Some of you were curious about the details of the party that we hosted earlier this month. Although I certainly don't consider myself a party expert, I can carry you through my thought process as I planned for our dessert buffet.
The purpose of this party was to thank all of the generous people who had helped us when we moved back in April. Our original thought was to have a backyard barbecue sometime during the summer. But we were so busy with settling in and painting and oodles of birthdays (including Ron's big surprise party), that we never did get around to it. Rather than putting it off until the "perfect" time (which we all know never comes), we adjusted our expectations and planned to have a dessert buffet.
Here are my pointers for hosting a dessert buffet:
Design an invitation.I made up an invitation (using PicMonkey) and, in 21st century style, sent them out to our friends and family via Facebook message or email. I could have invited by phone or in person, but I think it's helpful for guests to have an invitation for reference and reminder.
I used one of my own fall-inspired photos, and added text. I decided to include RSVP information so that we would have an idea of how many people to expect.
Choose a theme.Every party doesn't need a theme, but I am a theme kind of gal. (I got it honest. Right, Mom?) I kept this one easy and went seasonal. Autumn is my favorite...plus, a sweet friend gave me some darling fall-themed paper products for my birthday. Perfect!
Plan for different flavors.Even though we were serving desserts, we needed a variety of tastes. We considered some typically autumn flavors (pumpkin, apple, pear, cranberry, gingerbread) as well as classic flavors. (Think chocolate, which is always in season!)
Plan for different shapes, forms, and textures.We didn't want our spread to be visually boring, so we planned for no two desserts to be in the same shape. Possibilities were cupcakes, cakes, pies, tarts, something in ramekins, cookies, or bars.
With those elements in mind, we tried to coordinate the different flavors with the different forms. In addition, because we had a lot to prepare in an already busy week, I wanted for most of the recipes to be our "standards," those that are tried and true. We also needed to consider the number of people. If everyone came, we would have 47, so we would need plenty of choices! (We actually had 41 people at our dessert buffet.) We also needed to consider that there were quite a few children, which influenced us to include two different cookies.
The girls and I sat down with paper and pencil and we brainstormed! It was a bit of a logic puzzle!
These are the desserts we chose to serve:
(Kati usually makes this as a layer cake, but for variety of form, she made cupcakes.)
Chocolate Chip Scones
This one was not "tried and true." It was the first time that Bekah made it, but it was a success!
Decorated Shortbread Cookies
This recipe...without the red food coloring. And in a leaf shape instead of a heart.
With autumn sprinkles instead of chocolate drizzle.
But it really is the same recipe. :)
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Cheesecake Tarts w/ Blackberry Garnish
This recipe...put atop a graham cracker crust in a ramekin.
(Two of them, actually.)
These choices meant that I didn't make a pear tart or cranberry upside down cake or spicy hermit bars, but you have to draw the line somewhere. Make your decisions and then get to work!
Display artfully.Vary the heights of your serving pieces. Elevate some desserts with pedestals. Place some on low plates or platters.
Use baskets for different heights and textures. Layer cloth or paper napkins for color and texture. Use doilies and/or decorated cupcake liners.
Make labels, so that guests won't need to guess. I typed the name of each one of my desserts in a PicMonkey design, choosing a font that was easy to replicate, then used it as a guide, copying it freehand. Of course, you could simply use your best handwriting...or even print them out.
Sneak in a little savory.I am the kind of person who likes a little salty to offset the sweet, so we included a few small savory offerings in our buffet: some mixed nuts, hummus and pita chips, cheese straws, a platter of salami and cheese, and a basket of crackers. We did not label these, as they were "extras."
Make a schedule of tasks.Because it was a busy week, we needed to plan what would be done and when. As Kati is working full time now, she was assigned only one dessert. Some things (cookies, fudge) could be done earlier in the week and either frozen, refrigerated, or put in tins. Some things (cheesecake tarts) needed to be prepared at the last minute. A few things were optional, only done if there was time. We had to stagger baking so that we weren't in each other's way. (This was before the double oven range was installed!)
With all of this in mind, I printed out a calendar and we wrote each task on the day and the time of day (morning, afternoon, or evening) it was to be done and who was to do it. This may sound extreme, but I know myself and I didn't want to risk ruining the party by procrastination and rushing around at the last minute. Having it all there in black and white gave order and direction to the week. (Plus, I love to check things off!)
Have fun!On the day of the party, enjoy the fact that you have planned well. Play around with your table displays, trying this and that until it pleases your eye. (We rearranged food several times before it all clicked!) Most importantly, focus on your guests and how much fun they will have because you have chosen to invite them and bless them!