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Easy/affordable dessert for 200 people?

What do you think would be the easiest/fastest and most affordable option for 200 people?

It needs to be pre-portioned or individual-servings--something that does not need flatware.

Thanks for any ideas. I love home-cooking and baking, but I am starting to think it might be best to just purchase something. Or make chocolate-covered pretzel rods or fancy rice-krispies treats. I have a very small (studio) kitchen... so 200 is overwhelming me

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  1. I would buy something. Would 200 assorted bars (brownies, blondies, lemon bars, etc.) be outside your budget?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Jay F

      That might be what I ended up doing. I started calculating all the ingredients/products for frosting and cupcakes.. and it seems like it isn't worth the mess/time. (Especially because I only have 1 muffin pan.. for 6 muffins! HAHAHA.)

      1. re: GraceW

        I calculate the cost per large brownie square if you make them from mix in aluminum foil pans to be about 15 cents per brownie. This is based on cutting a 9 x 12 pan of brownie into`12 portions. If you omit nuts the cost is closer to 12 cents per brownie.

    2. define cheap?

      as for the pretzels, you'd need to make several hundred. do you have time, patience and room for them to set?

      3 Replies
      1. re: hotoynoodle

        Several hundred? Oops, I was thinking 'maybe' people would more than one pretzel-rod. But it is probably more like 'definitely.'

        1. re: GraceW

          If you went the dipped pretzels route, I'd suggest the mini twists. You hold on one edge, dip the rest, set to cool. That way people can have one, or a couple - and there's a LOT less waste. Which when you are the one cooking, prepping and cleaning, would help your heart be happy. (Half eaten pretzel rods would break my heart. Half eaten mini's not so much.)

          Also if you dip pretzels, it's an easy thing to also dip dried fruits such as apricots, to offer as well. Gluten free and something different.

          Where are you? In LA if I had such a quandary and couldn't cook, I'd hit an ethnic bakery to get something precut, tasty and yet different. Trays of baklava. Assported cuban pastries. Or adorable black and white panda cookies from a chinese bakery.

          Or wait, just thinking out loud here, I know they are passe BUT - what about a chocolate fountain? Get a few (you can find them for cheap now) and use a good quality chocolate. have one dark chocolate, one milk, maybe one white (though I know it's not technically chocolate. Then you don't have to do the dipping - your guests go. Fresh fruit, pretzels, you name it.

          Good luck and let us Chow folks know what you end up doing!

          1. re: happybaker

            I wish I was in CA. And chocolate fountain would surely be appreciated, but that's not going to be possible.

            --I think at this point I will either be making brownies or buying chocolate chip cookies. I make really good CCCs, but I have a number of obligations at the present that would make it best to probably purchase them, even though it is bothering me that I will not be making it all myself.

      2. You could probably make 200 mini-pavlova meringue bases from about 2 dozen egg-whites or so. They keep for ages so you could just bake them in batches of 50 or so every few days to stay sane, and store them in Tupperwares until you need them. Then I would just whip up masses of cream (or even just buy a few huge tubs of mascarpone or creme fraiche) and get hold of a few punnets of in-season fruit (or frozen berries) and get people to assemble their own pavlovas buffet-style!

        2 Replies
        1. re: Elster

          That sounds wonderful. Although I must be honest, I tried to make pavlova/meringues before (maybe it is because I have a hand-held mixer or bad baking-sheets), but they never work for me. Which is probably a good thing because meringues are my favorite.

        2. that many and no flatware? Maybe gourmet cookies of some type (macadamia/white chocolate with drizzled dark chocolate). If you have oodles of hours to prepare, mini turnovers.

          1. S'mores may work, but you need to give us more information to be sure. Is this event going to be inside or outside? is there going to be a firepit or fireplace or barbecue of some sort?

            2 Replies
              1. re: GraceW

                Building off of PotatoHouse's rec and for future reference, s'more bars (baked in aluminum 13x9 pan) may work.
                I am unsure of ingredient pricing, but there are many recipes online that simply require layering the graham crackers, marshmallows (or marshmallow cream) and chocolate squares. Then bake. Super easy for a crowd. Not gourmet by any means, but who doesn't love a good s'more?

