When my cousin asked me a few months ago to make a cake and maybe some macarons to go on a dessert table for her baby shower, little did I know I would end up doing the whole dessert table. I'm a control freak and am usually very organised when it comes to things like this. When I asked my cousin if she had any idea of what she wanted for the dessert table and if she was going to buy any desserts to supplement my contributions, the conversation somehow steered towards me taking charge of the whole thing. It couldn't be that hard, could it? I'd never done a dessert table before but I love baking and it's just a whole bunch of desserts on a table... right?
Knowing me, I wanted to make everything and was very reluctant to buy in any desserts though the thought did cross my mind. I was reluctant to have store bought desserts only because I didn't want mediocre tasting desserts and it can get quite costly buying the good quality stuff. My cousin was expecting about 50 people for the baby shower. And yes, crazy little me decided she would make all the desserts to feed them all!
We had discussed the idea of a large cake as a centre piece but I thought that for a dessert table it would be nice to have cupcakes with a feature 'cutting' cake and they were easier to package up for people to take home if they didn't want to eat it then and there. I also had to consider that it was a bbq feast so some people may not have room for dessert. (Though I think once people walked past the dessert table they were all saving room and waiting to pounce as soon as they were given the go ahead).
My other star items would be macarons (at my cousin's request) and I liked the idea of the baby themed decorated gingerbread cookies. To supplement all that I put down some ideas for other items that were suitable to go into take away bags. I was thinking marshmallows, brownies, popcorn bags, and maybe even some Madeleines or profiteroles, all items I was comfortable making (apart from the marshmallows as I hadn't made them before).
As I was so busy I didn't really finalise my plans for the dessert table items until the weekend before. And then it was a mad crazy schedule for the week leading up to the baby shower to get everything done. I started on Monday night and worked every single night all the way up until Saturday morning (as well as still going to work every day though I did take Friday off so I could bake).
So this is what I ended up making:
Baby faced chocolate mud cupcakes with a 6 inch 'cutting cake'.
I could not resist this idea and really wanted to make some baby faced cupcakes as soon as I saw these when I was googling baby shower dessert table ideas. I was instantly in love when I sat back at 2am on Thursday night and looked at my army of babies. They were the cutest little cupcakes I had ever made. I couldn't wait for my cousin to see them.
I also wanted to make a really cute cake topper of some baby Converse shoes but I was so busy the weeks before hand I simply ran out of time to make them and let them set. My cousin really liked a button and bows themed cake that we found online so this was at the back of my mind when making the 6 inch cake. It ended up untouched though as there were just so many other desserts. I told my cousin to take it to work for morning tea.
Cute as a button! Cute enough to eat? I had so many comments that they were just too cute to eat! And I think they were slow to disappear because of that. The take away boxes came in handy and were popular. I am sure after looking at them for so long the smell of chocolate should be alluring enough to take a bite :D. Maybe next time I should keep the designs on the cupcakes more 'simple'. They were worth the back pain though from all the reactions I received from people. I made about 30 cupcakes to go with the 6 inch cake.
Macarons - apple & cinnamon (green), earl grey & milk chocolate (blue)
and popcorn & salted caramel (beige).
and popcorn & salted caramel (beige).
The original macaron flavours I was going to do were lime (green), lemon (yellow) and vanilla or salted caramel (blue). In the end I ended up making the flavours above as I thought they might be better received (plus I wanted to use up the last of the green apple & white chocolate ganache I had in the freezer).
Sydney copped a dumping of rain last week which did not help the fact that macaron baking is already cumbersome for me in the colder months. The shells take forever to dry and when I am baking after coming home for work, time is not exactly on my side. Add on high moisture in the air and it was enough for me to call a rain out for the next few days. I had to rearrange my baking schedule and left baking my macarons until the Friday where they had all day to dry and set for baking if they needed to. 3 batches of macarons I pumped out that day which gave me approximately 70 to 80 macarons.
I knew that these would be a major hit with the guests. Who doesn't love a macarons? From feedback, the popular flavour was the popcorn and salted caramel though the popcorn flavour was a little weak on this batch.
Baby themed decorated gingerbread cookies.
