Looking for dessert ideas for an open house / reception

For my daughter's baptism, we're hosting an open house / reception for about 20 people. We're serving small sandwiches and antipasti from our favorite Italian deli, but I'd like to make a dessert. I thought a sheet cake would be nice (as opposed to a layer cake) or maybe something small or in bar form that can be easily eaten out of hand. I also need to make it the day before and would prefer something that can be kept out at room temperature for a few hours without problem. I don't want to do anything too fussy (cupcakes are out!) but I want it to be appropriate for the occasion. Something lemony or with fresh berries on the side keeps coming to mind, but I'm completely open to other ideas. Thanks in advance for your help -- I'm confident that I'll get some great ideas here! : )

  • Posted by: EmilyC
  • June 8, 2012


hardlikearmour June 11, 2012
This might sound crazy, but I love panna cotta made with agar agar in place of gelatin. You can top it with a berry coulis or compote. Its fancy but not fussy, since the agar makes it stable at a wide variety of temps. I have a recipe for a lemongrass version on site, and have also made a jasmine tea version (just sub some jasmine tea for the lemongrass.) I serve it in little plastic wine glasses. http://www.food52.com/recipes/12260_lemongrass_panna_cotta
EmilyC June 12, 2012
Not crazy at all, HLA! I love panna cotta and am intrigued by this technique of making it. Thanks for sharing!
latoscana June 11, 2012
On a small or medium-sized watermelon, use a washable marker to write your daughter's name around the middle at about 2/3 of the way up. Using a sharp knife, cut open the melon and cut around your daughter's name so that it forms the "rim" of the melon rind. Wash off the marker. Discard the top of the melon and scoop out the interior. Make a fruit salad with melon balls or chunks and other fruit. Fill the melon "bowl" with the fruit salad. My dad used to make these melons and they were always a showstopper.
EmilyC June 12, 2012
Thanks latoscana -- sounds great for summer entertaining!
EmilyC June 11, 2012
Thanks again to everyone for the great ideas! ATG117 -- after you suggested them, I could not get thumbprint cookies out of my head. I ended up making these (http://www.food52.com/recipes/17837_almond_thumbprint_cookies_with_dark_chocolate_and_sea_salt) and will likely serve them along with another dessert at our open house. Thanks so much for the idea!
Droplet June 9, 2012
I thought these are really neat: http://food52.com/recipes/12477_two_bite_lemon_cheesecakes. And the way they are served in cupcake liners (or maybe muffin top liners) makes them just a bit more special than a sliced bar and very convenient to eat out of hand.
Droplet June 9, 2012
By the way if you don't have those mini muffin tins, you could make rings out of tin foil folded several times, set the liners in them and arrange on a rimmed baking sheet.
EmilyC June 9, 2012
Wow -- thanks for all of the great ideas! I'm going to check out Ina's cake recipes that a few of you mentioned above (I've never been disappointed by her recipes). Several of you also mentioned ricotta-based desserts or lemon bars -- so I'm thinking I might give Kukla's lemon ricotta bars a try! Luckily the festivities are next weekend so I have some time to decide!
savorthis June 9, 2012
We make Ina Garten's lemon cake with blueberry sauce all the time. It is yogurt based, super simple and very flavorful. I mix chopped, candied ginger into it, cut it in slices and top with the sauce. You can also do strawberry or raspberry sauce.
ATG117 June 9, 2012
You can make two different types of cookies. Jam thumbprints are super easy and very dainty. You can then make a small chocolate chip or a white chocolate toffee chunk--anything that suits your fancy. Rivka's rhubarb squares also come to mind. They are awfully pretty and delightful.

As easy cakes go, Amanda's chocolate dump-it cake is a synch. As a matter of fact, I think any one-bowl cake with a pour-over frosting would work well and could sit a day or two.



YOu mention sheet cake. Ina Garten has a sheet cake she uses for a July 4th flag cake, but you can use the base and frosting and then decorate according to your liking. It's a great recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/flag-cake-recipe/index.html

Here's another Ina Garten idea for an easy strawberry country cake:
hkellyis June 9, 2012
What about biscotti? David Lebowitz has a great recipe for lemon biscotti.
drbabs June 8, 2012
Here's another ricotta cake that's really good and easy. You could serve it with berries.
HalfPint June 8, 2012
Chocolate chip cookies are always good :)
Summer O. June 8, 2012
I make a lemon curd and blackberry trifle typically for Easter. I just use pound cake, lemon curd, whipping cream, I cook most of the blackberries (2 containers) with 2 tsps. sugar and a splash of Grand Ma. Garnish with Meyer lemon slices and mint. I don't think you could make it the night before but you could assemble it in no time in the AM before church and let it sit out. Or what about something with amaretti cookies? Every time I turn on the TV Giada is making something with them. :)
bigpan June 8, 2012
One word answer = cannoli !
beyondcelery June 8, 2012
If you want to follow the Italian theme, how about a torta di ricotta? I make a version that I based off this one:
It's really delicious. You don't need to include the grappa if you don't want to.

Voted the Best Reply!

kbckitchen June 8, 2012
How about simple lemon bars and fresh strawberries with bowls of sour cream and brown sugar for dipping
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