Dessert Table

After last week’s Blog on why dessert matters, I was inundated with questions on how to create the perfect dessert table when it is the last thing we worry about and is NOT in the budget. Your wedding cake will undoubtedly be a stunning work of art. However, guests have become used to seeing expensive, beautiful cakes at weddings, so they will not be surprised to see your lovely cake.

A dessert buffet is a perfect way to express yourselves as a couple and enjoy your favourite sweet treats on your special day. The ways you can customise a dessert buffet are as limitless as your imagination, and there is no way you can go wrong. Sweet and straightforward finger food is an excellent choice if you would like to offer a variety of small bites. Or, you could make a bold and elegant statement by adding a chocolate fountain with various fruits, biscuits, cakes, and anything else you can think of to dip into the chocolate.  In all honesty, they don’t even have to be expensive biscuits.  Our guests always demolish the wafers.  you know, the ones filled with vanilla or chocolate cream.

My best tips for designing dessert tables for a party:

You can hardly see a styled party or wedding without an elaborate sweets display. And it’s a great way to make your event feel special.

But for the purpose of realistic home parties and celebrations, I’m going to cover some basic design principles that are a bit more achievable. In addition to these sweets’ tables, here are some ideas for setting up a treat table for a party at home. These are all great for the holidays and birthday celebrations. Here’s my basic dessert table formula to keep in mind. This should be more than enough to satisfy your guests’ sweet tooth. One or two specialty items (show-stopping cakes, designer cupcakes, decorated cookies (speak to @juliasbakesfromscratch for those.) One or two homemade treats like fudge, coconut ice or simple bakery items. Two or three jars of sweets to fill out the table.

I recommend you use the show-stopping cakes as the centerpiece.  The rest of the table is filled in with colour-coordinated baked treats and sweets. I like to block colour, so even if you only have five different items, keep them all in their own colour schemes.  By doing this, your table won’t look bitty. If you have a little more budget, don’t forget Variety is the Spice of Life. Serve a variety of flavours and textures unless, of course, you are explicitly doing a “chocolate” party. Good choices that can add different flavours and textures are Cakes, Macaron, chocolate bars, Brownies, lemon bars and something crunchy. Something Crunchy. These would make an excellent assortment and a taste to satisfy all palates. You can add different textures to a chocolate theme with creamy chocolate truffles, soft sweetie pies and brownies, chocolate cups filled with Amarula cream, and crunchy chocolate-coated nuts. You can even make popcorn and then drizzle dark milk and white chocolate onto it, or jazz up some chocolate with edible glitter and make some glamorous chocolate bark.

Balance is key…

When designing dessert tables, the main thing is to go for balance and keep the eyes moving. You can begin designing from the centre and work outward, Or from the two ends and work inward. 

Start with the height in the back, from there, you can add varying rows and levels to fill in the blank space. Please don’t set everything flat on the table! Use bowls turned upside down or boxes to put plates on to add height. I love filling jars and throwing them over to spill thickly across the table.  Fill open gaps with big bunches of fresh flowers, I have even been known to add big pots of fresh herbs.

One of the big mistakes I see many people make is spreading all the platters and bowls out to take up the available table space. Instead, bring it all closer together so it looks more deliberate and it actually looks more abundant. If your table is too large and you don’t have enough treats, add flowers, sculptural elements, or home décor pieces to the presentation. Some decorative items are vases and urns, empty frames, apothecary jars, framed printable signs, architectural elements like wood finials, etc.  You will always have something in the home or garden; look around with different eyes and you will see they are everywhere. One fun and sometimes trickiest part of creating a dessert table is deciding how and where to place everything. Do you want to create sleek symmetry with one side mirroring the other, or do you like to have an eclectic, unique look on each side?

 A symmetrical design tends to be more classic & traditional. Remember to keep the vessels, the levels, and the colours uniform on both sides. This usually means your centre point is the focal point and should be special. Dividing the dessert items into two groups is an easy way to achieve symmetry. So, if you have 12 cupcakes, you can display six on one side and six on the other. So simple!

Five ways to add height:

  1. Add height by placing a tray on upside-down votive cups, or chunky candlesticks.
  2. Use large pillar candlesticks to hold small vases of flowers or candles. 
  3. Wood boxes, hat boxes, and crates can all be used as risers to hold small treats or trays of sweets.
  4. Cake stands can hold more than just cakes—place bite-size desserts on them, or mini chocolate truffles and even a selection of shooters.
  5. Fill apothecary jars with ornaments, moss balls, or other trinkets if you don’t have enough sweets to fill them but still need the height.  Or fill them with linen napkins to create height and colour inside the glass, then fill them to overflowing with sweets.

Final tips for designing dessert tables:

  • Don’t go overboard with food. Just because it looks gorgeous in photos & blogs doesn’t mean you and your guests will eat it all.
  • Add variety to your food selection with different flavours & textures.
  • Keep the eye moving with height, levels, and rows. 
  • Keep your display tight. Too much space between items makes it look sparse and unfinished.
  • Add interest to the display with decorative features like flowers, seasonal items, and home décor pieces.
  • Get creative with how you display food. Incorporate unusual or unexpected pieces like old kitchen scales, vintage wooden crates, garden vessels, etc. Always keep things food safe by lining them if necessary.  Remember, everything you need is right at home.

 These tips will help you create a pretty dessert table step by step. And remember, you don’t just serve desserts like this; finger foods and brunch parties look fantastic when displayed this way!  

Now go out there and get creative.


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