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Dessert open house: suggestions?

Lucky me -- we are throwing an open house engagement party for my brother and his fiancée and I'm in charge of the food. I'm happy to be responsible, and will have help from my parents, but that is somewhat limited. It will be held in a decent sized apartment and around 100 guests are expected (I have access to two refrigerators, but neither is particularly large). My max for parties up to now has been around 60-70... So I decided to make this one desserts-only. Time frame is 2-5pm, although there are always people around long after the official endings :). I take that as a compliment. I'm not in the US, so places that would normally be good for bulk buying are out. Yay ;). Also, she is Indonesian-Chinese background.

My tentative menu is as follows:

Mango cheesecake squares (still looking for a recipe...just know this is something she would like)
Banana pudding bites ( done on nilla wafers...that I will probably have to make myself...)
Lemon pie bars
Chocolate peanut butter ice cream sandwiches (homemade cookies, storebought ice cream)
Pecan pie truffles ( nyt recipe, one of her favorite things I've made)

The above are because they are favorite flavors or items of the bride/groom...

I was thinking that some sort of cake was in order, so maybe a Chocolate mud cake? And/ or a pound cake? He loves pound cake, She loves chocolate. I may also try making an Indonesian Thousand Layer Cake, as a tribute to her family.

To round things out:
Cookies of some sort?
Mini tarts or pies? Feel like I need some berries in the mix...
Other ideas were mini strawberry shortcakes, tiramisu of some sort, and cream puffs/profiteroles.
An assortment of nuts and cheeses will also be on hand, I think, to balance the sweetness a bit. Fresh fruit is always available as well. As there will be some children, I considered making popcorn...but was hoping to keep things looking somewhat elegant :)

I feel like I'm missing some crunch/ crispness. I considered making meringues, macarons, or a crispy oatmeal cookie. Ive served macarons, profiteroles, tarts, apple pies, and truffles before...and find it to be a bit boring making the same things for parties. I am also wondering if I need something that is served warm? Does hot cocoa sound like an appropriate drink? Or punch? (it's autumn here)
I'm trying to have as much on the menu as possible that I can make ahead and store, as we will be doing decorations and I'm normally the head decorator/flower arranger as well. As the future sister-in-law and the best (wo)man, I also feel responsible for mingling with guests. That, though, is secondary to making sure the party runs smoothly. I have about 1.5 weeks to put it together due to scheduling issues.

Hope that wasn't too much info! I think this could be fun if I can get myself organized...

Ideas or suggestions are welcome!

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  1. Lots of ideas there. Along with what you have already planned, I would offer some crispy cookies (for the crunch) and a poundcake, plain, with platters of fruit and a nutella dip.
    Punch would be easier to serve to a larger group.
    Mini-tarts with berries would also be nice.

    2 Replies
    1. re: wyogal

      +1 for the cut fruit platter. Lots of yum and prettiness for very little effort. I almost never have a party without one and it always gets eaten up. As a good midwestern girl, I'm a fan of the marshmallow creme/cream cheese dip for fruit. Or maybe a chocolate fondue, which would cover your pound cake and chocolate do "fingers" to dip. Again, low effort, tasty and popular.

      You definitely need to get at least one chocolate-centric thing in there. I personally am more of a fruity dessert person, but most people seem to go for chocolate first.

      If only for presentation and variety sake, I would do at least one layer cake. Anything you know to be yummy as long as it looks amazing on a cake stand.

      For the second thread today, I'm going to recommend shortbread hearts with sparkly sugar on top for your crunch/crisp element.
      I would 86 the ice cream sandwiches, personally. Too timing sensitive.

      cake pops or popcorn balls for the kids?

      I would consider something bubbly and tart for one of the beverages. You'll want something to counter all the sweet. Cover the salty and sour taste elements somehow.

