After Dinner Dessert Bar

Finish off dinner parties with a bang using a help-yourself spread of sips and sweets.

Show off this piece de resistance as a perfect last stop on a progressive dinner. What’s even better is that it couldn’t be easier. Start with our 1-2-3 setup, then fill the table with hot drinks, bite-sized desserts and other after-dinner delights.

After-Dinner Bar Setup
Begin setting up your bar as dinner winds down. As guests start chatting, you can do your set-up in relative ease. Divide your spread into stations.

Start with stacks of dessert plates followed by bite-sized treats. Make enough for each guest to sample the entire trio. It’s important that desserts come first, so people don’t have to balance hot drinks as they fill their plates.

Arrange desserts on a tiered cake stand, one per tier. It adds dimension to your display, plus takes up less space.

Hot Drinks
Fresh-brewed coffee (regular and decaf), hot chocolate, cider and punches, chai — the choice is yours. For bigger crowds, serve a variety so there’s something for everyone. If your gathering’s more intimate, pick one you know all will enjoy. It doesn’t hurt to have hot tea on hand as an extra option.

Use insulated servers so drinks stay warm, and in lieu of the usual cups and saucers, sip from elegant glass mugs. Stack groups with trays to keep the setup from feeling overcrowded.

All the Extras
Put forks, spoons and napkins at the end. That way, people won’t fumble with them along the way. Place utensils upside-down in mugs to keep them clean and easy to grab while also playing up the café feel.

Fanciful Fixings
Supplement the standard cream and sugar with an assortment of little delights. While you won’t be acting as a barista as your friends and family relax, set out everything you’d find in your favorite coffee shop. Try some of these unique toppings:

Spice-Rubbed Marshmallows
To top off any drink, not just hot chocolate. Lightly rub store-bought marshmallows with a damp paper towel and coat them in:

  • Crushed peppermint candies
  • Ground semi-sweet chocolate
  • Cinnamon sugar

Homemade Whipped Cream
Freshly whipped, it’s rich, airy and luxuriously silky — store-bought versions just don’t compare. For spiced whipped cream, add 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. A chilled mixing bowl helps speed up the whipping process. Throw it in the freezer for 20 minutes before you start.

Chocolate Delights
Stir more flavor into hot drinks with chocolate-dipped spoons:

2 cups semisweet, dark, milk or white chocolate chips
24 plastic or metal spoons


  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper
  2. In a microwave-safe bowl or measuring cup, microwave chocolate on 50 percent power for 2 minutes
  3. Continue to heat in 15-second intervals, stirring each time, until chocolate is smooth and melted
  4. Dip a spoon into the chocolate, completely covering the end, and let excess drip back into the bowl
  5. Tap once or twice to shake the excess loose
  6. Place on prepared baking sheet
  7. Repeat; if dipping chocolate begins to harden, re-heat in 15-second intervals
  8. Decorate as desired

After you’re finished dipping the spoons, put them into the refrigerator until chocolate hardens. Serve at room temperature. Follow the same method to make salted caramel spoons for hot cider and mulled punches.

Add a finishing touch to your dessert bar by putting out a bowl filled to the brim with chocolate-covered espresso beans.

With these ideas — all things you can even do when company isn’t around — you can finish off a dinner to remember.


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