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1st Dessert Party- Need Help!

Hey all! This is going to sound somewhat ridiculous, but I'm hoping someone can help me...I'm throwing a rather large dessert party (70 people) and am doing all the cooking myself. I'm not a chef- though I'm a pretty decent cook- and I'm having trouble figuring out HOW to cook everything. As in, what order and what can be baked earlier, etc. In other words, it's impossible to bake everything (I'm having roughly 20 different desserts) Saturday morning, so how can I figure out which items can be done earlier in the week and still taste fresh and delicious?? I'd be happy to share my list of desserts if someone thinks they can help me organize them in order! The party is 2 weeks away! THANK YOU!

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  1. Please do share your list.....20 desserts sounds like an awful lot.

    24 Replies
    1. re: escondido123

      Well, I suppose it's not actually 20 different desserts, but rather several varieties of each kind I've chosen...But here goes- I'd love any help I can get!

      Cookies- Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal Raisin, Pecan Pie Cookies
      Tarts- Key Lime, Lemon, Transparent Pie
      Bars- Raspberry, Rocky Road, Coconut Congo
      Brownies- Brown Sugar, Texas Chocolate Fudge
      Cupcakes- Lemon, Red Velvet, Espresso
      Strawberry Shortcake
      Pecan Stickies
      Rum Balls
      Sour Cream Cinnamon Cakes

      I'm only planning on doing small numbers (1 batch of some, 1/2 batches of others) of each of the above. My goal was to cover all the flavors that guests of honor love most. I'm also having a few savory items to balance out the sweetness (fruit, cheese, nuts) that don't require baking, so I didn't include them on the list.

      Thoughts?? Thanks!

      Brownies- Dark Fudge Chocolate, Brown Sugar
      Rum Balls

      1. re: eakthomas

        I have to go with escondido123 - 20 different kinds of desserts for 70 guests sound like way too many, and you'll make yourself crazy doing small batches of that many different items. I would think you could do 8 or 10 and still cover all the major dessert flavor groups - chocolate, nuts, citrus, coconut, spice, berries . . . Having said that, however many varieties you decide to do, cookies, bars, brownies and unfrosted cupcakes all freeze well so you could start on those now.

        1. re: cookie monster

          Thanks for your reply! If I bake them now and freeze, how do I go about thawing them for the party? How long will they take to thaw? Will they be soggy at all?

          1. re: eakthomas

            I don't have an elaborate process like some do. just make sure they're completely cooled, then seal tightly in plastic containers or ziplock freezer bags, with wax paper between layers so they don't stick together. Thawing at room temperature on serving platters (rather than in the containers) seems to be the best way to prevent sogginess. Baked goods thaw quite quickly, and some items like brownies taste great with a bit of a chill.

            1. re: eakthomas

              I haven't had any problems with sogginess for cookies. They freeze beautifully. In fact, when I do cakes, my problem is they are drier after being frozen and then thawed. Those cakes have usually been perked up with a good dousing of a syrup. And yes, please pare back. You really can hit everyone's tastes with 8-10 desserts.

              1. re: Dcfoodblog

                Thanks so much! I will bake the cookies this weekend and freeze them. How do you go about thawing them? Is the morning of the party soon enough? Have you had success freezing bars and brownies? And what about pie/tart shells? I seem to remember that these are able to be done ahead of time and then just filled the morning of? If so, do I freeze them or just keep them refrigerated? Thanks again!

                1. re: eakthomas

                  I thaw cookies can be thawed at room temp the morning of the event. This may be heretical but if you want a little chew in your cookies, microwave them for 20 seconds. Bars that don't have something curdy (like a lemon bar), I've frozen and it turned out fine. Fudgy brownies or blondies could use a little nuking as well to bring out the chew. I wouldn't freeze a lemon bar or something with a cream cheese swirl. Pre-cooked pie crust freezes beautifully (I do mini quiches weeks ahead and just bake to reheat). I would say to defrost early that morning in the fridge (so they don't get soggy with condensation).

                  1. re: Dcfoodblog

                    THANK YOU SO MUCH! Not just for this post, but all of them! You're proving to be such a good help with lots of tips that I didn't know! I'm truly winging this whole thing, so you really are a wonderful resource! Thanks again!

