Are you planning a dinner party in the near future? Or, how about hosting an appetizer and dessert buffet to celebrate a special birthday or a holiday? If any of these gatherings are on your calendar, I want to let you in on a fun way to serve dessert.
I am always trying to figure out how to sample more foods, particularly at restaurants. I often fore-go dessert, as the entrees are large and filling. However, once I discovered dessert samplers, I knew I had found my kind of dessert. Samplers are essentially mini desserts, smaller portions that provide the opportunity to try several things (such as the Vanilla Bean Custard Samplers pictured above). Recently, I was asked to bring dessert for eight to a dinner with a Caribbean theme. I knew this was the perfect time to try out the dessert sampler idea.
To begin, I wanted to identify the flavors that would go on the plate. The internet is a great place to search for ideas, not only for flavors, but also recipes and serving dishes. Researching cuisines from the Caribbean gave me lots of ideas for a sampler with flavors such as coconut and citrus; fresh fruits such as strawberries, pineapple and mangos; praline; rum cakes; chocolate and a variety of spices, including ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and more. I decided to put three mini dessert recipes together for my sampler plate just for the sake of having a little variety. If I were doing a dessert buffet, I would serve one or two samplers with other main desserts. And, I will let you in on a little secret that helped me: everything you serve doesn’t have to be homemade. Let the grocery store or local candy shop help you out.
I wanted to serve something in cute little 2-oz. shot glasses I found at a local discount store. I had a spicy cream cheese mousse with fresh strawberries in my home recipe file that I decided to layer over shortbread cookies (homemade or purchased).
For the second recipe, I turned to an all-time favorite: Buttery Pound Cake. I knew this one needed to be homemade, as I wanted to flavor the cake with rum (remember my Caribbean theme). I used rum extract instead of vanilla in the recipe. Even though this recipe made more cake than I needed, there is no problem with left over pound cake at my house! I decided to spoon Rich Caramel Butter Sauce over the top of the cake, again adding rum extract to the sauce instead of the vanilla.
I also added purchased honey-roasted pecans (¾ cup) to the sauce. Now, with these desserts done, I needed a small dish with a lip to serve the mini cake portions and sauce. Then I discovered something wonderful at my local party store—plastic serving dishes and utensils made especially for samplers. I found the perfect little serving dishes for my cake and sauce.
Next it was time to identify dessert number three. I definitely knew this would be a purchased item, as I simply didn’t have time to make another recipe. So, I headed over to my neighborhood candy store and purchased eight chocolate covered candies to place in mini foil baking cups. I could also have served some cashews or macadamia nuts as my third choice. The three mini-desserts were then placed on a small, flat plate for serving.
There was a great deal of excitement in the room as the plates were set in front of the dinner guests. They loved the sampler idea and conversation centered on the delightful dessert trio. It included everything from the cute, mini-serving dishes to the combination of great flavors. One guest jokingly commented that he would like to simply "drink" more of the Rich Buttery Caramel Sauce because it was so delicious!
I am already looking for the next opportunity to serve up dessert samplers. And, I plan to continue to blend store bought with homemade recipes. At my next home party, I will definitely add a fun ice cream or sorbet flavor. I see lots of small, tasty desserts in my future. Give this idea a try and join in the fun!