I need someone to have a baby. Or a birthday. Or a bar mitzvah. Or maybe we’ll just make up our own occasion because there are so many fun, festive and new-to-me ideas in Elise Strachan’s Sweet! Celebrations: The Ultimate Dessert & Party Planning Companion and I want to try them all. Simon & Schuster Canada sent me a copy to review so here’s the skinny including the couple of treats I tried — one quick and easy no-bake, one a bit more persnickety that I turned into a no-bake — and both super cute and delicious.
You might know Elise from My Cupcake Addiction, the wildly popular YouTube channel where she’s been sharing her creative dessert recipes and ideas for three years with millions of sweet lovers around the world. Sweet! Celebrations is her first book, and in it she shares food, drink and styling ideas for dessert parties for every occasion, from major holidays to special occasions like a high tea for friends, a colourful kids’ party and a BBQ where all of the usual staples are sweets in disguise. Recipes, tips and templates are all included, many suitable for beginners (and their young helpers) and some for more practiced entertainers.
Each of the eight chapters begins with a show-stopping cake, followed by three “small bake” recipes (cupcakes, cookies, push pops, etc.), two no-bake treats, two beverages, two DIYs, and styling tips.
Elise’s Mini Cookie Birthday Cakes were a cinch to make, with melted white candy melts standing in for icing and vanilla sandwich cookies for the cake. What do you think? Do you love? They’re quick to put together, a great single-serving size and totes adorbs. So cute for a kids’ birthday party or a face-saving surprise for a friend who’s birthday you remembered at the last minute. Minimal effort, maximum return.
Now for the more persnickety one: the Carrot Cake Pops in a Cookie Dirt Garden, a super sweet treat (and conversation piece!) for a spring fling. They’re waffle cones filled with chocolate cake pop dough and covered in melted orange candy melts, only I didn’t feel like baking (check my temperature, I must have a fever!) and stuffed mine with store-bought doughnuts instead. I had a hard time getting a smooth, even coating on the cones — in hindsight I should have thinned the chocolate with a little coconut oil — and it was a pain carving carrot-shaped holes in the floral foam that holds them upright. And I couldn’t find the mini waffle cones called for in the recipe so they’re much larger than I would have wanted. (If you had one of these from a dessert buffet you might not have room for much else.) That said, I would try them again if I could find mini cones, or maybe (oh, I’m having a lightbulb moment here!) use Elise’s fortune cookie recipe to make wee cones and try those. Because come on! How cute are they??
Some other ideas I’m excited to try:
- Confetti Layer Cake with Pouring Sprinkles Illusion (have you ever seen anything like it?)
- Garden Teacup Cakes
- Taco Cookies
- “Beer” Jello Jigglers
- Barbecue Cake Stand
- Lace Doily Bunting
- Christmas Candle Push Pops
(I couldn’t find pictures for all of these, but you’ll see the Garden Teacup Cakes and get a feel for the look of the book in this preview.)
Most of the desserts were new to me, and Elise’s incredible styling and reinvention of the dessert table is inspiring me to take it up a notch. In particular, I love how she uses an old dresser for her elegant tea party spread and the hutch she repurposes for a ghoulish Hallowe’en display. All of the recipe ingredients (with the exception of the edible flowers) are readily available at bulk and grocery stores and the baking tools and equipment commonplace and affordable. You can find similar props for styling at second-hand stores, while others (i.e. cake stands) can be easily made at home. All of which add up to an accessible, useful and highly inspiring resource for entertaining with sweets.
Sweet! Celebrations is one of my new favourite party planning books, and I hope there’s a second from Elise to come.
Simon & Schuster Canada sent me a copy of Sweet! Celebrations for review purposes. All opinions are my own.