            2. re: cookie monster

              agree about 20 being too many. you'll make yourself crazy. you may also disappoint people if there are only 12 of a tart and everybody that got there first are raving about it. OOPS!! all gone!

              also as far as displaying the stuff goes, it will be much easier to just refill instead of worrying about keeping up with 20 different items and trays. less visual clutter as well. ya know, 1 kind of very pretty tart, like the key lime, will cover your citrus base. strawberry shortcakes (which can be made with pate choux shells) will cover your berry base. like that. a BIG pile of chocolate chip cookies looks much nicer than just a dozen on a plate.

              and instead of lots of tiny things, you might want to consider some larger items. unless you're well-practiced, finishing LOTS of little pieces can be very time-consuming. lovely layer cakes on footed stands. they look impressive but can be dead easy. people are always amazed that i bake cakes from scratch, lol. make regular size tarts, but pre-slice them and place in paper muffin cups on trays.

              i don't see a crisp or crumble on your list? anything custardy or cheesecake-like?

              pecan pie cookies and pecan stickies seem kinda redundant. 1 pecan thing is plenty.

              you're a good friend!

              1. re: hotoynoodle

                Thanks so much for your thoughts! You're right, one pecan item only (we're in the South, so pecans are a must!)...I'm in process of whittling down my list now...As for cheesecake/custard items, that's another challenge I'm facing...Our party will be held outside (covered and with fans, but still outside in the 80 degree weather), so I'm trying to avoid/limit chilled dishes...

                1. re: eakthomas

                  a southern outdooor event -- now i get why no custards. my, lawdy. :) i'd skip the strawberry shortcake then, because of the whipped cream topping. a strawberry pie will be nice and you can keep a bowl of whipped cream, on the side, submerged in ice.

                  you've gotten great advice, and i freeze cakes, cookies, bars, blondies and brownies all the time. however, if your freezer is too packed, most cookies will be fine, tightly sealed, 5-7 days (some even longer) and brownies and bars 3-5 days at room temp.

                2. re: hotoynoodle

                  And one more thing...Pies and tarts are the only items I'm not very familiar with...If I make small tarts in 4" tartlet pans, how do I get them out of the pans if the bottoms aren't removable?? Thanks :)

                  1. re: eakthomas

                    I made strawberry cream tartlets on Sunday using 3.5" non-removable-bottomed tartlets pans. Just butter them and they'll easily come out of the pan. Put the pan in one (gloved or protected) hand and invert onto your other palm. But mine were filled after baking the tart shells.

                    1. re: nofunlatte

                      That's great to hear! Do you mind me asking how you made your dough?

              2. re: eakthomas

                You've already gotten great advice. Definitely cut back. In addition to what has been said, this is obvious but clear out freezer space. You'll be surprised at how much space these will take. Even if my freezer were empty, I don't think it could hold all that. Also, freeze the items on a cookie sheet, single layers (half an hour or so) and then put into parchment and freezer ziplock bags. It will help them from getting crushed.

                I agree w/ hoytoynoodle about having larger pieces. The hardest party I've done is one where I thought small single serving desserts would be a good idea. Pretty but very time consuming.

                1. re: chowser

                  Thank you! It actually makes more sense to do the larger items and then cut them as opposed to lots of bite size ones! I guess I fell into the trap that smaller has to mean easier! Ha! And thanks for the tip on freezing the items on cookie sheets- now on to cleaning out my freezer!

                  1. re: eakthomas

                    I'll combine my thoughts to all your posts above here. Bars and brownies freeze great. Just take them and cookies out in the morning, put on serving trays and let them sit at room temp. Pie crusts can be frozen. If you have room, you can roll them out into the pans. If you're not familiar with making pie crusts, either practice a lot now, or buy good quality frozen ones. Trader Joe's has a nice frozen pie crust (a little tricky to use) but has only ingredients I'd use in a pie crust. If you can do larger tarts, rather than a lot of 4" tarts, it would be easier--especially if you're not used to making tarts. I think it's just as much work making one large tart as one small (small might be even harder). If you want to take out tarts, you can use long strips of parchment across the bottom--criss cross on the bottom and then when it cools, use them to lift the tart.

                    1. re: chowser

                      THANK YOU! Totally needed these tips! I'm actually headed to Trader Joes tomorrow, so I will look about the pie crusts as I'm definitely not a pro when it comes to making my own...I may try my hand at the tarts with a trial run this week- if it's disastrous, then I will abandon! Do the items thawing not get condensation causing them to be soggy? Thanks again!

                    2. re: eakthomas

                      One thing that would make your life easier and lighten everything would be a dipping bar. You can make strawberry sauce, homemade caramel sauce and chocolate suace ahead of time (just reheat with a double boiler) and stick fresh fruit, pretzel sticks, and hunks of store bought pound cake out with skewers for people to dip.

                      1. re: Dcfoodblog

                        With 70 people, wouldn't that start to look real messy real fast? I imagine the sauce thickening up a little and then a piece of cake breaking off in the sauce, followed by broken pretzel etc. Is this not a problem?

                        1. re: escondido123

                          i dislike these "make-your-own-something" bars for exactly this reason. after just a few people there are drips everywhere and bits of this and that all over the place. unless there is dedicated staff for JUST that station, it's not something i advise. ever. double-bad-no-no if there are any kids.

