Eye Candy for a Sweet Holiday

It starts with the pillow sack full of fun-sized chocolate bars during Halloween.  By the second week of November, our sweet tooth is at full force.  And, given that the next six weeks will be one celebration after another, there is little hope that this will let up.

Luckily, we’re incredibly pragmatic when it comes to such matters…sigh.  If you can’t beat ’em.  Join ’em.

We swooning over our candy and cake counter.  Piled high with stylish and adult-oriented revamps of childhood favorites.  Think: whoopie pies filled with crème fraîche frosting and strawberry jam.

We’re busily checking our guest lists for all upcoming cookie exchange parties!

We’re going overboard on our marvelously detailed dessert buffets. YES!

And, we’re trendspotting for further inspiration.  Here’s what we’re loving right now.

1) Pub Cakes
Add a little shot of liquor to a childhood favorite dessert and voila! A sweet adult favorite. At Entertaining Company, we recently paired cupcakes with a shot of Irish Creme for an event and dubbed the dessert: PubCakes.

If you wish to be a little more reserved, then try spiking your cake frosting with a little whiskey or giving a nursery favorite like chocolate pudding a little oomph with some Kahlua and serve it in sake cup with teeny spoon. Civilized.

2) An Elaborate Upgrade for the Cookie Exchange
A cookie exchange is among the most charming, (and the easiest,) holiday parties to host.  After all, your friends are bringing most of the spirit with their cookies. (I’ve collected lots of ideas here.)  But, try giving your Cookie Exchange a little goose this year with some extra touches.  Turn a sideboard into an Egg Nog Station, and let your guests handle their own rum-to-nutmeg ratios.  Give each guest their own cookie tin that has been labeled with their name and let them fill it with cookies to take with them, (or to re-gift to someone else!)  And, serve lots of tea sandwiches, piled high, all around the room on cake pedestals, so that everyone eats something of substance and avoids the sugar crash.

3) Wrap It Up
It’s all about the vessel.  Individually portioned, and creatively presented desserts are hothothot.  Glass flower pots hold trifle and its layers of buttery cake, ganache, and raspberry coulis. Mini mason jars can hold refrigerator pies. (key lime, chocolate cream, etc.) Or, as your guests gather around the fire, give them all these charming red and white striped popcorn containers, filled with popcorn that’s been drizzled with decadent white chocolate, caramel, and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.  Every hostess knows, double points for presentation.

4) Have Dessert First
You’ve heard these wise words before. After all, life is uncertain.  But, your guests might be puzzled to get a slice of chocolate cake for a first course.  Instead, have your bartender mix up a sweet cocktail to start the evening off with.  Perhaps a S’mores Martini with a homemade Marshmallow garnish.  Or, consider a non-alcohol Citrus Spritzer with fresh pomegranate seeds.  Take the theme farther by offering sweet and savory passed appetizers such as bite- sized brie quesadillas with glazed mango, or a warm and luscious fig and gruyere tartlet.  My very favorite of late is serving a duet of bacon delights: jalapeño-maple bacon swizzle sticks and chocolate-dipped bacon swizzle sticks.  The best of both worlds!

Have you spotted any amazing sweet set-ups this season!?  I would love to hear more about what you think is hot this season in the comments section.