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Dessert for a friendly "throwdown" at work... suggestions?

we do lots of food competitions in my office... and I'm kind of a competitive person... any suggestions for a dessert with a 'wow-factor' that is delicious and will crown me dessert queen for a day?
(I was thinking Mocha Eclairs, but I don't know that they will hold up till Noon, we don't have much refrigerator room)
Nobody ever thinks to do frozen treats, so the freezer will be free... I had considered something like a peach & champagne sorbet, but since it's in the office, I'm guessing that boozy desserts are off the table

Thanks in advance for all your suggestions!

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  1. Paris-Brest done eclair style. A layer of chocolate ganache on the bottom, sliced strawberries, freshly whipped cream. Cover with top half and sprinkle with confectioners sugar. Strewn whole strawberries here, and there on the serving platter.

    1. Ice cream bon bons:


      If you hadn't mentioned the limited fridge space, I'd have suggested an icebox cake, which I'm making for my birthday next month:


      1. A Dessert that must contain fruit.

        Mini Pies


        Puff Pastries

        Creative ice cream flavors

        1. Chocolate mousse with raspberries (perhaps in little shot glasses). Or a white chocolate cheesecake decorated with raspberries.

          1. How many servings do you need? And are you looking for taste over presentation or the other way around?

            2 Replies
            1. re: biondanonima

              about 20 - 25 servings (but not full servings, since there will be multiple participants)

              Ideally BOTH (ha ha ha) but really I'd take something that tastes phenomenal over something that looks pretty but tastes 'just okay'

              1. re: cgarner

                Would you prefer to make one large thing (cake, torte, etc.) that needs to be cut and served, or something in an individual size? How are your piping/decorating skills?

            2. What type of things have won in the past? It would help to know if this is a poke cake crowd made from jello and boxed cake or croquembouche w/ spun sugar all from scratch.

              10 Replies
              1. re: chowser

                Yeah, that's what I had in mind with my question, actually - croquembouche! I don't necessarily find it to be the most delicious thing I've ever had, but it is gorgeous and impressive. However, if the crowd is more used to dump cake, you might have better luck with something else.

                1. re: chowser

                  We’re all over the place…one of my competitors actually has her own little cookie business, so she’s the one to beat in my opinion (she’s a ringer, but I’m up for the challenge_ ;-)

                  Let’s see, competitions of the past

                  Appetizer contest: WON with an antipasto platter I kinda felt like I cheated because it was just artfully arranged, really good meats and cheeses with, melon wrapped proscuitto, some roasted peppers, olives and good bread in a pretty basket on the side

                  Other entries that people were gobbling up:
                  tarragon herbed deviled eggs
                  Sweet Lebanon Bologne with cream cheese in a pinwheel on a tooth-pick
                  Something that involved velveeta, a jar of salsa and a can of chili (people love that stuff!)
                  A fava bean and ricotta crostini which was delicious (would have been better if the bread were grilled, made a mental note of that)
                  A home made guacamole with home fried tortillas (fantastic)

                  The last dessert contest we had, I made a devils’ food cake, filled with seedless raspberry preserves and a chocolate Italian butter cream, frosted with the butter cream and then finished with ganache for a pretty/glossy look
                  (nailed it)
                  other entries: salted caramel brownies
                  cinnamon toast crunch cupcakes
                  a "tiramisu" (which I swear was made with cool whip)
                  cake of half brownie, half chocolate chip cookie (think of this as being baked in a springform pan, layered on top of each other and cut like a cake)
                  banana pudding

                  1. re: cgarner

                    Which one won in the last dessert contest, yours?

                    1. re: LindaWhit

                      hi LIndaWhit, yeah, I won that round!

                    2. re: cgarner

                      Wow! Sounds like you have some reasonably accomplished cooks in your office. The dessert choices from the previous competition sound like they skew heavily to the sweet/rich side - that being the case, I would probably choose something lighter/more seasonal/fruit based. Rhubarb is one of my favorite desserts - hand pies, individual tarts, curd, sorbet or something of that sort would be fabulous and likely unique.

                      1. re: biondanonima

                        The individual fruit tartlets with a lemony mousse base might go over really well. (I think I'm fixated on mousse! LOL)

                        1. re: LindaWhit

                          Yes, I love lemon in the spring too, it's so bright and fresh tasting. Or key lime. This Pierre Herme lemon cream tart recipe is DIVINE: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/20...

                        2. re: biondanonima

                          that dessert round was in winter (I think it was a week or two before Christmas) so I think the holiday mood was in effect... but since the weather is nice, doing something lighter would be nice

                        3. re: cgarner

                          For something nice and light, try this lemon/lime mascarpone mousse (got it from ccbweb) and use either meyer lemon or key lime. You can layer it in clear plastic serving cups w/ berries.


                          It's creamy delicious lightness.