My gingerbread cookies are a winner with friends and work colleagues so I wanted to make them to fit the baby theme. I had some issues with the icing taking on a funny white tinge the day after - totally blaming the wet weather for that. I also made a batch and a half of these and they weren't as popular as some other items on the table. Next time a single batch would be plenty. It was also my first go at the 'flooding' method of decorating the cookies and I found that I just didn't have the time or patience for this (on top of everything else I was doing). I probably just need a lot more practice. I ended up with about 40 to 50 cookies.
Mini Salted Caramel and Chocolate Tarts.
These were a bit of a last minute decision. I had a couple of jars of caramel sitting around which were a touch on the dark side and were too bitter to be used for the purpose I originally made them for. I didn't want to throw the dark caramel out and thought that perhaps if I added some sea salt to the caramel it would somehow balance out the slight bitter undertone of the caramel. I decided that the most effective way of using up this salted caramel would be to turn them into some little tarts. I tasted some of the salted caramel with the dark chocolate ganache I had made for the cupcakes and thought it tasted pretty good. Ryan suggested that I needed a sweeter element and thought that milk chocolate or half and half would be a better pairing to take away the bitter undertone.
I ended up just adding milk chocolate to my dark chocolate ganache and reheating it but should have added a bit more cream too as when the ganache set it was very firm when you bit into the tart. A bit too firm in contrast to the soft gooey caramel underneath. I found that these were very slow to go. I had managed to make about 30 of these little tarts (with home made pastry). My brother actually told me he could taste the 'burnt' caramel but my cousin said she absolutely loved them. I think these tarts are one of those items where you either love them or hate them. Even dusting them in some gold petal dust to make them a bit more visually appealing didn't make them go any faster. I guess salted caramel and chocolate tarts are not to everyone's taste.
Spicy Caramel Popcorn (Cayenne Pepper & Chilli).
I knew that caramel popcorn would be an instant hit and was actually inspired to make a spicy caramel popcorn after a dessert we had from Mexico Food and Liquor in Surry Hills. I thought I had to scratch the idea come Friday night though as I had run out of time to make it and was still cake decorating up until 1am.
Ryan had made a huge bowl of popcorn for me to use a handful for my macarons and even though we had made a bit of a dent snacking on the popcorn there was still a fair bit left on Saturday morning so I quickly threw some ingredients into a pot and made the caramel for the popcorn. For the spicy kick I added some cayenne pepper and chilli powder to the caramel while it was cooking but decided it needed some more heat so just sprinkled chilli powder straight over the caramel popcorn and mixed it up a bit to coat. The caramel was a touch on the grainy side which means I probably needed to cook it a touch more (and not stir it so much next time).
There was not enough popcorn to fill bags but these cute little cupcake cups were the perfect size for everyone to be able to have a taster. Managed to fill about two dozen little cups in the end. The popcorn turned out to be the most favourite item on the table from all the feedback I was getting. Popcorn is such a fun thing to eat though and when you add interesting flavour combinations, it's always a winner.
Vanilla Creme Caramels.
To use up the egg yolks from my macarons I whipped together a couple of dozen creme caramels, Vietnamese style, as a 'filler'. To my surprise, something that I thought was a very pedestrian dessert disappeared so quickly off the table that I was constantly refilling the tray. They turned out to be the second most popular item if not on par with the spicy caramel popcorn.
All the decorations and serve ware for the table I had sourced from various discount stores and my cousins helped make the paper pom poms from sheets of tissue paper I had bought (we youtubed a 'how to'). The cupcake tower and macaron stand I had bought online especially for the dessert table.
I was completely and utterly exhausted by the end of the baby shower but it was worth it seeing everything come together and seeing everyone enjoy all the desserts I had made. There were definitely some learnings to take away from this and I am glad that my first ever dessert table was made for family. Next time, one or two star items and a lot of supplementing 'fillers' like brownies and slices. The things you do for love... Congratulations again cuz! Can't wait to meet little bubba.
Oh and P.S - Thank you Ryan for putting up with my insanity taking on this challenge. As with every single insane project I take on, you're right there helping me, even staying up past midnight in the kitchen. Whether it be helping me fill my macarons, save my almost ruined caramel, making my popcorn, helping with all the washing up and couriering all my finished products. I know you say I would be perfectly capable without you, but I think you keep me that little bit grounded when I get a little insane and crazy.