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20 Ways to Wow Your Guests with Amazing Party Desserts

20 Ways to Wow Your Guests with Amazing Party Desserts

Words Lisa Milbrand

You don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen to create the perfect finale to your friendly gathering. These easy dessert recipes will win you major compliments with minimal effort.

Dessert is the grand finale for every party and family celebration. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend hours hunched over your mixing bowls and baking sheets to create something spectacular—some of the best party dessert recipes out there require just a few ingredients and a little bit of skill. 

If you’re looking for delicious dessert recipes that will impress your guests, look no further. We have all the tips and strategies to make it easy—plus some amazing sweet treats you’ll definitely want to try out the next time you have people over (or when you simply want to indulge yourself!).

Vanilla Cake-11

Cake & Cupcake Recipes

Cake is the essential accompaniment for many of life’s biggest celebrations—birthdays, weddings and graduations are often acknowledged with cakes in sheets or stacks. Fortunately, it’s also the kind of dessert that’s easy for even beginner bakers to pull off. Whether you’re making a straight-out-of-the-box mix or whipping up a multi-layer confection from scratch, it’s pretty hard to mess up a cake—as long as you follow the directions. 

The secret to a show-stopping party cake isn’t the cake at all, actually—it’s the delicious frosting. Start by putting on a thin layer of frosting as a “crumb coat” to keep stray crumbs from marring the finished look. Then put the cake in the fridge for 30 minutes to let the buttercream firm up and seal in the crumbs. To give your frosting a professional touch, trade in the butter knife for an offset spatula or a cake smoother to help you create a flawless finish for your buttercream—or give it an interesting texture. 

A layer cake is just one approach: Cupcakes or cake balls are equally decadent and decidedly easier to serve your guests (no slicing required!). Try these cake recipes to get you started:

Classic Layer Cake
Dorie Greenspan’s Swedish Visiting Cake Bars
Gluten-Free Chocolate Cupcakes
#ToughCookie Truffles
Vanilla Raspberry Cake with Raspberry Frosting

Tool Tip: For a flavorful frosting, use a manual food processor to finely chop freeze-dried fruit like raspberries or strawberries, then swap it for some of the sugar in your favorite frosting recipe.

Olive Oil Brownies

Chocolate Dessert Recipes

There are plenty of chocolate dessert options out there, from crowd-pleasing brownies to super-easy truffles to fresh takes on the classic chocolate chip cookies recipe. Consider serving up one of these decadent and easy dessert recipes at your next party:

Three-Ingredient Chocolate Truffles
Olive Oil Brownies with Toasted Breadcrumbs
Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies

Tool Tip: Melt chocolate the easy way by microwaving your morsels for 20-second intervals in a measuring cup. Give your chocolate a stir every time the microwave stops, then go for 20 seconds more until it is nice and gooey. 

cookies on cooling rack

Cookie Recipes

Want to dress up traditional cookies for a party? There are lots of ways to turn your favorite recipe into a party star. You can pipe buttercream or ganache between a pair of your favorite sugar cookies to make fancy sandwiches, deck your cookies with sparkling sugar or sprinkles or use a cookie press to cut them into intricate shapes. You can even take pressed cookies to the next level by dyeing the dough in several colors for fancy multi-colored creations.

If you’re short on time and don’t want to make several baking sheets worth of cookies, consider a bar cookie recipe (like the caramel slice one, below) that allows you to bake your whole recipe in one shot. Try some of these cookie recipes for your next party:

Marc Forgione’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
Caramel Slice Bar Cookies
Spritz Cookies
Sugar Cookies
Bakery-Style Chocolate Chip Cookies
S’mores Cookies

Tool Tip: For a little fun with cookie decorating as modern art, dot your frosted cookies with food coloring, then place them in a salad spinner and give them a whirl.

Ice Cream Pie

Pie Recipes

Pies may have a reputation for being difficult to make, but don’t let that scare you off. Start by making pies and tarts that use graham cracker or other crumb crusts. They are super-easy to prepare and usually don’t require any baking at all. If you want to go with a traditional butter-and-flour crust, consider a galette—it’s a French-style tart with a crust that’s simply folded up along the edges to hold in the fruit filling. (And remember the secret for a flaky pie crust: Use ice-cold butter) These delicious pies put a party twist on familiar dessert recipes:

Key Lime Pie
Ice Cream Cone Pie
Gluten-Free Strawberry Balsamic & Thyme Galettes

juicing key limes

Tool Tip: Your garlic press can come in handy when you’re baking pies—it makes squeezing all those tiny limes for a key lime pie a cinch. 

grilled watermelon

No-Bake Desserts

When it’s too hot (or you’re too busy) to bake, no-bake dessert recipes can help you keep your cool. While some of these desserts will need a little time to chill in the fridge or freezer before they’re ready to serve, many of them can be put together quickly, so they’re perfect for those moments when you have last-minute guests on their way over. Whether you want to whip up a little chocolate mousse or layer a store-bought cake with fruit and cream for an impressive trifle, you don’t have to turn up the heat to make something great. Even simple skewers of fresh melon and berries can make for an easy dessert recipe.

Ice Cream Cone Pie
Grilled Fruit

grilled watermelon and halloumi skewers
Tool Tip: A melon baller may be your no-bake dessert MVP—you can use it to make pretty fruit skewers, tiny rounded chocolate truffles, or mini scoops of ice cream for pint-sized ice-cream sandwiches.

homemade ice cream in a loaf pan

Ice Cream Recipes

It’s hard to find a single person who would turn down ice cream as a dessert—and it’s so easy to create a truly impressive (and delicious!) dessert with it as the centerpiece. Whether you use your favorite store-bought flavors or decide to make your own ice cream, you can chill your way to the perfect dessert. Keep in mind that you don’t need a fancy ice-cream maker to produce your own ice cream at home—check out our recipe for homemade ice cream without all the equipment. (The secret ingredient? Sweetened condensed milk.)

No-Machine-Necessary Homemade Ice Cream
Ice Cream Cone Pie

Tool Tip: Infuse your ice-cream base with delectable flavors using a Twisting Tea Ball. Load it up with cinnamon, mint leaves, your favorite tea or coarsely ground coffee.

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