                        4. re: chowser

                          We had both of these at our last carryin (boxed cake or croquembouche w/ spun sugar all from scratch).

                        5. A play on the grapefruit sorbet-in-half-a-grapfruit dessert, particularly one that would taste good with dark chocolate artfully drizzled over the top:

                          Half of a fat strawberry [those extra large not super high quality ones] filled with rosemary ice cream and topped with just a "tuille" of dark chocolate

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Kris in Beijing

                            I love the idea of a sorbet too! but the more I think of it, the whole set up and keeping it cold would be problematic

                          2. Homemade Dip'n'Dots [see YouTube].
                            WIth PopRocks?

                            1. Here are a few that I've made with great results in a similar situation (weekly group lunch at work). They all are a bit unusual, taste great and look impressive. The first two will be fine at room temperature for a few hours.

                              Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2008/0...

                              Banana Cake with Mocha Frosting and Candies Peanuts - from David Leibovitz/ book "Ready for Dessert." I couldn't find the original online but it's bee picked up by others on their blogs, like here: http://gracessweetlife.com/2010/10/ba...

                              Mango Cheesecake
                              Make the crust with ginger snaps. This got raves.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: avonfluegge

                                LOVE the idea of the mango cheesecake!

                                1. re: avonfluegge

                                  I really like that Mango Cheesecake too, (especially with the suggestion of the additional lime zest)
                                  (p.s. the most recent review cracked me up... changed everything and didn't like it... gee I wonder why?)

                                  1. re: avonfluegge

                                    The mango cheesecake is speaking to me too!
                                    I've seen cheesecakes made in muffin tins for individual portions, that could up the cute food appeal for people, a little lime zest on top for garnish....

                                    1. re: avonfluegge

                                      That chocolate peanut butter cake looks fabulous!

                                    2. I have found people are really impressed by ice cream sandwiches. You can do interesting combinations that can't be bought, like a chocolate cookie + coffee ice cream. I wrap them individually in wax paper. I seem to recall that Martha Stewart has a good cookie recipe for this ...

                                      You can also have fun with the shapes. I have some fluted rectangular cutters, lots of hearts ... I also have done different sizes, so someone who just wants a bite can have their own tiny sandwich.

                                      1. I've made a pavlova with a caramel cage that transports well and elicits plenty of oohs and ahhs. Dobostorte is also relatively shelf-stable and benefits from a golden caramel layer.

                                        On the more traditional side, a strawberry rhubarb pie with a beautifully made lattice is really hard to beat.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: JungMann

                                          I wish I could make pie crust! I can't! It never turns out right... I had a Nan that could turn out the most wonderful, perfectly flaky, tender but not falling apart crust you could imagine... I watched her so many times (she used lard and butter and a few drops of vinegar) and mine still just never work

                                          1. Pavlova with lemon curd, whipped cream and fresh berries.

                                            1. Trifle has own year after year at my work functions. It's a crwod pleaser. The more variety of berries the better with vanilla or sponge cake and cream on top. My fave had a nice crunchy layer of slivered almonds, both on top and in the middle!

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: momoftwo

                                                Hubby suggested a Trifle... his office had a dessert thing a couple years ago, "he" (ahem we) made grilled peaches with amaretto mascarpone, folded with whipped cream and crushed amaretti cookies on top
                                                I was SURE we'd (um, I mean HE) would win
                                                the Trifle won... in all fairness, he said it was spectacular!

                                              2. How about Baklava? I always received raves in my office for that dessert.

                                                1. How about a spiced poached pear with creme anglaise and a piece of puff pastry? It's my go-to dessert to impress people. Other than the creme anglaise, it's a pretty simple dish. I like to add cognac and vanilla to my creme anglaise for flavoring--though only just a splash for the flavor, so there will very little alcohol in the finished dish.

                                                  1. Giada has a fantastic recipe for mocha semifreddo. A real show-stopper & so good!

                                                    1. I wouldn't assume boozy desserts are off the table - in fact I won a similar office competition using rum from Barbados in a Boozy Bundt Cake I made with a Betty Crocker cake mix. One of our best loved longtime co-workers was from Barbados and famous for bringing back rum and rum cake from home so using the rum seemed like a brilliant idea to me and I won! I think I based in roughly on a Pioneer Woman recipe. You can't go wrong with chocolate or booze IMHO.

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: Berheenia

                                                        And I got an A in senior year of high school by making a Harvey Wallbanger Cake for Spanish class where we were studying the foods of Spain.

                                                        Yes. I know. Galliano (the alcohol in a Harvey Wallbanger) is Italian. I think I got an A for the chutzpah. ;-)

                                                        1. re: Berheenia

                                                          not to get too far into it, but we have some employees that are here on a court ordered 'program'
                                                          Since they started all office events have been booze free, so I wouldn't want to be the one to rock the boat even with an unofficial department event

                                                          1. re: cgarner

                                                            Yes, and with the way HR departments are run these days, why do anything risky like serving a booze soaked dessert. Fun in high school for sure, but not even remotely a good idea in an office situation these days.

