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Dessert party menu -- looking for feedback

I'm planning a champagne and dessert party in a couple of weeks. Hubby and I make all the desserts and serve up a couple of cases of chilled champagne to go with them. The trick is always to put together a group of desserts with sufficient variety and appeal, that two people can feasibly make over the few days leading up to the party.

I'd love some feedback on this menu so far:

decadent chocolate layer cake
caramel-pecan cheesecake
midnight rum balls (from AnneinMpls)
poached pears in spiced red wine
chocolate dipped palmiers
banana caramel tartlets
lemon curd tartlets
peanut butter fudge
brown-sugar pecan shortbread
pecan pie bars
buzz bars (thanks to Dommy for the recipe!)
fresh fruit plate with a couple of dips
apple-berry pie
rice crispies (these always disappear -- go figure)
mini sour cream coffee cakes
smarties (the Canadian kind. not homemade, but we always put them out for these parties)

We'll have somewhere between 20 and 40 people. Is there enough chocolate? Too much chocolate? I was originally going to do a chocolate mousse served in mini chocolate cups, but thought it might be too much. Same for good ol' chocolate chip cookies. I'm also considering cream puffs. Ugh -- too many choices!

Any suggestions? Items that can be made in advance are always a big plus!

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  1. A. Can I come?!?

    B. Do you have a recipe for the banana caramel tarlets?

    C. I don't think there's too much chocolate at all. Maybe something creamy and "light" is missing, like a panna cotta or something along that line. I feel like a broken record, because I always recommend this recipe, but it is amazing! (And I'm definitely a chocolate fiend, so that's saying a lot!) http://www.chowhound.com/topics/27939...

    1 Reply
    1. re: Katie Nell

      If you're in the Toronto area, heck yeah, come on over! :)

      For the banana caramel tartlets: Make or buy your favorite mini tart shells and your favorite caramel. Mix the caramel into some mascarpone cheese to taste (I like it barely sweet). Thinly slice a ripe banana and place a slice on the bottom of the tart shell, fill with the cheese mixture, top with another slice of banana and drizzle with a bit of caramel. Homemade everything is the best, but for an instant dessert for unexpected guests, store bought tart shells and caramel works just great.

      And thanks for the recipe rec. Maybe I can serve mini versions of the custard in a soup spoon, topped with a bit of sauce and a fresh berry.

    2. I love the idea of fresh fruit with different dips (maybe a vanilla creme anglaise, bittersweet chocolate fudge, white chocolate raspberry...). What about an entire dipping station with the fruit, shortbread cookies, maybe homemade marshmallows)

      It sounds like you have great variety and neither too much or too little chocolate.

      One recipe I would offer (if you are interested) would be my homemade ring dings. They are so much better than the Drakes version and people go nuts for them.

      I can't wait to hear the final results!

      2 Replies
      1. re: chocolate chick

        I'd love the recipe for your ring dings. There will be a few kids in the crowd and I imagine that would go over well.

        1. re: TorontoJo

          Use the link below to make shallow cupcakes and freeze for a few hours. Slice off tops and invert so top becomes bottom. Slice each cupcake in half horizontally. Prepare filling (recipe follows) and pipe about 2 Tbs worth in each middle and cover with top of cupcake. Freeze again for 20 minutes and melt coating chocolate. With fork, dip each frozen cake into melted chocolate and let set. They will last at room temperature (well covered) for at least 5 days.


          creme filling: 2 sticks salted butter (softened
          ) 3 cups confectioners sugar
          1 conatiner fluff (I know, I know)

          With paddle attachment of stand mixer, mix butter and sugar on low speed until combine and then gradually increase speed until thoroughly combined. Bring speed to low again and add fluff. Combine well. If too thick, add a couple Tbs. of milk.

          Although these are time consuming, they are really worth it (if you use very good chocolate) and I promise the adults will be fighting over them too. Enjoy!

      2. I don't know if there's such a thing as too much chocolate. ;)

        I always love the soho glob cookies from Rosie's Bakery cookbook. http://www.jewish-food.org/recipes/so...

        A notible dessert missing is a cheesecake. Otherwise it seems like chocolate, caramels, fruits are well presented.

        Another thought is to do some homemade spiced nuts (some recipe has sugar/cinnamon spiced) as a sweet-savory munchies.

        Lastly, are you trying to do individual portion sized desserts? With the exception of the first cake and the pie, everything else seems to not require cutting or portioning. Actually previously for my son's school's bake sale I had cut pie dough with a small 4" diameter rice bowl and made individual pies (fold over the rounds and then crimp) as well. But they are pretty fragile that way.

        4 Replies
        1. re: notmartha

          I do have a caramel pecan cheesecake on the list, so that's ok. And yes, I'm trying to individually portioned desserts -- there are so many people that there is never enough room to sit down, so things that can be eaten standing up are always better. I love the idea of make individual pies instead of a big one, thanks!

          1. re: notmartha

            I made the Soho cookies this afternoon. Yum with a capital MMMMMMMMM.

            They are very, very similar to Martha Stewart's Outrageous Chocolate cookies.

            Outstanding! Thanks for the recipe. I didn't change much except that I used one full cup of pecans and no walnuts (I ran out!)

            Also very close to Maida Heatter's Chocolate Whoppers cookie recipe http://www.cookiemadness.net/2005/12/...

            1. re: luv2bake

              That recipe does seem similar! I think I got the Rosie's cookbook at least 15 years ago though.

              The blondie recipe in that book is also very good, as are the frostings...

