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Just Desserts

To entertain with elegance, not extravagance, host a dessert party. People will love you for giving them the chance to be just a bit indulgent.

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Your guests would certainly be impressed with this cake.

A dessert buffet works well in the late afternoon or as a lovely ending to an evening out, allowing you to attend the event and still return home to host a late-night party. You can easily make the buffet smaller or larger simply by subtracting or adding desserts.

Here are some tips to keep in mind if you're planning on hosting a dessert party:

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Select desserts with contrasting and complementary textures and flavors. Mix sweet and tart, smooth and crunchy, adding a pleasing spice or highlighting a big, bold taste -- like chocolate!

Make one showstopping dessert to dazzle your guests and let the others play minor, but still important, roles.

It's smart to provide some lighter sweets to go along with the decadent ones -- for example, a fresh fruit platter. Cookies are always a big hit -- especially with kids.

Plan as many make-ahead desserts as will work well on your menu. Easy-to-prepare and easy-to-serve foods work wonders in helping hosts enjoy their own parties.

Provide both hot and cold beverages. Freshly brewed, flavored coffee is a nice touch. Set out a variety of flavored syrups for coffee, along with sugar, whipped cream, and cinnamon sticks for stirrers. (Look for flavored syrups in supermarkets in the coffee section.)

Use cake stands of different heights or improvise pedestals for the cakes and tarts.

Preslice cakes, pies, and tarts, but do not separate the slices. Arrange cookies in baskets, plates, or unique decorative containers.

Consider making your party a do-it-yourself activity. Everyone loves being a dessert chef, and guests of all ages will try to outdo one another building the ultimate ice cream sundae or dipping into a rich dessert fondue.

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