                                                            1. re: Fowler

                                                              It was the wife of the owner and the head of HR who nominated my boozy dessert- and she was a tee teetotaler - go figure! But I agree that when there are recovering issues it would be inappropriate. We were just a bunch of non-profit worker drones.

                                                        2. As nice as sorbet can be, I don't think it has a chance of winning a dessert contest. I also like the mango cheesecake but I would decorate, maybe a sour cream mango topping.

                                                          1. Three later chocolate cake with peanut butter and chocolate mousses between the layers and chocolate peanut butter ganache on top. People thought I bought it at a restaurant.

                                                            1. I also suggest a beautiful fruit platter with some dipping sauce. It is a change from other desserts.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: Ruthie789

                                                                While a fruit platter sounds refreshing, it is a contest which means creativity is being looked at (or should be). I see nothing creative about a fruit platter unless the fruit is being carved into something interesting....JMO

                                                                I know it's a bit late on the commenting but I'd do something like assorted flavored petite fours in different flavors and beautiful colored icings or even something like this:http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=J...

                                                                I'm considering doing that roll cake myself...

                                                              2. Given the "wow" factor of the desserts mention here, I would go totally subversive and make THE BEST chocolate chips cookies ever, served with home made vanilla ice cream (you mention the freezer would be free).

                                                                It may seem weird, but when it comes to dessert I often find "what mom made" to be the most satisfying.

                                                                p.s. who judges these competitions?

                                                                1. How about a Dacquoise or Meringue Japonais (meringue with ground nuts folded in and baked long and slow and crisp in two or three layers) that you put together at the last minute with whipped cream or custard (that you refrigerate all morning at work)---strew a few extra nuts around, make it pretty, wouldn't take a minute. Or I wonder if you could use quality vanilla ice cream since you have freezer space. Meringues are cheap and easy to make and are always impressive.

                                                                  1. here's my entry
                                                                    Mango cheesecake
                                                                    (made a few small modifications to the epicurious recipe, including lime)

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: cgarner

                                                                      Beautiful! I love mango and cheesecake - I'm sorry to hear you didn't win. I'd have voted for you for sure!

                                                                        1. re: cgarner

                                                                          A Golden Cupcake! How very Willy Wonka of your office. :D

                                                                          Please do let us know how it goes - what the other desserts were (I see something chocolatey to the left of the Golden Cupcake) and where you placed. :-)

                                                                          1. ...and I lost! dead last

                                                                            we take samples to random "other" departments and dont' say who made what...we just plate as nicely as we can and ask for first second third based on taste and presentation

                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                            1. re: cgarner

                                                                              Awww, bummer. I know I personally would have liked it! What dessert won?

                                                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                I'm going to be a good sport... (the winner was a doctored box cake mix!

                                                                                next culinary challenge has been set:

                                                                                Meatball throwdown!
                                                                                prize the golden meatball
                                                                                (I need to figure out how to make a golden meatball!)

                                                                                1. re: cgarner

                                                                                  Sorry to hear! That's why I asked what kind of crowd it was. Box cake, it is. For the meatball, a few of us played around w/the swedish meatball stuffed w/the lingonberries, which was delicious. I'll chime in when you ask if you're interested.

                                                                                  1. re: cgarner

                                                                                    Wow. When I look at all of the desserts, your mango cheesecake or the Banana Split cupcakes would have been my choices from a *visual* alone.

                                                                                    A doctored box cake mix. ::::shaking my head::::

                                                                                1. re: cgarner

                                                                                  Some kind of poke cake? It is a very popular dessert. I brought cheese cake to work a few months ago and was surprised that quite a few of my "regulars" did not partake in the cake citing they did not like cheese cake.

                                                                                2. Banana Split Cupcakes

                                                                                    1. re: cgarner

                                                                                      This would have won if my husband was a judge. Gotta google this.

                                                                                      1. re: Berheenia

                                                                                        That one draws me in, i would have a piece for sure!

                                                                                        1. re: Berheenia

                                                                                          @Berheenia, the young lady that brought that is has her own little dessert business
                                                                                          it was DELICIOUS!

                                                                                        1. What about individual raspberry chiffon pies?

                                                                                          If you go with a crumb crust, you can easily make these into tiny chiffon tartlets! I love chiffon because it's rich and decadent without weighing you down. It's great for summer, but beware a hot kitchen! It'll really mess with your meringue! Let me know if you're interested and I'll put up my recipe. :)

                                                                                          1. Somehow can't like cooking as a competitive sport. I know this is a friendly competition. But it puts me off.