessert table to have that “wow” factor, so only display what is necessary to look both abundant and clean.

Expert advice from Kristen Rowell of Sweet Hearts Patisserie in Annapolis, MD.