Dessert Presentation

By Sharon Naylor

July 30, 2012 5 min read

When you order a dessert at a fine restaurant, the chef presents it with an added dash of culinary flair. That five-layer chocolate cake may be plated with a heart-shaped piece of dark chocolate sitting atop a swirl of freshly whipped cream, accompanied by a drizzle of raspberry sauce and glistening fresh raspberries. A slice of pumpkin pie is sprinkled with nutmeg and sided with a perfectly round scoop of pecan ice cream, with toasted pecans and chocolate chunks on top for heavenly bite after heavenly bite.

At home or for parties and holiday dinners, your desserts can take on a more artistic presentation when you plate each slice of cake or scoop chocolate mousse into a crystal bowl rather than set out the full cake or a big bowl of mousse. Guests more easily choose their beautifully presented desserts and are even more impressed with your professional-looking, delicious accents.

Here are some of the top dessert presentation ideas:

--Swirl chocolate sauce on the plate first, before setting upon it a perfectly cut slice of chocolate cake. The same applies to berry sauce, swirled on the plate beneath a slice of cheesecake.

--Pipe berry sauce dots or swirls on the side rims of your oversize dessert plate. A rimmed soup bowl can be used for your desserts, giving you a platform on which to swirl your sauces.

--The rim of a soup bowl is also where you can pipe a message in chocolate sauce. You might pipe the initials of the guest of honor for a birthday party or write "Enjoy!" in sauce on the rim of the plate.

--Pipe whipped cream onto the plate itself, not on top of the dessert, and provide more than one whipped cream "puff." Having a trio of whipped cream mounds, especially with chocolate whipped cream piped in the center of regular whipped cream, is an easy way to make an impression.

--Pipe berry or chocolate sauce in dime- or quarter-sized dots all around the outside edge of your plate, and then carefully draw the flat side of a butter knife through the centers of each dot in one smooth motion to turn each dot into a heart shape.

--When you're serving ice cream, gelato or mousse, stick a chocolate-covered mint or cookie in the top of the scoop to add some height to your dish.

--Speaking of height, Laura Bianco, culinary expert and event planner at My Bellissima, says that height is an easy and eye-catching way to make any dessert look more elaborate and show off the design inside the dessert with a slice cut out before serving. "Individual cake stands are such a fabulous way to show off your cakes. Right now, a top trend in cakes is ombre, coloring from light to dark, which can be done on the exterior and also the interior. For example, you can do a raspberry vanilla cake and go from ivory to a deep pink. It is a stunning crowd pleaser."

--Arrange your dessert table with multiple raised cake plates and tiered platters holding dessert bites such as pastries or cupcakes to show off their design even more. And don't overcrowd platters of desserts. Space out cupcakes, cake pops, petits fours, pastries, chocolate-covered berries and other single-bite treats for a more professional look and to make it look like a greater number of desserts.

--Use colorful plates. Bianco says: "Colorful plates provide attractive contrast to the color of the dessert. Think of a pastel blue plate holding dark chocolate cake. The contrast adds power to your dish." Coordinate your dessert dishes to accent your dessert choices, perhaps offering some white dessert plates and some colored ones, to add more visual interest to your dessert table as a whole.

--Think color coordination for your flatware. It often is overlooked that forks and spoons join the plated dessert in impression. "To keep it simple, change up your flatware. Using gold flatware instead of silver is a nice option against a sweet ivory or cream-colored vanilla cake. There is just something so elegant and regal about gold and ivory," Bianco says.

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