Those gorgeous photos of ultra-vibrant candy buffets and delectable all-chocolate dessert tables get your mouth watering, don’t they? From citrus-colored jelly beans to swirled-top cupcakes to decadent truffles, the new closing taste of wedding receptions—and bridal showers and engagement parties and even the morning-after brunch—is the sweet stuff, displayed so prettily on a table that guests will take photos of it…before they scoop their treats and bliss out on their choices.
If you’d like a dessert bar at your party, here are the top tips to designing it.
1. Keep it cool. Anthony Cirone, co-owner of chocolate buffet supplier Li-Lac Chocolates, says to “make sure you set your dessert table in a spot where the sun won’t hit it, melting your chocolates,” or softening those pretty candies. That means arranging your sweets buffet not only inside your house —even if you’re having an outdoor party—but in a spot where the day’s arch of sunlight will never get to it. You don’t want softened truffles or melty-topped cupcakes or one giant brick that used to be a collection of jelly beans. And definitely don’t put the candy buffet in the kitchen iif you’ll be cooking party food in there. Turn up the AC and keep those sweets cool. “Don’t refrigerate chocolates, since that can give them a whitish coloring on the outside,” says Cirone. “Just a cool spot will be fine.” The same goes for chocolate-covered strawberries that will ‘sweat’ in the heat and humidity, and turn white and chalky-looking in the fridge.
2. Provide access at all angles. Don’t push the table up against a wall. Take the chairs away from the dining room table and provide a good traffic path and access to all sections of the dessert table at once, preventing a long line of guests.
3. Go for high-low displays. Just like the trend in wedding florals is to mix up high- and low-set arrangements, create the same drama with an array of trays and tiered platters, bowls and tall apothecary jars, all holding your candies, cuppies, cake pops and chocolates.
4. ID your treats. Print out pretty, colorful signs letting guests know what each dessert item is. Those red jelly beans could be strawberry or they could be cinnamon. Your DIY signs say that this platter is key-lime truffles, this one is dark chocolate mousse truffles and this one is a peanut-butter truffle. Even if you think guests can tell that a tray is red-velvet cupcakes, it’s lovely to design ID cards with an elegant italic font, and attach the card to colorful ribbons around each tall bowl or jar.
5. Coordinate your tablecloth. At a swanky dessert and champagne party where you’ll serve an array of chocolates, consider a cappuccino-colored tablecloth or a vibrant yellow tablecloth (yellow is so in now!) For an all-pink candy and cupcake buffet, go with a solid color bright pink or pastel pink tablecloth that lets the color combos of the candies stand out, not a striped or dotted tablecloth that creates a ‘too much going on’ look. Aisle Files Tip: A tablecloth that reaches to knee-height is better than a floor-length tablecloth that guests can step on, yanking it downward and spilling all the desserts.
6. Keep candles off the table. Guests reaching over them can set their sleeves on fire, and the heat of candles can melt nearby sweets. If you’d like to add a lighting effect to your table, set some LED cubes (that don’t generate heat) in some glass vases or votives around your display.
7. Make it easy for guests to serve themselves. A restaurant supply store, Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, Party City and other stores have terrific, simple silver tongs, silver scoops, clear Lucite or colorful plastic scoops that guests can use to pick up or scoop their desserts onto their plates or into favor baggies or boxes.
8. Get creative with favor baggies and boxes. At Michaels Crafts, I saw lots of adorably patterned favor baggies and boxes, which you’ll personalize with your DIY favor label coordinated with the table colors. Aisle Files Tip: Provide twist-ties for guests to seal up their own favor baggies.