            1. Truffles..........a variety of them....is also a possibility if you have the time.but I would imagine you'd need 600-800 for a crowd that size, depending on age and culinary interests. Little need for an oven.....just a stove top

              1 Reply
              1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                Truffles are easy but definitely not budget-friendly! You need good-quality chocolate - and lots of it - or it's not even worth doing...

              2. Brownies or Blondies. The Barefoot Contessa's recipe makes a lot, and they're rich enough that people won't have too many.

                1. GoopBars
                  (double to make 200)
                  4-1/2 cups unsalted butter, melted, cooled to room temperature
                  9 packages devils food cake mix
                  6-3/4 cups creamy peanut butter, warm
                  2-1/4 lbs. large marshmallows, quartered
                  Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine butter and dry cake mixes in a bowl until crumbly.
                  Reserve 7 lbs. of mixture. Pat remaining crumb mixture into 9 ungreased 9x13 inch pans or equivalent. Combine peanut butter and marshmallows in a bowl. Spread evenly over crumb mixture in the pans.
                  (If space and bowls are a problem, mix each cake mix separately)
                  Crumble reserved cake mixture over top and bake 20 minutes.
                  Let cool before cutting into bars.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: girloftheworld

                    Thanks for the note about preparing each mix separately, I would have to do each.. and buying/making 9 is just adding to the "this is overwhelming" factor. --Sorry, I think the peanut butter means this is not an option this time around, but I will save it for future use.

                  2. Don't people still like cookies? Some nice chocolate chip pecan ones?

                    1. If you have a way to put out an assortment, a sort of "bar bar" might work, with choices of bars of brownies, blondies, rice krispy treats, and (my favorite) penuche. It's a fair amount of baking for 200 people, however, and it doesn't sound like you have a ton of storage space, but it might please a large group.

                      1. what about a candy buffet? just an assortment of jars and bowls with candy in a coorindinating color or theme? like candy fro the 1920s or red white and blue? everyone goes through with a little paper bag and they scoop a bit into their bag?

                          1. I bake in quantity for church dinners offered to the poor. If your budget will allow for aluminum foil pans, at Dollar Tree stores you can buy 9 x 12 cake pans for a dollar apiece that have rigid plastic covers so the pans can be stacked--- this may be important for transport. Every pan of cake or brownies cuts into 12 portions so for 200 people you would need 9 pans. If you are serving without flatware, that probably means brownies rather than cake. So: 9 boxes of brownie mix, on sale, probably $1 or $1.25 per box, plus the cost of eggs and vegetable oil. If the budget allows any extra, maybe some nuts. Just set a few mixing bowls out on the counter and work a la assembly line. Brownies do not require frosting. This is not an impossible job---it sounds very do-able. BTW if your local Dollar Tree doesn't stock the pans with lids, order them from the DT website and there is no shipping charge if you pick up your order at a DT store but you must take a box of a a dozen pans.

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: Querencia

                              Q - Great tip on the Dollar Tree pans! Way helpful!

                              And fab breakdown on the economics.

                              1. re: Querencia

                                I just drove to get brownie mixes and they were all out of the ones that were on-sale for $1.66... the next best price was over $2.50.. which I had calculated would put 'making brownies' (if you call using a mix, making brownies...) over buying soft-baked chocolate chip cookies from a nearby bakery...

                                So I am going to order the cookies. And at least if I cannot make them, then I can rest assured that I am supporting a local independent bakery (not DHines).

                                1. re: GraceW

                                  A lovely choice - helping your friends and a local bakery : )

                                2. re: Querencia

                                  Wait! there is a dolar tree website? my world became brighter!!!

                                  1. re: girloftheworld

                                    Oh yes, grasshopper (aka girl of the world) there IS a website -


                                    You can't get home delivery, but you can see what you can pre-buy and have shipped to your local dollar tree, just for you.

                                    So no more worrying about "Gosh will they have the 50 gift bags I need?" You can pre-order.