                          1. re: escondido123

                            I agree--I avoid dips and chocolate fountains. I'm enough of a germ phobe that people dipping, double dipping, losing pieces, etc. bothers me I did a chocolate fondue race where they gave you a little tray of food and a small container of warm fondue that they scooped. That's the only time it goes well but you have to have enough manpower for someone to scoop the fondue. It is nice to have your own dipping chocolate.

                            However, if OP really wanted dipping sauces, she could put them in squeeze bottles. That would be easy.

                            1. re: escondido123

                              The sauces do thicken up a little but I take that into account when cooking and add more liquid (I use almond milk and chocolate for the chocolate sauce to make it vegan). The sauces are the consistency of Hershey's chocolate syrup. I have had a piece of food here and there in the sauces but nothing I was too worried about. I could be more laid back than most.

                              1. re: Dcfoodblog

                                I've actually been to parties with successful dipping stations and had already considered it for this one, but ultimately decided against it just because of the 'eclectic' mix of people that will be attending...A few children, some young adults, lots of baby boomers and a large handful of seniors...I just thought it might be best to keep things a least a little more on the traditional side...

                  2. Pecan stickies and Cinnamon Cakes sound much more breakfasty than dessert to me. That said, I agree if lots of the folks here that it might be better to work from flavor profiles rather than duplicating yourself....one lemon, one chocolate etc. Must admit I see nothing fruity here as the main ingredient, maybe a crumble as someone suggested or maybe a buttery cake studded with fruit--cherries and apricots are just appearing here in So Cal. Oh, and maybe a big bowl of whipped cream with a bit of sweetness and vanilla!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: escondido123

                      Thanks for the fruity suggestion- researching it now!

                    2. i would agree with those who say whittle down your list of desserts to a much smaller number. you don't want to be in the sanatarium instead of at your own party. LOL

                      1. 1) Someone suggested cake stands---yes. In any kind of buffet presentation try to have things at different heights, even if you have to wrap a box or a couple of bricks nicely in a napkin. Cake stands and trifle dishes make a showy presentation---borrow if you don't have. 2) Little fluted paper muffin cups (of different sizes if you have them) to put things like tarts and brownies in also show very nicely. 3) If you have too many items that require refrigeration until the last minute you will go crazy with your refrigerator. Cakes etc that can stand at room temp can be out for hours ahead of time, even a day ahead---you can use your dining room table and buffet as a staging area for the outdoor service. 4) Since you are serving outdoors you can't set up your table the day before, alas, but have EVERYTHING at hand---tablecloth, serving pieces, and start polishing any silver pieces now. Paper or plastic plates, I sincerely hope? 5) Frankly I would use bought tart shells. You can get little graham cracker ones at the supermarket in the cake mix section. Unless you are auditioning for a job as a pastry chef, nobody will care---what impresses is variety and presentation. 6) Do you have any help? 70 people is a huge crowd and your house will have to be clean enough so that you don't embarrass yourself. Where will they all put their coats if it's raining? On beds? So the bedrooms and adjacent bathrooms must be presentable and so must the guest bath. On borrowed coat racks? Get them set up ahead of time. Will parking create mayhem in the neighborhood? And somebody is going to have to call their babysitter so be sure you wipe off all telephones because the one that the kids got goo all over will be the one a guest goes to. 7) Rule of thumb to avoid insanity is have your kitchen cleaned up like an operating room before the shindig starts to avoid complicating the inevitable mess. 8) What are they drinking with these desserts? 70 people is a lot of tea or coffee----you really should have a big electric urn but if you don't, borrow a lot of coffee pots. Punch? Have the components ready to pour into the bowl. In summary, be at your most obsessional and get everything possible done AHEAD OF TIME. Then remember the hostess's Rule of Duck: look as if you are sitting calmly on top of the water while under the water you are paddling like hell. PS I agree with the folks who say to have a few big cakes. This will lighten your workload and also provide greater variety of shapes, forms, and types which is what wows people (they like to feel overwhelmed). Just cut into small pieces. Angelfood from a mix is quick and fancy with a powdered sugar icing dripping down the sides. A mix yellow cake with a powdered sugar icing spiked with plenty of rum and instant coffee, with toasted almonds sprinkled on the top, ditto. And a big cheesecake. A big strawberry-rhubarb crisp for springtime? A pan of bread pudding with whiskey sauce on the side? Instead of everything that you have to do tiny and individual.

                        1. I just recently came across a blogger who has a large desserts party every year - she is on her 4th. She has some good tips and she has a useful check list.
                          http://willtravelforfood.com/2012/01/...