As the name of my blog indicates, I spend a lot of time thinking about home. Of course, my Heavenly Home is the one that is eternal, so that’s where I need to lay up my treasures, and that’s the one I’m striving for. But in the meantime, I have been given this tiny piece of the here-and-now—this home on the edge of town, this family, this neighborhood—in which to serve Him. And, though this is in the earthly realm, I want the things that happen here to be investments in the Heavenly realm.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Tips for Hosting a "Last Minute" Party | Chocolate Harvest Cake

Sometimes you need to be really organized and deliberate when you entertain. Ron's surprise 60th birthday party in August, and our "Thank the Movers" dessert buffet in October both fit into that category. We made detailed plans for the menu, for decorations, and for how to get it all done in time. 

But sometimes the key is to keep it simple! 

Last weekend, when two sets of tentative plans fizzled (actually both were postponed until a later time), we made a quick decision to host a ladies' game night instead. It would be the first such evening here at Pineapple House! With less than a week's notice, we needed to keep it simple.

Here are my tips for hosting a last minute party:

Keep the menu simple.

This time, we planned a simple supper of chicken tortilla soup and mini corn muffins.  That's it.

Your menu could be pizza or chili or lasagna...anything that you find easy to prepare and serve. Soups and other one-dish meals are super simple. 

Say "yes" if a guest offers to contribute to the meal. 

My friend Joanne asked if she could bring something, so I asked her to bring an appetizer. She arrived with a fabulous butternut squash/apple bruschetta. Mmmm.

I very rarely have a party or holiday meal, or even a Sunday afternoon family meal, without having others contribute. If someone offers, I know that they are willing to help and I accept. Of course, for occasions when there are a group of guests, I may say, "Since you brought a salad to our last game party, this time just bring yourself!" 

If time allows, make ONE special thing.

I had clipped a recipe from a magazine several years ago because it was beautiful, autumnal, and chocolate! Since the rest of the menu was simple, I decided to make this special dessert: Chocolate Harvest Cake.

Two chocolate layers...pumpkin cream filling...chocolate ganache...a few fruits and nuts for a flavorful garnish. What's not to like?!

Note: Cakes are not my strong suit. Kati and Bekah usually make the layer cakes around here. But, although this one takes a little time because of the three parts, I found it generally easy to make...and it turned out! Success! 



Chocolate Cake:
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup water
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder

Pumpkin Cream Filling:
8-oz package of cream cheese
1/3 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Chocolate Ganache:
1/2 cup whipping cream
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350ºF. Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray.

Mix together buttermilk, water, oil, sugar, eggs, baking soda, and salt; stir until well combined. 

Add in flour and cocoa powder, whisking until smooth.
Pour batter evenly into prepared pans.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until top springs back when lightly touched.
Cool completely. 

Beat together cream cheese, pumpkin, sugar, and cinnamon until smooth and thick.
Place one cake layer on serving plate; spread pumpkin filling over top. Top with the second layer.

In saucepan, bring whipping cream just to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from heat.
Pour in chocolate chips and allow to stand for five minutes; stir until smooth.
Cool for 15 minutes. (Ganache will thicken as it cools.)

Pour ganache over cake, allowing it to drip down sides.
Garnish. (I used red grapes, blackberries, and toasted hazelnuts.)
Chill until set, approximately 30 minutes.

Do you ever host last-minute affairs? What are your tips for pulling it off? 


  1. We often do last minute events, but never with such a beautiful dessert! That looks amazing!

    I need to have a ladies game night at my house. That would be fun!

  2. No, because I am not bwave like you! I still have not learned how to bless rather than impress. But I can do better. That cake looks amazing!

    1. Sending a behind the scenes email that pertains to this very thing that may bless you...

  3. What an amazing looking (and SOUNDING) cake! Wow - the pumpkin filling sounds absolutely luscious. Re. your question, I find that the spontaneous gatherings seldom disappoint. I have few pointers except to keep it simple. (I DO agree with yours share here.)

  4. Your chocolate cake is beautiful, Cheryl! With the fruit on top it looks very sophisticated. I always enjoy your entertaining tips. Last minute affairs are easier for me. It's the big affairs that make my head spin. Keeping the menu simple and preparing everything in advance is my obvious tip. ♥

  5. I really like the cake, Cheryl. So nicely decorated. I really like your tips especially the "let other people bring things". I made a pumpkin, cream cheese frosting this past weekend very similar to your filling. Hope your November is starting well.

  6. That cake looks perfect--and yummy. I don't do enough spur of the moment gatherings, but when we do, they always seem the best. Casual, all chipping in to help--no fuss--but the gathering of friends (or new friends) is what counts. Great post--true hospitality.

  7. Oh my goodness that cake just looks HEAVENLY!! yum, yum, yum! And yes we do MANY things last minute (though not my favorite!) and it is the answer...simple. It's usually pizza on such occasions for us. And turning down offered help would NEVER be me, lol. Somehow I have a feeling that being a guest at your house would ALWAYS be a good thing... Hope your having a good week!

  8. I love the looks and sound of this cake. The fruit and nuts on top makes it look so elegant! Another recipe to put into my to-try folder. I don't entertain much anymore so I don't have any tips. The last time was sort of last minute and I bought a big dessert from Sam's Club and BBQ meats at the vendor and salads at the grocery store. I only fixed a chocolate pie and baked beans. :) Have a nice week!

  9. Pumpkin crème filling??? You've got me there, Cheryl! How delicious! Your tips are all good ones. I realize it's not a last-minute thing, but we have some or several family members showing up here on the 19th. We don't know how many. Because of that, I'm preparing, the night before, a big pot of soup (typical November weather calls for soup), and that's easy to supplement. I like to try to get as much done ahead of time, so that I'm spending time with people, rather than with food and dishes. That cake or blueberry/lavender scones can also be made ahead of time. I always love having people in. :-)

  10. You are definitely the hostess with the mostest, my friend! I wish I was as entertainment oriented as you! These are all great ideas to keep in mind and thanks for sharing them...Lord knows I need all the help I can get! That cake looks "to die for" awesome!

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