      1. re: wyogal

        For an afternoon open house (and as an engagement party) I'd think sparkling. Sparking water, sparkling wine, and sparkling apple cider. The lightness of the beverages will offset the heaviness of the desserts. I agree with wyogal. Your menu is screaming for a fruit platter.

      2. Here'e a crispy, and pretty (and sparkly!) cookie --


        1. Will definitely have fresh fruit! I kinda forget about it since its a standard :). On the fruit dip, any preferences? Would love to pull off a fondue- type thing, but not sure I have anything to keep it warm in. Also, what's in a nutella dip? Nutella is highly popular around here ;)
          Love the sugar-coated cookie idea, seems perfect for engagement party! I'm trying to think how to do sparkling drinks...it would probably be good to do a 'light' tasting beverage with all the sugar...

          3 Replies
          1. re: Ama658

            What a lovely gesture! Your ideas so far seem great. This idea probably seems 10 years ago, but might I suggest a chocolate fountain? The dippers (fruit, cookies, pound cake, etc.) could all be purchased/ordered so you can focus on the other items on your menu. Nutella is a chocolate and hazelnut spread...I think of it as the world's peanut butter. Super good on anything. I've melted it slightly and drizzle it over strawberries. Christina Tosi's Momofuku Milk Bar recipe for liquified cheesecake makes great parfait cream, ice cream base, etc. It's pretty versatile, so you can do a lot with it.

            1. re: Ama658

              For an housewarming I threw, I did a bellini and mimosa "bar" - had prosseco and sparkling water with bowls of pureed (and sieved) raspberries, peaches, and oj. Just put the bottles in buckets of ice and have the bowlso f fruit purees out for people to help themselves. You can even use the clear plastic tumblers. And yes, with nutella dip, just heat it gently and add about a half a cup of milk to a cup of the nutella.

              1. re: Ama658

                for a dip, i'm a big fan of pureeing ricotta with sugar, vanilla, a little lemon juice or lime, and herbs/spices depending what i'm serving with it. could be cinnamon, could be basil, could be garam marsala (with lime juice)

                for the fruit, you might consider roasting or grilling some in bites to go with the dip.

              2. What about some cheese crisps with the fruit? With all of that sweet, a bit of savory and salty would help your guests avoid sugar fatigue, and it would give you something crunchy. I found this recipe for them, and loved it!


                If it's autumn where you are, and the weather has cooled, why not a hot spiced cider? Or a mulled wine? Glasses of milk garnished with a cookie might also be fun.

                1. Sounds fantastic -- and really kind of you to take this on! I have done many a dessert party and I agree that a hit of savory in there is a welcome break. To keep it easy for you, I would suggest a simple cheese tray, as well as bowls of cashews and almonds (or any other nuts) scattered throughout your space.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: TorontoJo

                    As much as I love desserts, I was thinking the same thing w/ having more non-sweet items, or something that is both, eg apple cheddar cheese pie, goat cheese cheesecake, or less sweet like pear/bittersweet chocolate, strawberry rhubarb basil crumble, like this:


                    Just any combination of sweet and salty or sweet and sour like that; or even spicy sweet and salty like candied spicy nuts or bacon. For savory, maybe cheese straws or gougeres.

                    I also wouldn't serve hot chocolate or punch because that would be sweet on sweet. Lots of coffee, tea, milk.

                    1. re: TorontoJo

                      I agree. People will actually eat more dessert when there are some savouries too. Speaking as a sweettooth, I still have a limit, and I hit it pretty quickly at dessert parties. Cheese and nuts are perfect.

                      1. re: julesrules

                        It's official: I'll be serving some savories at the dessert party ;). Love the idea of fricos/cheese crisps or gougeres!

                    2. somethings i'd consider:
                      grill or roast some fruit (i know i suggested this above as well)
                      mini dacquoise
                      mini pavlova
                      cake pops - i usually detest these, but they're good for portioning - i just did a "Samoa" girl scout cookie cake pop this week to use up some leftover carved cake

                      another idea that i love, that may not work for you though, is a waffle bar. just make batter and leave it out with an iron... guests love to make em, and top em.

