Desserts

Okay, people keep being startled that I did the desserts for 150 for the party, so here is a quick accounting of how to do such a thing and not completely melt down in the process:

a) Be on vacation, or a stay-at-home parent with kids in school, or just somehow not having a regular day job. If I’d tried to do this while holding down a 9-5 job, with commuting time and getting dinner and dealing with the kids and all, it would’ve been impossible.

b) Block out about 3 hours / day for a week for dessert-making. Starting two weeks ahead (or more) is less stressful.

c) Plan to make roughly one dessert per day, which means you have to think about what can be made:

– two (or more) weeks in advance (candies, caramels, truffles, sugar cookies, fruit cake, molded chocolate decorations)
– one week in advance (refrigerated mousse cakes, icing for sugar cookies)
– three days in advance (curd for lemon cake, sugared flowers)
– 1-2 days before (actual cakes you’re baking)
– day of party (whipping fresh cream for a berry shortcake)

I like to divide up my day of cookie baking with my day of icing cookies, because both are pretty time-consuming.

Allow time for cakes to cool before frosting — an hour in the morning for baking, an hour in the afternoon for frosting, an hour around for prep and clean-up.

d) About two weeks in advance, finalize your menu plan. I strongly recommend that everything on it is something you’ve made at least once before. My main frustration this time around was that I added the pink champagne cake which I hadn’t made before, and it had processes I wasn’t familiar with, which was a little stressful, and then I wasn’t thrilled with the final result, which was annoying.

e) Remember to shop! There is nothing more irritating than getting all set to bake and realizing you have no baking soda. Baking soda has been my downfall more than once, because you cannot substitute baking powder. (If, however, you need baking powder and don’t have it, you can combine baking soda with cream of tartar.) You can make a master list and buy everything in one go, or if you like little trips to the store / grocery delivery, you can buy what you need the day before each day’s baking.

Warn your household that if they consume your precious eggs / buttermilk / milk / butter that you will not be held accountable for the consequences.

f) Be sure you also have the tools you need — cake pans in the right sizes, cake circles in the right sizes, a sufficiency of measuring implements, etc.

g) Don’t be too perfectionist about it. You’re not a professional baker, and no one expects you to be. It’s okay if your cake is a little wonky, or if you’ve never mastered a smooth application of frosting (it’s me!) — people will love it because you made it, and because it tastes delicious.

Okay, that’s all I can think of right now. Feel free to add your own comments / suggestions below!

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