March 5, 2009

Great dessert presentation - monochromatic never fails

In the March issue of Food & Wine, there is a great piece about New York City-based Amy Atlas of Amy Atlas Events. Amy is known for her spectacular monochromatic dessert presentations for special events. Although I don't believe her work is necessarily groundbreaking, I can appreciate her eye for great design.

Some of Amy's tips to achieve an eye-catching dessert spread include:

1.) Choose About 6 Desserts - For small parties, Atlas advises balancing an elaborate cake with mini cupcakes or petits fours, chocolates, cookies and hard candies. Serving mostly small desserts lets guests pop them in their mouths while they mingle; no need for cumbersome plates and forks.

2.) Stick to 2 or 3 Colors - Atlas likes the tailored look of monochromatic tables, sometimes in unusual color combinations. The focus of the yellow, white and black table is a custom-made cake by Kate Sullivan of LovinSullivanCakes, inspired by the paintings of Robert Motherwell. Cake, $10 per serving;

3.) Use a Backdrop - Cover the wall behind the table to help advance the color scheme. To help soften the look of this yellow table, Atlas created a temporary wall out of plywood and attached pretty wallpaper by Osborne & Little. “Marienlyst” paper, $154 per roll, available through the trade only;

4.) Look for Sweets with Similar Shapes - To echo the circular designs on the Kate Sullivan cake, Atlas set out trays of round sweets, including black-and-white-patterned chocolates from Williams & Bennett ($15 for 12;

For a fuchsia-colored table, she commissioned a custom cake that mimicked the cherry-tree design on the event’s invitation. A friend then created tree shapes for the back of the table using pink lollipops glued into holes on wooden dowels, with brown construction paper for leaves.

5.) Decorate with Ribbon and Flowers - As an accent to the color scheme, Atlas often ties ribbon around cupcake wrappers and the bases of cake stands. She says that vases of flowers, like the gerbera daisies on the yellow table, are a great way to fill out the back of the table, where it would be harder for people to reach the sweets.

6.) Serving Pieces MatterThink Vertically - Think about the serving pieces as much as the desserts. Atlas loads her tables with platters, dishes, cake stands and vases, often sticking to one color but varying the shapes. Clear glass containers are perfect for holding colorful hard candies. She swears by Crate & Barrel for its wide selection of seasonal and classic pieces.

7.) Consider a Prop House - Renting serving pieces from prop houses (which supply event planners and stylists) can be cheaper than buying. An F&W favorite is New York City’s Props For Today.

8.) Think Vertically - When she couldn’t find extra-tall stands for a table, Atlas attached platters to ornate black candlesticks with a glue gun. On the table, she keeps low trays toward the front and higher vases and stands toward the back and sides.

9.) Use Candy as a Bed for Other Desserts - Atlas sometimes places cupcakes on a platter of M&M’s or jelly beans. At the bases of the lollipop trees above, she used piles of pink sugar crystals to mimic soil.

10.) Use Any Kind of Table - Covered with a spectacular cloth, even a card table will work. For a casual, summery buffet, try striped linen. For a fancy winter event, try black taffeta.

11.) Set Out Cakes Last - Put baked goods out on the table no more than an hour before guests arrive.

Black Book of Dessert Sources:

Browniepops - To add a vertical element, Atlas likes this company’s chocolate-covered brownies on sticks. $24 for 6; 816-797-0715 or

Christopher Norman Chocolates - This confectioner makes terrific custom truffles. 212-402-1243 or

Dylan’s Candy Bar - Atlas’s go-to source for whimsical retro sweets, like chewy striped licorice candies. 610-921-3560 or

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