Dessert is always everyone’s favorite part of the meal. A sweet finish to a delicious dinner is always nice. You seem to always have a little bit of room no matter how much turkey and stuffing you inhaled.
Dessert bars are great for so many events. From baby showers to birthday parties, to just a girl’s night in to catch up on The Bachelor. There are so many reasons to have your friends over and indulge in your sweet tooth.
The secret to a good dessert bar though is a few things. I’m here to share some tips to make sure your spread is effortless, delicious and beautiful.
Plus, you don’t HAVE to make everything from scratch. That’s one of my favorite things about a great dessert bar. Pick one or two things to make from scratch (max) like my cranberry trifle or simple chocolate banana bread. Then enlist the help of a grocery store, your friends, and your favorite donut shop for the rest.
How To Make A Dessert Bar
First, let’s chat about how we set it all up considering my small space!
While hosting for Thanksgiving (or Friendsgiving), you want to utilize your space as best as you can. There are lots of dishes and lots of people to feed!
For my holiday spread, we first kept all of the desserts on my bar. This way the buffet could be used for dinner and the desserts were still on display. They were too pretty to keep in the kitchen away from guests. This also made it really easy to swap it out once dinner was over.
All you have to do is remove your Thanksgiving dishes from the buffet, and swap them out for the desserts. We only needed a minute or two to re-zhush the area.
We also added the flowers from the place cards to the display for added color. And below, is the final look! You can see the Thanksgiving spread that we started with here.
Now let’s get into how to make a beautiful and delicious dessert bar for your guests!
When beginning to plan out your dessert bar, keep these 5 tips in mind. It’ll make it not only easier to execute, but your bar will also be beautiful and impressive to your guests! Plus, everyone will leave STUFFED. That’s the real measure of success anyway, right?
1. Provide Options
Unless you’re hosting a themed dessert bar, it’s nice to have a few options. From something fruity, something chocolate, or something baked and even fried. Making 4 pies is a little boring. Having all chocolate flavors isn’t ideal either.
A few fun ideas are to make a trifle like my cranberry ginger one (they’re seriously so easy and pretty), cookies and fruit. I think having something from each category is great. A good menu could include a great cake or bread like chocolate banana bread or pumpkin bread, a fruit or chocolate pie, easy cookies or dessert bars and always some fresh fruit.
Also, don’t forget a beverage! Whether you choose bubbly or something more seasonal like my maple bourbon apple cider, cocktails always make the party more fun!
2. Add Something Fresh
Disregard that my actual buffet in these photos is missing fresh fruit (although there are sugared cranberries!) but I think all dessert stations should include fresh fruit. I like to serve cut up strawberries, pineapple and berries alongside a whipped topping.
This recipe works great, or do one package of cream cheese and one package of fluff for the easiest and most decadent fruit dip. This dip is also great with cookies and graham crackers! We make that for every get together in my family and it’s seriously SO good. Great with all fruit, but my favorite is actually bananas.
3. Create Different Heights In Your Buffet
Now onto how the dessert buffet looks. You want to create something that’s pleasing to the eye and also delicious for your tummy. Create your spread with a bit of height variation.
You can easily do this in a few ways. Either throw in a wedding cake stand or two or just place a dish on top of a box. This is especially easy to do if you have a tablecloth.
You can add any old box underneath it to prop it up. It also makes it easier for people to grab and create a better flow.
Another fun and easy way to create height are to stack cake stands. I did this here with my donut display for a Valentine’s Day bar and it was so easy. It added a ton of height and interest. You can also be creating height with your dishes. A trifle is an easy way to do that!
4. It Doesn’t Have To All Be Homemade
One of my favorite hacks for the holiday is to spruce up store-bought favorites. Take these donuts from just your local donut shop. No way in hell am I making my own donuts.
And no way would I ever just serve plain donuts. But add sugared cranberries and a few leaves of magnolia and you’ve got the prettiest platter that people will be impressed by.
And PS, making sugared cranberries can go one or two ways (but it’s always sticky, don’t get it twisted). You can either soak them in a simple syrup overnight so they absorb the sweetness, then roll them in sugar. This makes them more edible.
Or, when you’re in a pinch, roll them in maple syrup, then sugar, and call it a day. The latter is what I did and it was worth the work to have something pretty and sparkly to top my desserts with.
5. ID Your Treats
We failed to do this in our display today, but with a small party of 4, sometimes adding names to your desserts isn’t entirely necessary. But if you’ve got a big party coming over, I highly recommend putting the names of the items in front of them.
This is especially great for things that are hard to identify or if someone has an allergy. Sometimes you look at a cake and you’re like WTF is that? Having the name in front of it may make people more likely to grab a slice. I love these to add to your display, they add a bit of decor to the table and also can be reused!
Photos by Hannah Michelle