Desserts From Bakeries Can Make Your Party a Success
Dreaming of a holiday party that’s easy on time, energy and the budget? No baking, no fussing or mussing? Well, then, a dessert party of bakery desserts may be the way to go.
Dessert parties using cakes and pies from a bakery can be far less expensive than dinner or cocktail parties and often require the least amount of time and effort for the greatest festive effect to pull off. (First-time party-givers, are you listening?)
Dessert parties can be after the dinner hour or in the afternoon, thus trimming cost of beverages, too. That’s because Champagne, coffee and tea are less costly than hard liquors and wines usually offered during peak drinking hours. Even supermarket desserts, such as pies and bare cakes, can be jazzed up with garnishes that make them distinctive. And only you will ever need to know. Such last-minute embellishments as sprigs of mint, parsley, rosemary and tarragon, whipped cream, curled candied peels and sliced citrus fruits can help any dessert cosmetically.
You’ll have to do a lot of legwork if the bakeries and caterers don’t deliver, and most do not. Many desserts can be frozen to help alleviate last-minute rushing about. And you can supplement store-bought items with home-baked goodies if you are so inclined.
Here is a list of possible dessert specialties you might want to consider for your dessert party, and the places to find them.
Princess Cake--This gloriously beautiful sponge cake with its green marzipan dome and custard filling looks like a million dollars on a dessert table. It comes in several sizes, so you’ll need to order ahead. The standard seven-inch size is $9.50. You also find kransekage , the magnificent Danish wedding cake made of graduated marzipan cookie rings forming a pyramid (10 rings $30; 18 rings $110), plus other Danish goodies, such as yule log (the 14-inch log is $14.95), all at Federico’s, 1810 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, (818) 795-4484. Federico’s also carries hard-to-find Italian pignolati, the pyramid of tiny dough balls bound with honey ($4.75).
Angel Cookies--Viktor Benes (pronounced Ben-ish), 8718 West 3rd St., Los Angeles, (213) 276-0488, carries superb Christmas-angel cutout sugar cookies as well as princess cake and other holiday specialties.
Stollen--This traditional Northern European Christmas sweet bread that looks like a giant turnover covered with icing (or not) is widely available. We like the ones made at Federico’s (address above), and Vienna Pastry, 1215 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, (213) 395-6728.
Lebkuchen--Alpine Village Market bakes great lebkuchen and advockaat (apricot cookies), plus the traditional Scandinavian holiday goodies such as stollen and yule logs in 8-inch ($9.95) and 12-inch ($15.95) sizes . Alpine Village Market is at 833 W. Torrance Blvd., Torrance, (213) 327-2483.
Buche de Noel--Many bakeries carry this traditional Christmastime yule log, but the ones at the Pastry Shop in the Biltmore Hotel are special with meringue mushrooms stuck on. They come in 8- and 12-inch sizes and must be ordered ahead. The Biltmore Hotel Pastry Shop, 530 Grand St., Los Angeles, (213) 612-1565 or 624-1011.
Croquembouche--Tiny cream puffs (50 or 100 puffs) shaped into a pyramid and drizzled with lacy threads of caramel is a traditional French dessert that can be the piece de resistance of any dessert table. It’s not inexpensive and you’ll have to give a few days notice before picking it up yourself, but it’s a statement dessert that is well worth the price. Paris Pastry, 1448 Westwood Blvd., (213) 474-8888, offers them, as well as a lovely selection of other French holiday desserts, such as buche de Noel (yule log) in 8-, 12-, 16- or 24-inch sizes, as well as St. Honore, the custard-filled cream-puff ring in 8- or 10-inch sizes.
All-American--You’ll find sky-high, oversize, beautiful, chocolate mocha cake ($30 size serves 14) and luscious-looking oversize pecan, apple and cranberry pies at Fred Segal’s Cafe, 8112 Melrose Ave., (213) 653-6918.
Churros--These Mexican doughnut sticks make an excellent dessert to add to a Mexican Christmas party. But plan on serving them soon after purchase to best enjoy their freshness. You’ll get the churros and other sweet Mexican pastries, such as pastelitos and pan de huevo at Celaya Bakery, 2238 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 388-1075, and at Grand Central Market, 317 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, (213) 624-2378.
Dutch treats--For a truly charming Old-World Christmas look, try Dutch stores featuring special Christmas desserts, such as Kerst Kranzen, the authentic Dutch marzipan ring, speculaas, boterleeter, and giant-size ginger-boys and -girls. You can also pick up oversize alphabet letters in solid Dutch chocolate. For Dutch goodies, try Jaynel Dutch Imports, 3113 West 6th St., Los Angeles, (213) 389-8807); Ann’s Dutch Store, 4357 Tujunga Ave., North Hollywood, (818) 985-5551; Holland-American Market, 10343 E. Artesia Blvd., Bellflower, (213) 867-7589; and Hollinda Co., 9544 Las Tunas Drive, Temple City, (818) 286-9981.
English Christmas Cake--This decorative cake is the traditional sherried fruitcake (8- and 10-inch) for Christmas in Britain and is available along with other authentic English desserts, such as plum pudding and Cherry Genoa Cake ($14.50 for 28 ounces), at Tudor House, 411 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, (213) 451-4107; Picadilly Shop, 2011 W. Burbank Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 842-2324.
Japanese Tea Cakes--Japanese fragrant sweet pastries, steamed buns of many varieties, azuki roll made with azuki beans, jellyroll (kasutera), sponge-cake blocks packed safely and beautifully in a box, plus a large collection of rice and seaweed crackers, biscuits and Japanese candies are available at Mikawaya, 2344 East 1st St., Los Angeles, or at several bakeries within the Yaohan Market at 333 S. Alameda St., Los Angeles, (213) 687-6699.
Chinese Tea Cakes--Many supermarkets now carry almond cookies ready to carry home, but you’ll find them and other Chinese desserts, such as custard tarts, at Phoenix Bakery, 969 N. Broadway, Chinatown, Los Angeles, (213) 628-4642.
Sweet Dim Sum--Lemon tarts and sweet, filled dim sum are available at the Golden Dragon restaurant during mid-day only. Golden Dragon, 960/970 N. Broadway, Los Angeles, (213) 626-2039, and at Family Pastry Shop, 659 N. Broadway, Los Angeles, (213) 622-5255. Try Chinese restaurants in your area, as well.
Flan--The authentic Argentine custard dessert is available to go, and it comes in 1-pound aluminum containers that can be transferred onto your own beautiful platter. Argentine bread pudding is another specialty of Catalina’s Market, 1050 N. Western Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 461-2535.
Sweet Tamales--They’re filled with pineapple, raisins, pine nuts and anise and they’re available to go (with reasonable notice) from Lolita’s (a temporary home facility due to earthquake damage of their original commercial building), at 617 S. Bradshawe Ave., East Los Angeles, (213) 728-8480.
Baklava--You can fill an Arabian Nights dessert table with golden, flaky baklava of different shapes and sizes plus other authentic Middle Eastern sweets, such as kadaif and butter cookies. Try Bezjian’s, 4725 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 663-1503; C&K; Imports, 2771 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 737-9811; Fazzi’s Fancy Foods, 1538 N. Western Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 464-1942.
Caribbean Ginger Cakes--You’ll find them as well as other Caribbean dessert specialties at Stone Bakery Co., 65700 Crenshaw Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 753-3847.
Dreidle--This cake and other Kosher holiday desserts are available at Judy’s La Petite, 129 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 936-7372.
Cassata--Southern Italian desserts, such as the rum Cassata, Marsala wine cake and pannetone can be bought at Sarno’s Bakery, 1712 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 664-8445.