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Dessert party report

Just wanted to report back on our champagne and dessert party this past weekend. Despite a chilly, snowy evening in Toronto, we had a good turnout -- about 35 people (45 RSVPed). Our final dessert menu was as follows:

Banana-Caramel Tarts
Chocolate Layer Cake (2 of them)
Mascarpone Cheesecake
Chocolate Kahlua Balls (variation on the midnight rum balls much discussed here)
Poached Pears in Spiced Wine w/Crème Anglaise
Lemon Curd Tarts
Peanut Butter Fudge
Brown Sugar Pecan Shortbread
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Pecan Toffee Bars
Supernatural Brownies
Fresh Fruit w/crème fraiche & brown sugar and a chocolate sauce
Apple-Dried Cherry Pie (2 of them)
Rice Crispy Treats (because we always have to have those)
Mini Sour Cream Coffee Cakes
Gianduia Cups
Cheese Plate w/blue cheese, a sharp aged cheddar, edam and a goat cheese brie

And scattered around the house were martini glasses of spiced nuts, chocolate smarties, and cashews.

The bite-sized items were definitely the "go to" items, I think for the convenience factor. Though once a couple of people started in on the chocolate cake, that went quickly. The most popular were probably the gianduia cups, brownies, shortbread, lemon curd tarts, banana caramel tarts and surprisingly, the poached pears. The cheesecake was fantastic (epi recipe), but sadly only a few people tried it (though they raved about it). I think the thought of a piece of rich cheesecake was a bit overwhelming with everything else on the table. The cheese plate was completely wiped out -- people definitely appreciated the savoury break in the midst of all the sweets.

I was really disappointed with the chocolate chip cookies, which I've made many times before. But this time, I froze the dough and baked them from frozen on the day of the party. The cookies didn't flatten out enough for my liking, which resulted in me overbaking and losing the texture that I love. Ah well.

We had two cases of the Domaine Carneros 2002 Brut, which was perfect with the desserts. Our only problem was waay too much food! But we had carry out containers that we gave to each of our guests as they were leaving so that they could take some of the goodies home with them.

All in all, a long week of baking with my hubby, but well worth it! Thanks to everyone for their menu suggestions. I definitely made a couple of great adjustments because of them.

Here are a few photos of the dessert table. An early guest had already started sampling before I remembered to pull out the camera!

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  1. I'm so glad that everything turned out so well for you; it sounds like your event was a major success! You've definitely been a great dessert help to me in the past (toffee cake) so I'm glad that you received the same support from fellow CHers!

      1. re: Candy

        BTW, Candy -- thanks for the shortbread recipe and your notes. I ended up making them with rice flour and they turned out beautifully. I made a log and just sliced 1/2 inch cookies. They turned out to be one of the surprise hits of the evening -- every time someone tried one (and they look rather innocuous, even boring), they went "ooh! these are soooo good!"

      2. That looks amazing. Glad it all worked out so well.

        1. Wow, very impressive. Beautiful presentation! Are most of the recipes in the previous link? I would love the recipes for the banana-caramel tarts, lemon tarts and the brown sugar shortbread. What makes the brownies "supernatural"?

          1 Reply
          1. re: pescatarian

            Heehee, the "supernatural" brownies are actually just the name of the recipe. It's the chewy brownie recipe that wyf4lyf posted. They really are fantastically chewy, though I would have like a bit more chocolate depth. I used semi-sweet chocolate, next time I will use bittersweet. That thread/recipe is here: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/357805

            For the tarts shells, I made this recipe from epicurious: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...

            They were very nice -- though for the effort of making 10 dozen of them, I would *almost* prefer buying them pre-made!

            The lemon tarts were just homemade lemon curd in the above tart shells, topped with a bit of whipped cream. Here's the lemon curd recipe:

            Lemon Curd
            1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest
            1 cup fresh lemon juice
            1 1/3 cups sugar
            4 large eggs
            1 3/4 sticks (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces

            Whisk together the first 4 ingredients and a pinch of salt in a heavy saucepan. Add butter all at once and cook over moderately low heat, whisking constantly, until curd is thick enough to hold marks of whisk and first bubbles appear on surface, about 15 minutes. Immediately pour curd through a fine sieve into a bowl, then chill, covered.

            The banana caramel tarts are the above tart shells, a slice of ripe banana, topped with a mixture of mascarpone cheese and homemade caramal, then drizzled with a bit more caramel. Very easy and very good!

            The brown sugar pecan shortbread are from the Dorie Greenspan cookbook. Candy was kind enough to email me the recipe, which I will forward to you shortly.

          2. Ok, so can I come to the next one??? Looks amazing and inspiring.....

            1. I would love the pecan shortbread recipe as well! Would you pass it on?

              5 Replies
              1. re: tastytamarind

                You can find the recipe here:


                As per some discussion with Candy, I used rice flour instead of cornstarch. I also skipped the ziplock bag step and just made two logs, chilled and sliced into 1/2 inch thick pieces.

                1. re: TorontoJo

                  Thanks TorontoJo and thanks for the email :)

                  1. re: TorontoJo

                    OK, I just made these this afternoon. Let me tell you, I was WORRIED about it in the process. I rolled them in the Ziploc, put them in the fridge, everything's going fine. When I took them out and started cutting, they were crumbly, and I was freaking out (I was taking them somewhere). Then I was tasting the crumbs and wondering if they were going to be as awesome as everyone said. I was nervous!