                                    Right now this is looking tempting for friends who have kids -


                                    And the tip that Querencia gave for the baking pans with lids? So great for parties!

                                    1. re: happybaker

                                      Thank You ! That is awesome. The Dollar tree is bike riding distance from my house and i huaunt it for stuff...Though I am stil doubting what dollar tree the people on Pintrest shop at.

                                      1. re: girloftheworld

                                        Some of them are nicer than others. The one by my mom's? Clean, well laid out - very nice. Yet I've also seen ones with INCHES of dust and dirt.

                                        Gives new meaning to "Your Mileage May Vary"!

                                  2. re: Querencia

                                    I know I must be missing something, but 9 X 12 = 108, right? Wouldn't you need 16 pans for 200 people?

                                  3. Thank you again to everyone who responded. The dessert is for a charity-dinner--so I will definitely be using some of the ideas in the future to help us raise more money.

                                    CHOWs are the best people.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: GraceW

                                      I'm sure the cookies will go over well. In the future, if you can get butter & sugar for a good price, blondies are a great choice, as are oatmeal cookie bars. Oh, and lemon bars if you have access to cheap lemons.

                                      1. re: GraceW

                                        This is a killer snack/treat that is not expensive to make. (I use good quality chips and store brand corn.) And it is actually better the next day.

                                        For your future endeavors : )


                                      2. Ina's outrageous brownies are made in a half sheet pan and can feed quite a few, plus they're easy to freeze.


                                        If you want something really quick and easy, instead of doing the chocolate covered pretzels, use the classic pretzels, top w/ rolo and bake. When finished, top w/ pecan (optional if you need to save money). Quick turtles.

                                        Another really simple idea, one I wouldn't have tried from reading the recipe but tried it at a potluck is saltine candy (toffee chocolate covered saltines). Again, you can top w/ nuts, or not.


                                        1. Caramel corn? In cute little Chinese take out containers?

                                          1. I second the cookie idea - it is fairly easy to make 400 cookies and you can freeze ahead of time. Stick with drop cookies or bar cookies and it will go fast.

                                            If you don't have it, invest in a cookie scoop - you'll use it in the future and I can't tell you how much faster it is to make it. Also to make it go faster, you can take gallon bags. If you can't handle large batches, but the dry ingredients for each batch in a gallon bag (or if you are making different kinds). For instance, I have all the recipes I need in front of me. I pull out the flour and measure the the amount of flour for cookie recipe A in bag 1, recipe B in bag 2 etc. Then I put flour away and pull out the baking soda etc. For things that require creaming you can put the sugars together in another bag. Then it is easy to do one batch after another. When you finish the dough, you can put it bag in the bag and chill it until you are ready to drop/bake. The only thing that is difficult is washing the bowl afterwards.

                                            Not sure where you are, but I can regularly get 99 cent brownie or cake mix from my grocery store. Ditto sales on marshmallows or chocolate.

                                            If you have a Costco membership that can be a cost savings for flour, sugar and butter.

                                            14 Replies
                                            1. re: jsaimd

                                              The biggest thing that has shocked me during this thread is why/how everyone gets mixes so cheaply. Yesterday I checked 3 stores and all of the brownie mixes (except a tiny packet from 1 store that would make an 8x8) were all over $2. I have never noticed this (I typically bake from SCRATCH--except tried a few mixes in the last 2 years) and wonder if in the midwest is full of from scratch bakers who don't care/don't use 'em.

                                              1. re: GraceW

                                                I don't use mixes, but I assume they're quoting prices from places like the Dollar, Store, 99¢ Store, Big Lots, etc...? Otherwise they must be sale prices - I've seen ads on occasion for things like baking mixes for 3 for $1 at places like Target & Walmart. I guess timing is everything!

                                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                  Yes, I did look/call at Target and Walmart (gasp! Walmart!) and the best "super-sale" was 3 for $5 .. so it seems like Dollar Store must be better.. I just have to honest that I would not buy something edible from Dollar Store because I would be scared how fresh it was.--But everyone is different, and peace be with those that shop there.

