No matter how good the appetizers and the main course are, everyone's really waiting for dessert. Whether it's something as simple and summery as strawberry shortcake or as decadent as a German chocolate cake, the devil is in the details, so make sure what's presented to your guests is as beautiful as it is tasty. A few simple decorations on the plate and dessert will help ensure the dessert is, in fact, the highlight of the meal.
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Reassign plastic bottles to plate decorating. Think ketchup bottles on a restaurant table; these are readily and cheaply available at any kitchen or big box store. Fill them with chocolate sauces, heated butterscotch sauce, olive oil or double cream, and use them to draw on the plates before or after the dessert is plated. Because they have plastic cone nozzles, these bottle tops can be cut to make anything from a narrow stream to a thick river. For those in a pinch, thoroughly wash out a ketchup or mustard bottle from the refrigerator. These can serve in much the same way.
Salt and pepper shakers can be used for icing sugar, producing an even covering that doesn't come when spreading by hand.
Plate decorations don't have to be edible. Use a small glass plate on top of a larger solid plate. Between the two, use doilies, squares of lace or fabric, or even pieces of decorative stationery or wrapping paper. Get inspiration from the occasion. For a Christmas dinner, use spiralled ribbons around the smaller plate, and finish off with a decorative bow. For Valentine's Day, cover the bottom plate with shiny confetti in the shape of hearts.
Some desserts speak for themselves, and it only takes subtle decorating to make a winning plate. When serving up a Concord grape pie, add a single leaf from a grape vine on the plate with the pie. For a chocolate cake, add a few pieces of peppermint bark on the plate beneath the cake. When serving up some homemade ice cream, put the dish on a plate with a sprig of mint. Place a slice of apple on the plate with a piece of apple pie. Add a few rose petals on the plate supporting a goblet of chocolate mousse.
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