                    When I pricked them with the fork (a step I nearly forgot, although I didn't think it was that important) some of them broke or cracked.

                    But I put them in the oven and baked them, and when they cooled enough to bite - Oh, my gosh. They were so good!! Not too sweet, very crisp, definitely keepers. Can't wait to make some for my mom. She'll love them.


                    1. re: luv2bake

                      Glad they turned out well. I couldn't be bothered with the ziplock bag step! The logs sliced up just fine and I have to admit, I didn't prick them either. And they were still delicious! :)

                      1. re: TorontoJo

                        To tell you the truth, I forgot you had said to roll them until I came here to post. I just went by the recipe (although I did roll it bigger, which made them thinner, thereby, I think, making them crack when I pricked w/ the fork.)

                        I will try the logs next time. I had that on the computer but not on the sheet I printed out. And I am not sure I'll prick them next time, either, because the powdered sugar covered up the holes, and a little puffiness wouldn't hurt them, anyhow!

                2. Beautiful! What are the treats in the 2nd picture on the white oval platter? They really caught my eye.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: luv2bake

                    Those are my mother-in-law's sour cream coffee cakes, baked in a mini-cheesecake tin. Hubby always makes those. Very moist, not too sweet. Perfect with a cup of tea! I'm happy to post the recipe if you'd like it.

                      1. re: luv2bake

                        Here you go:

                        Sour Cream Coffee Cake

                        1 c. sour cream
                        1 t. baking soda
                        ½ c. butter, softened
                        1 c. sugar
                        2 eggs, beaten
                        1 t. vanilla
                        1 ¾ c. flour
                        2 t. baking powder

                        ½ c. brown sugar
                        2 t. cinnamon
                        ¼ c. chopped pecans or walnuts

                        Preheat oven to 350.

                        Grease and flour an 8 x 8 pan. Combine sour cream and baking soda in a bowl, mix to blend. Set aside (it will double in bulk). Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla, mix well. Combine flour and baking powder in a bowl. Alternately mix in portions of the flour mixture and the sour cream mixture to the batter, ending with flour.

                        Spread half of the batter in the pan. Sprinkle with half of the topping mixture. Cover with remaining batter. Sprinkle with the rest of the topping mixture.

                        Bake for 30 – 40 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean.

                        1. re: TorontoJo

                          Oh, my gosh, that's almost identical to my Jewish Coffee Cake recipe! hahahaha Yours look so good - I guess I'm going to have to try to make mine little sometime!

                          The only differences in mine:
                          1 cup of butter instead of 1/2 (I'm going to definitely try it your way with half - every little bit helps!!)
                          no baking soda but 1 t. salt
                          an additional 1/4 c. flour
                          only 1 t. of powder

                          Original recipe, the topping uses white sugar, although I use a combination of white & brown. And 1/2 c nuts instead of 1/4.

                          This is a great stand-by recipe. Easy to make, always delicious, and perfect compliment to coffee. Man, you've got me revved to make it. I'm going to have to make some to take to my meeting this weekend! Everyone will love it. :)

                  2. Fabulous-looking desserts and great presentation, TorontoJo! You and your husband did all of this on your own? Very, very impressive.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: FlavoursGal

                      Thanks to you and everyone else for the kind words! We really had a lot of fun baking for this party. It is an annual event, though next year, I think we'll wait for the spring or summer so people don't have to be schlepping around in winter boots. Hmm... though it was handy having the cold garage to store things in...

                    2. thanks so much for the link! singing with the choir -- everything looks fantastic.

                      1. Great job TorontJo! Quite the impressive spread- I made mini desserts for my wedding reception and I only did three kinds, and I was pooped! Sorry you were disappointed with the chocolate chip cookies- some kinds flatten out like they are supposed to and some don't- I suppose I prefer this because I prefer a chewy cookie. Next time, you can just thaw them out a bit before you bake and I'm sure the texture will be to your liking.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Katie Nell

                          I seem to recall that you were making desserts for over 100 people, so no wonder you were pooped!

                          Re: the cookies... even after I thawed a bit, they still didn't flatten out like the original recipe. Not sure why. I actually took to tapping them with the spatula halfway through baking! Sacriligious, I'm sure. Next time, I'll try baking then freezing and see how the texture turns out. I really don't want to lose that just baked, crispy edge, chewy middle texture. I might try baking until just undercooked, then freezing those and baking for a couple of minutes out of the freezer. Guess I'll just have to try a few batches and see. Ah, the sacrifices we must make... :)

                        2. WOW your presentation is just beautiful

                          1. Beautiful and impressive desserts and presentation; looks like alot of time and effort went into it. I like the cheese plate amidst all the sweets, and rice krispy treats are fun (I love them!). I would love to throw a party like this one day, and your post has given me the inspiration. What did you use for risers under the overlay?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Carb Lover

                              Thanks, Carb Lover! As for the risers... I use anything that is lying around the house. The two tallest are my stock pot turned upside down and a small file box. The others are a paint can, a drywall compound bucket and a couple of sturdy shoe boxes. Thank goodness no one can see under the table cloth!

                            2. Everything looks like it was WONDERFUL! Well done :)