I love to plan a good party and because my world revolves around food that is always where the planning starts.  This past weekend my Tales graduated from high school which was a fabulous excuse for a gathering.  We decided early on that a dessert buffet was the way to go because who doesn’t love something sweet?  I let Taylea help me narrow down the options and then I turned to my family and Costco for a little help because my biggest piece of advice is to remember that you do not have to make EVERYTHING!  Bake about half of the items homemade and then take help where you can.

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The Planning

When I begin the menu planning process I always start with what I call the “must have” items.  For a dessert buffet those items are usually either in the chocolate and non-chocolate categories.  I want to be sure that my menu has an equal amount of both items because variety is super important.  From there I think about the theme of the party {in this case it was rustic with flowers and antlers}, the venue, the time of day the party is at {our party was from 2-4 p.m.} and how many people you are expecting to feed.  All of these things can help set the tone for how simple or elegant you want to get with your desserts.

The Set-up

Our venue was a cute building in the middle of town called The Gathering Place.  It is a large open room with plenty of light and hardwood floors but the thing I love the most about this building is the exposed brick on the interior wall.  I used it as the back drop for the buffet table or tables.  I used two large tables pushed together, then I covered them with a plastic table cloth and brown paper.  That allowed for easy clean up and I also used the brown paper for a second purpose which you will see later in the post.

Here is a different angle.  I have used a variety of serving dishes in different heights and textures to create dimension and interest.  For most of the party we used metal, wood and white elements but I did add pops of color with a couple of cake plates and the flower arrangements in mason jars.  Now you can see the second purpose for the brown paper…I have written the dessert names directly on it, so that guests would know what they are eating.  I like when menu items are identified.

This is a two tiered tray that I purchased from Magnolia Market a few months back which is a fun mix of both metal and wood.   There is something about the simplicity of Chocolate Dipped Strawberries {they are definitely on the “must have” list}…I love the way they look and taste.  Serving items in cupcake liners is both cute and functional.  The caramels on the top tier are from Costco.

Tales one real request was my Raspberry Linzer cookies and so how could her mama deny that?  I served them on my Pioneer Woman cake plate that I purchased at Walmart and I used my Cream Cheese Sugar Cookie recipe because it is the best!  The pop of green on this side of the table was the same color as the dessert plates the guest used.

Special Touches

This print was a fun addition to the food table.  I found it in November for less than $8.00 and am so glad that I picked it up.  I loved it framed and I especially love the girl it represented.  It really was the inspiration for the entire event.  The print wasn’t too busy and didn’t take away from the desserts but it reminded you of who we were celebrating and the theme.

This is an angle from the other side of the table.  Same fun desserts, just a different view.

I borrowed this cute little metal tiered tray from my friend and the mini {a little larger than a quarter} Chocolate Chip Cookies nestled into it perfectly.  I made my favorite Soft Chocolate Chunk Cookie recipe only in a MUCH smaller version, decreasing my baking time by about 2 minutes.

These mini cheese cakes are always a hit.  I use store bought pie crust and a small cookie cutter to get the rounds.  Then I bake the crusts in a mini muffin pan for about 8 minutes.  I waited until about an hour before the party to fill them because I wanted to be sure that the crust didn’t get soggy.  I used this same no bake cheesecake filling recipe {minus the sprinkles} and put it in a Ziploc bag.  To fill them, I just snipped a corner of the bag and squeezed filling inside the shell.  I served a few with and without strawberries.  Stacking a couple of cake plates on each other gave height and allowed me to seperate the flavors, yet keep the pies together.

Drink Table

On the other side of the room {because I like to be sure that people move around & mingle} I served Iced Tea, water and Lemonade in large jars.  The large mason jar like jugs really worked with the mason jars we were using for the flower arrangements and kept with the rustic theme.  I like guests to be able to serve themselves because that allows the host to enjoy the party too.

Here is one last photo of an arrangement I made and put on the gift table.  I have to give the Costco flower department a huge shoutout.  We ordered 50 of these roses online for $39.99 and they were delivered to our door step for no additional charge.  They were absolutely goregous and every single rose was useable.  I will definitely be using them again for other parties and highly recommend them to you.

As far as logistics go, I took the day before the party off work to finish things but I had been baking and freezing items for a couple of weeks.  I made the Mini Chocolate Chip Cookies, Cheesecake shells, mini cupcakes {how did I not get a photo?} and linzer cookies {unfilled} at least one week in advance and froze them.  The day before the party I took them out of the freezer and all of the desserts tasted fresh.  I also had my sister make the brownies {I frosted them}, my sweet aunt Paula brought the Lemon Bars and a handful of items were purchased.

Top 10 tips for a Dessert Buffet:

  1.  Plan a menu with a variety of desserts that are both chocolate and non-chocolate.
  2. Bake ahead and freeze desserts if possible.
  3. Serve smaller items so that guests can taste many desserts.
  4. Take help from the store and friends/family, don’t try and make everything yourself.
  5. Use a table that is big enough to display all of the desserts without being cluttered.
  6. Have a variety of items to serve desserts on and be creative {i.e. turn over a wooden crate}.
  7. Be sure to have varying heights of serving dishes to create dimension.
  8. Add a framed print or photo to bring the theme of the party to the food table.
  9. Serve drinks on the other side of the room, so that guest will move around and mingle.
  10. Make yourself a list of things to do a month before, week before, day before, day of and check them off as you go.

Overall, the buffet was a good mix of both homemade and store bought desserts.   I will admit that even though I worked ahead and had a good plan there was a lot of last minute finishing touches.  Overall it was such a great day spent celebrating my best girl with all of our favorite family, friends and food.  Congratulations Taylea Pearl, mama loves you!