Baking For a CrowdJune 10, 2011
A few months ago, my boss shocked me, along with everyone else who worked for her, by announcing that she was retiring at the end of May. Since we couldn’t talk her out of leaving, we decided that we would send her off in style. And what better way (at least in my opinion) than with a dessert buffet. A dessert buffet that I offered to make!
One challenge was that we didn’t know how many people would come to the party. Leftovers are fine; running out of food is not, so I baked a lot. There were leftovers, and they vanished the next day.
What I made
I decided what to make based on my favorite recipes, things that I thought would please a crowd, and things that I could easily transport to work. I didn’t get a photo of everything. I was busy baking! Links to recipes are at the end of the post.
Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting
Topped with a mini peanut butter cup.
Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Frosting
Topped with chocolate sprinkles.
Pina Colada Cupcakes
Topped with toasted coconut. Cupcakes for the non-chocolate crowd.
Chocolate Oatmeal Almost-Candy Bars
I have a hard time picking favorites, but I will now declare that this is my favorite recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours. I put each bar in a cupcake paper to make them easier to serve.
Lenox Almond Biscotti
Another Dorie Greenspan recipe. We served coffee and milk, so I thought that biscotti would be a nice addition to the lineup.
This is Martha Stewart’s Chocolate-Pistachio Biscotti recipe with cashews instead of pistachios. Why? Because I had a bag of unsalted cashews in my freezer. It’s excellent with either nut.
My signature cookie, which I’ve brought to work many times.
One of my coworkers brought two pans of yummy bars, which I now have the recipe for, so when I make them, I’ll post them here. She also dipped pretzel rods in white and semi-sweet chocolate and decorated them with colorful sprinkles. These were great additions to our dessert buffet.
I stored, transported, and served the cookies, biscotti, and bars in large plastic containers. I had too many cupcakes to fit in my cupcake carrier, so I was thrilled to find these large foil pans. They are deep, very sturdy, and cost $2.44 each at Target. I can’t say enough about these pans! I washed them and they’re ready to use again.
I covered the pans with Glad Press ‘n Seal, which worked great. The freezer wrap, which is on the two pans toward the back, is thicker and easier to work with than the regular Press ‘n Seal.
A little planning goes a long way. I tallied up the amount of each ingredient I would need. I compared that to what I already had and then made a grocery list and purchased everything a few days ahead. When I was done, I patted myself on the back for not needing any last-minute grocery store runs! I also made a schedule of what to bake each day for the three days leading up to the party and did some prep work four days before the party, such as chopping peanuts and weighing and sifting dry ingredients for the chocolate cupcakes. I appreciated the prep work when I was in the thick of baking.
Here are a couple of photos of everything set out at the party. I made signs with a brief description of each item. No forks needed, and no one had to cut and serve a cake, which was really nice.
- My favorite chocolate cake: Three batches yielded 72 cupcakes. They didn’t all make it to the party because I ran out of pan space and energy.
- Kathleen’s Peanut Butter Icing: I made two batches of this, which covered about 29 cupcakes (note that I did not make the chocolate cake that is in the link with the frosting).
- Magnolia Bakery’s Vanilla Buttercream: I made one batch of this and frosted about 29 cupcakes (I could have done a few more with the frosting I had left).
- Pina Colada Cupcakes: I made a double batch, which yielded 24 cupcakes.
- Cream Cheese Frosting: I made a double batch, which was way too much for 24 cupcakes. One batch might have been enough, or 1 1/2 to be safe. I replaced some of the milk with rum, as noted in my Pina Colada Cupcake post.
- Lenox Almond Biscotti: Double batch. I posted about it here.
- Chocolate-Cashew Biscotti: Double batch. I recommend making two 12″x2″ logs instead of one 12″x4″ log. The dough puffs a lot while baking. (The original recipe calls for pistachios.)
- Ranger Cookies: Double batch, which I thought was going to burn out the motor on my mixer. Next time, I’ll make one batch at a time!
- Chocolate Oatmeal Almost-Candy Bars: Single batch. They are thick and rich, so you can cut them fairly small. I always omit the cinnamon, as I did here.
A note about frosting: How far a batch of frosting will go depends on how much you put on each cupcake. You should always have extra ingredients on hand in case you need to make more.
This was a lot of fun! It was a little stressful, but not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I would do this again, and I think I could step it up a notch to make things a little fancier. There are only a couple of things I’d do differently next time. I would use larger piping tips for the frosting. I haven’t decorated a lot of cupcakes and thought I was using a large enough tip, but I think a larger one would have been easier and looked nicer. Also…next time I’d try to eat less of what I baked! When I’m just baking one thing and making a small amount, I can limit myself. It was a lot harder with such a large selection of tasty treats!