It’s time to party!  We as Canadians know how to appreciate every bit of sweetness that our summer season gives to us, and that includes entertaining guests for birthdays, bridal and baby showers, graduations and family reunions, and even better if we can host outdoors.

Maybe you’ve figured out the snacks and nibbles, and you know that the grill will be fired up to take care of the main part of the meal, but what to do about dessert?

Anna Olson's Raspberry Fruit Jellies
Homemade Raspberry Jellies

Dessert stations are the hot ticket at professionally catered events, but you don’t have to be a caterer to create a beautiful, themed dessert bar.  Having such a set up is ideal for a large group because there are some guests who will make one visit to grab a sweet plate, some may take a pass altogether, and there are others who may sneak in multiple trips.

A dessert station also allows you to use time before the party starts to set up the table nicely, leaving space for your bowls and platters that need to be refrigerated to be added last minute, and all of the work is done ahead of time — anything that allows you to be more of a guest at your own party gets a checkmark in my book.

Here are a few fun ideas for summery desserts that suit a party:

Waffle Dessert Station

Hosting a brunch party or shower? Waffles don’t have to be a part of the breakfast portion…make them dessert!

If you have space and the inclination, you could set up an “action station” and let people make their own waffles, or you (or a “voluntold” family member) could make them.  As your guests take their waffles, have an assortment of sauces and toppings ready for dressing:

  • Chocolate, Dulce de Leche or caramel sauce
  • Fresh fruits: berries, pineapple, bananas, mango
  • Cream cheese frosting
  • Cupcake frosting (colour-tinted or rainbow if your party has a colour theme)
  • Sprinkles (for that unicorn effect)
  • Mini marshmallows (for the s’mores effect)
  • Whipped Cream

There are two main types of waffles you can make:

1. Classic buttermilk waffles are made from a batter similar to pancakes, but have whipped egg whites folded in right before making.

2. Liege waffles are a yeast-raised waffle dough, that has crushed sugar cubes added before portioning.  This dough can be made ahead and chilled (which might be handy before a busy party day).

See More: Anna Olson’s Maple Bacon Waffle Cake

Cupcake Garden Dessert Station

Cupcakes are the perfect summer party dessert.  They are easy to pick up and eat with your fingers, the perfect single portion and as pretty as can be!  You may have thought that cupcakes were just a dessert “phase” we were going through, but they have stood the test of time and are still a popular choice at weddings, showers and other garden parties.

Of course, you can decorate your cupcakes as simple or as elaborate as you wish, but if hosting your party outside, why not make a flower garden of your cupcake display?  Here is my recipe that shows how to decorate some colourful flowers. I use my piping tip set and disposable (but reusable and recyclable) piping bags from the Anna Olson Kitchen line to get the job done.

Anna-Olson-Cupcake-Garden
Vanilla Cupcakes with Floral Frosting

See more: Anna Olson’s Very Best Cupcake Recipes

All Things Sprinkles!

Anything with sprinkles is hot right now, so make a colourful dessert station out of just about any assortment of desserts, so long as sprinkles abound on top and/or within them! Tarts, cakes, cupcakes, ice cream, cookies, squares — just about any sweet treat takes on a playful tone when sprinkles are added.

Confetti-Frosted-Sugar-Cookie-Squares
Confetti Frosted Sugar Cookie Squares

You can use bowls and jars of sprinkles as part of the table decor, or just provide spoons so people can add sprinkles as they wish.

Party Table Tips

Now that you’ve picked your dessert table theme, here are a few tips for success as you plan and assemble:

1. Location

If setting up your dessert table outdoors, be sure that it is shaded, so that desserts don’t melt in direct sunlight. This also applies to indoors — avoid setting a dessert table near a window with direct sunlight, which can magnify the heat and melt the icing off a cake!

2. Labels 

Place tags next to each dessert item, so that if unattended, guests know what the desserts are. Include potential allergens, or note if items are “free” from gluten, eggs, dairy, etc.

See More: Anna’s Vegan Baking Hacks

3. Serving Tools 

Place serving tools on each platter or plate, but have a few spares on hand, just in case a spoon slips into the whipped cream bowl.

4. Use Battery Twinkle Lights 

Tea lights are pretty, but can be dangerous on a dessert table if an arm with a sleeve reaches over an open flame. Strings of battery-operated twinkle lights are easy to arrange and add the perfect sparkle.

5. Takeaway Boxes 

Want guests to take treats home with them? Bakery boxes or more decorative boxes can be purchased affordably at craft stores.

I hope you are as excited as I am for the summer hosting season… I’ll see you on the back deck!

Anna Olson Party Desserts

The Anna Olson Kitchen collection of 48 items of bakeware, baking tools and decor tools are available exclusively at The Hudson’s Bay Company and www.thebay.com