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La dolce vita dessert party

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La Ciambella

HAVE A SLICE La Ciambella is an easy-to-make Bundt cake that you can serve with Strawberries Eric. (Photo: The Junior League of Houston)

Cooking Buzz is produced in partnership with the Junior League of Houston, a women’s charitable and education organization founded in 1925.

Did you know “stressed” spelled backwards is “desserts?” Looking for an easy no-stress holiday get-together? Host a holiday dessert party.

In this busy season, your guests can stop by after other holiday parties, it’s something different from every other party, and an all-dessert party can certainly also be kinder to your wallet.

Hold the party a little later than usual so guests have time to eat dinner (or stop by those other parties) beforehand. Make sure you tell them in the invitation that it’s a dessert-only party and to “save room for dessert.”

My favorite traditional holiday dessert is a Yule log cake roll. I add Yule log touches – chocolate shavings to resemble bark and colored marzipan shaped into holly leaves and berries – to the Chocolate Roll from the Houston Junior League Cookbook.

For those who don’t like chocolate (or even sweets), I also make sure to include other options. For a festive non-chocolate dessert, I make a La Ciambella. Featured in Peace Meals, it’s a quick and easy Bundt cake that looks harder to make than it is. With the Strawberries Eric (also from Peace Meals) and fresh mint on top, it makes a pretty centerpiece on the sideboard. For those who prefer savory to sweet I make sure to have a large cheese and fruit board too.

It’s also fun to offer some desserts with a “punch.” The Bite–Size Bourbon Cakes from Peace Meals, which can be made from store-bought angel food cake, are easy to prepare and can be made a day beforehand. I add sprinkles in holiday colors to the gingersnap-pecan mixture to make the cakes more festive. Another of my favorites is the Irish Trifle from Stop and Smell the Rosemary. Scale the serving size down and serve them in clear mini pedestal cups to show off the layers.

For a holiday-themed beverage, the Spiced Apple Cider from the Houston Junior League Cookbook will match the sweetness in your desserts or can even serve as a dessert itself. And for an extra kick, it also tastes great with bourbon. If you have an insulated coffee carafe, it can help to keep the cider hot and is easy to refill.

This holiday season, keep things stress-free and experience the sweet life.

Tips for the perfect cheese board

Courtesy of Central Market as featured in Peace Meals

Five different cheeses is a good minimum for an interesting assortment of taste, color and texture. Include one triple crème, one hard, one blue, one goat and one mild semi-soft.

Allowing cheese to come to room temperature brings out the full flavor and makes it easier to handle.

If slicing, slice cheese just before serving to keep it from drying out.

Plan on two ounces of cheese per person as an appetizer/dessert.

Serve with an assortment of quality breads and crackers as well as a mix of apples, grapes, figs and pears.

As a final touch, scatter your cheese board with nuts such as pistachios, Marcona almonds and spiced pecans.

Editor's Note: To buy a Houston Junior League cookbook, see jlh.org or call 713-871-6608.

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