                      Also, to make it easy on yourself and build in variety, I'd consider doing a couple of things where you can use mix-ins to create different flavors...
                      Brownies - some with chips, some with nuts, some with a cream cheese swirl... that way you can make a big base, then separate it into batches
                      Cookies - chocolate chip, with nuts, without, with dried cherries and white chocolate, etc.

                      on the savoury side, how about
                      cheese straws
                      mini quiches
                      veggie chips

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Emme

                        Waffle bar sounds like a great idea. I can't pull it off for this event, but it is going into my ideas list for the future!

                      2. plenty of good suggestions, so more a time-factoring tip from me: beware getting caught up in making lots of bite-sized pieces. it can be krazee time consuming, unless you are well-practiced at cranking them out. consider bar cookies/brownies/blondies, which can be cut, bake off certain cakes in jellyroll pans and mini-loaf pans to cut larger items into smaller pieces. cookie cutters of varying shapes and sizes give much variety here. (heart-shaped!)

                        anything melty, like ice cream sandwiches, is too fragile for what i'm assuming is stationary food?

                        definitely offer salty/crunchy as an alternative to all the pastry.

                        what a lovely gesture on your part!

                        1. In North America, it isn't autumn without something with apples.

                          A trifle is impressive-looking and though it can't be completely made ahead of time, you can cube the cake and prepare the fruit and custart up to a few days in advance, leaving only the whipped cream and the layering to be done the morning of the party.

                          Tassies, made using mini-muffin tins, are appealing and allow a lot of variety - press the dough into the wells, add a bit of chocolate, nuts, and/or dried or fresh fruit, then spoon on the brown sugar/egg.butter.vanilla/cream mixture and bake. You can make a few of any number of flavors
                          all at the same time. I like using an oatmeal cookie dough instead of the usual tassie dough.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: greygarious

                            I think the main part of a trifle is always best made the day ahead to allow all the flavours to blend. The texture is also much better. Just do the whipped cream last minute.

                          2. Thank you all so much for your suggestions! The party was a grand success. We ended up with somewhere between 75-85 (I lost count...) and all went smoothly. The suggestions to include some savouries was excellent--they were very popular. I also took on board the suggestion to make some things in 9x13s, so the cheesecakes & lemon pie were baked off then sliced and put into cupcake liners. So much easier!
                            I ended up serving:
                            Chocolate layer cake
                            Apple Pie Layer Cake (momofuku recipe)
                            Spekkoek/thousand Layer Cake
                            White chocolate oatmeal cookies
                            Deep Dark Chocolate Cookies
                            Coffee Macarons with Baileys/mascarpone ganache
                            Matcha Macarons with red bean filling
                            Meringue cookies (spekkoek used 25 egg yolks...I had to make SOMETHING with all those whites ;)
                            Rosemary Shortbreads with homemade tomato jam (thanks for the suggestion of a savory-sweet--they were lovely!)
                            Mango Cheesecake
                            Pineapple white chocolate cheesecake
                            Ice cream sandwiches
                            Lemon icebox Pie
                            Pecan Pie Truffles
                            Mini banana puddings
                            And, of course, fruit in bowls/platters around the room

                            Savories were Gougeres made with either Stilton/chives or Cheddar/rosemary (EXCELLENT suggestion!), homemade soft pretzels w/ mustard dip, feta/tomato/basil skewers, a cheese platter, and almonds & peanuts that I roasted.
                            Drinks we kept simple--wine, beer, and the usual coke/pepsi/ginger ale, sparkling water. You all were right, hot chocolate or something like that would've been overkill. :)

                            Again, thank you for the help! They really helped me balance out some menu ideas...and helped prevent a total meltdown knowing that other people had seen the menu and made suggestions. Cheers!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Ama658

                              It all looks and sounds wonderful :) I can't believe everything you made - it takes me a week just to make one momofuku cake.