              1. re: notmartha

                I have at least one of her books. I'm going to have to dig. That'll be my bedtime reading tonight. :)

          2. That sounds amazing--you'll be busy. I wouldn't add more sweets. I don't think it would add much to the whole thing since it looks well planned out. If you do want to add, I'd think something like a cheese plate to go along with the fruit would be nice, something to balance all the sweetness, or maybe some nuts--some flavored but not sweet flavored.

            1 Reply
            1. re: chowser

              Yes, I always try to put some nuts out to offer a break from the sugar overload. I think a cheese plate is a great idea -- I'm definitely going to do that, thanks!

            2. How about an ice cream or sorbet? Something interesting like coconut sorbet or amaretto ice cream.


              1. I agree that adding an ice cream would round it out well. What about some sort of profiterole? Easy to make (and even freeze) ahead of time... just toast them for a few minutes in teh oven before serving and they really dress up ice cream. I like them with coffee ice cream and chocolate sauce but you could have a variety for a little "station" of sorts.

                5 Replies
                1. re: LAcupcake

                  How do you toast them without melting the ice cream inside? Or do you toast them, then fill them right away?

                  I would love to do an ice cream of some sort, but the party will be going on for several hours and I'm not sure how to keep the ice cream from melting in that time.

                  1. re: TorontoJo

                    You could do bon bons, and freeze a piece of slate or marble, (you can pick these up cheap in the tile section of a home improvement store) and then put your frozen bon bons on the slate.

                    1. re: TorontoJo

                      You toast them as needed and then fill. I suppose if you did a profiterole or ice cream area you'd have to come up with a way to keep the ice cream out as needed... like ice buckets or something. I guess it might be one of those things that either goes quickly or is better earlier in the game...

                      1. re: TorontoJo

                        Or, you could go the custard/cream filled route and not have to worry about it!

                        1. re: TorontoJo

                          If you don't put out too much ice cream it might just be finished on the earlier end -- people put vanilla ice cream on just about anything. But lots of whipped cream would serve the same purpose I think.

                      2. How about a strawberry shortcake? You can easily make the shortcakes ahead of time and simpley slice and macerate the strawberries with a bit of lemon, sugar and a splash of brandy. Serve with whipped cream and guests can make the shortcakes themselves. It's a nice fruity dessert that isn't too complicated and folks love a good strawberry shortcake.

                        1. My wife and I have a birthday a week apart, and we used to do the same party, desserts and Champagne. Your choices look great. Nibble type stuff is probably better than slices of cake. People will get filled up on whole slices or only have a few bites and put the cake down. Treat it like a reverse cocktail party with lots of finger foods.

                          1. Warm chocolate fondue is a showstopper. You could have fruit, cake and even marshmallows with the fondue. Fondue requires user participation which is fun at a party.

                            I know you want to make a lot of desserts, but if you offer an ice cream sundae bar with toppings like the chocoalate fondue, strawberris and toasted nuts, the crowd may all gravitate for that. One thing I have learned as a chowhound is to never underestimate people's love for ice cream!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Rhee

                              Plus I don't see ice cream with champagne either - unless you want to do a ice cream champagne float?!

                            2. I might add some fruit. Do post the banana tartlets recipe....

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Dafina Girl

                                The banana tarlets recipe is in my response to KatieNell, second down on this thread. I'm definitely going to do a fruit plate with a few dipping sauces -- I love the creme anglaise dip suggestion from chocolate_chick.

                                I think I'm going to pass on ice cream. I don't see a good way to pull it off for an all evening party and it's too difficult to serve small, single portions.

                              2. No coconut?
                                No cheese tray? Some of us like that after dinner.
                                Hard though it may be to believe, not everyone has a sweet tooth.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: MakingSense

                                  Yep, gonna do a cheese and nut tray, based on chowser's suggestion. It will be the one savory island in a sea of sweets.

                                  No worries -- everyone coming to the party has a sweet tooth. I have friends who won't eat all day just so they have more room for this party!

                                2. I noticed one flavor pile up:

                                  caramel pecan cheesecake
                                  banana caramel tarts
                                  brown sugar pecan shortbread
                                  pecan pie bars

                                  I would make just a straight cheesecake, or a coconut cheesecake. Also, I've recently seen raves about a flourless dense very-slightly-bitter orange cake online. Also, maybe something mint or peppermint?

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: blue room

                                    Hmmm... you caught me there. Definitely showing my personal taste preferences! :) I'll change the type of cheesecake to something else, thanks.

                                    1. re: TorontoJo

                                      Oh I love it when I can actually *contribute* to Chowhound, instead of just lurking sucking asking! After your party, maybe you could mention here your guests favorites.

                                  2. Your list is great, the only possible addition would be a good moist brownie. I just know my invitation must be lost in the mail, what time did you want us there???? :-)

                                    1. I just found this chain of posts one day before my own dessert party. My mother and law and I have given this party around Valentine's Day for the last 4 years in a row. It's a great time to get people out of hibernation in the cold winter months.
                                      Here is our menu thus far:
                                      A heart shaped yellow cake w/strawberry cream cheese frosting
                                      Chocolate Layer Cake
                                      Orange Chiffon Cake
                                      Florida Lemon Squares
                                      Chocolate Decadence Pie
                                      A big sheet of Apple Crumble
                                      Blueberry Cheesecake
                                      Cheese and Fruit Plate
                                      Coffees, teas, dessert wines, champagne
                                      After reading this post I am going to try the Banana Tartlets with some filo shells I have in the freezer and maybe the Soho Globs. They sound too good to leave out!

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: momof3

                                        Have fun! Here's my report on my party, with some photos of the desserts.