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Before placing a serving on a dessert plate, stencil the plate, using a paper doily, a sieve, and cinnamon, cocoa powder, or powdered sugar. Place the doily on a plate and spray lightly with nonstick spray coating. Sift a topping over the stencil, then lift off the doily carefully. Stencil the dessert in the same way (omit the spray coating). Use cinnamon, unsweetened cocoa powder, or cinnamon-sugar mixture on cake with a light-colored frosting. Try powdered sugar on a chocolate-frosted cake.
Decorate a pie, frosted cake, or cookie platter with chocolate stars. Spoon melted and cooled chocolate into a small, self-sealing plastic bag. Snip off one corner of the bag, and pipe the melted chocolate onto a waxed-paper-lined baking sheet, forming a square. Pipe a second square at a 45-degree angle to the first. Let chocolate stand until firm.
Freeze cranberries and use them instead of ice to cool the champagne. As the berries thaw, they take on a frosty charm.
For Sugared Cranberries, combine 2 tablespoons water and 1 tablespoon refrigerated egg product. Brush cranberries with the mixture, then roll in granulated sugar. Use within 2 hours to decorate desserts.
For a simple but festive presentation, arrange loops of wired star garland in random curls around the base of a pedestal cake plate.
To make small chocolate curls, draw a vegetable peeler across a bar of milk chocolate. The chocolate curls best if it is at room temperature. Use the narrow side of the chocolate bar for narrow curls and the broad surface for wide curls.
To make a miniature herb bouquet for decorating a serving plate or topping an appetizer tart, select three or four kinds of herbs with different textures and colors. Cut the stems about 4 inches long and arrange herbs to show off the different types before tying with a string. If you like, you can dye the string with tea.
Give your desserts a sophisticated look by pooling the sauce under the dessert instead of over it. Spoon 1 or 2 tablespoons of sauce on each dessert plate and tilt the plate to spread the sauce evenly. If you like, pipe a contrasting colored sauce to outline the edge, using a pastry bag with a round tip.