                                                  1. re: GraceW

                                                    nobake toffe drops
                                                    double for 200
                                                    I use these a lot when I do school parties

                                                    3-1/2 cups unsalted butter
                                                    1-3/4 cups cocoa
                                                    6-1/4 lbs. sugar
                                                    3-1/2 cups milk
                                                    3-1/2 Tbs. vanilla extract
                                                    4-1/2 lbs. quick oatmeal
                                                    7 cups toffee baking bits
                                                    Combine first 4 ingredients in a large heavy saucepan over medium high heat.
                                                    Bring to a soft boil. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla, then oats and toffee bits.
                                                    Drop by tablespoonfuls on wax paper and let harden.

                                                    1. re: GraceW

                                                      GraceW -

                                                      goodhealthgourmet is right - most folks who use mixes watch sales and stock up then. It makes sense! In the past, I've seen Giant/Eagle Kroger with cake or brownie mixes on sale for $1 a box or less.

                                                      I am a VERY picky scratch baker but I do buy ingredients at the 99 cents store (way closer to me than dollar tree and better selection.) I just check the expiration date and condition of the item.

                                                      This'll make you jealous - I just got 8 oz. boxes of Bakers unsweetened chocolate for my summer brownie baking at the 99 cents store, and the expiration date is over a year away. So for your future baking adventures, just know that you CAN get quality goods at these places, for quality thrifty baking.

                                                      1. re: happybaker

                                                        Thanks that is helpful. And yes, Bakers unsweetened chocolate is great--I love the "Bakers One-bowl brownies" recipe that is inside.

                                                      2. re: GraceW

                                                        Much like the Bakers chocolate happybaker mentioned, I'm pretty sure baking mixes have a "best by/sell by" date stamped on them somewhere. That should put your mind at ease regarding freshness.

                                                        Out of curiosity I just wen on the Dollar Tree website & searched baking supplies:

                                                        Serious deals there. It really might be worth a look if you have a location nearby...

                                                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                          Just a word of caution - I skimmed those deals and I HAVE purchased the flour they show listed (the Strafford County stuff.) I did not like it at all - no flavor, way too low in protein. (At least that's how it behaved.)

                                                          But some dollar trees, and most 99 cent stores, have flour in a two pound plastic bag by this company -


                                                          It's a BEAUTIFUL flour and works easily as well as Gold Medal. So if Gold medal if $4.50 a bag for 5 pounds (not on sale) and you need flour for a thrifty tasty project - go for the Lehi stuff.

                                                          1. re: happybaker

                                                            Gold Medal at $4.50 for 5 lbs?????? That's DOUBLE the price around here.....?!?!?!?!

                                                            1. re: sandylc

                                                              About a year ago the everyday price just LEAPED here. I was stunned.

                                                              We're now having better sales ($2 for the bag versus $3 sale) and the store brands are having a better general lower price but I don't know that we'll get back to that fabulous Christmas of my memory, where Albertson's had five pound sacks of Gold Medal for $1 - no limit.

                                                          2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                            I see! I haven't been to a Dollar Store since I was a child, but I will have to check it out.--I definitely laughed aloud when I saw that frosting though... it looks like the fake food from the Fisher-Price kitchen I had as a kid.

                                                            AWWW, look at the precious grill for $12 under Seasonal.. (remembers that I can buy a real grill..forget it)--but definitely some interesting things at this store. (Although I'd be curious how much of it is Made in America...

                                                            1. re: GraceW

                                                              I don't know that I'd take a chance with off-brand items, and I'd definitely skip that frosting! I've never actually been to a Dollar Tree (though I drive past them occasionally), I just thought it might be worthwhile for such good deals on things like national brand sugar & baking mixes. At the very least it'll be an adventure ;)

                                                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                GHG -

                                                                The frosting. Stay away from that frosting!

                                                                Especially as it's so easy to make a whipped chocolate ganache : )

                                                                But DT does have handy baking items and pans, so I would never totally write it off. You just need to be selective...