This is my ultimate guide to making a no-fail, showstopping dessert that is perfect for any occasion – a sweet platter!
One of my favourite but super easy showstopper desserts is a sweet platter. A sweet grazing platter is a really simple, guaranteed no-fail dessert option to feed a crowd (big or small!) – no need to worry if your cake is cooked in the middle or if it will come out of the tin in one piece, plus you don’t even have to serve it out!
There are also lots of options for small bites of different flavours to suit varying tastes or dietary needs, plus everyone helps themselves at their own pace, perfect!
Without further a-do, here are my top 10 tips to make your next sweet platter a success!
Tip 1 – Help! I don’t have a platter! I’ve got you covered…
So you don’t have a giant-platter-especially-for-entertaining-but-good-for-nothing-else hidden in the back of the cupboard? Me neither. You might be surprised what can be used as a platter if you think outside the box.
Other platter or board options:
- Breadboard/chopping board – use two side by side to get the right size if needed.
- Baking sheet/baking tray – that’s what I used! Bonus – these have sides, see my pro tip below.
- Marble pastry board.
- A serving tray – like you would use to serve breakfast in bed or afternoon tea
- If you are unsure of your surface or you just want to pretty it up a bit, you can always line it with parchment/baking paper.
* Pro tip – a baking tray with sides makes the perfect dessert platter for attending a party with your sweet board pre-assembled. Just wrap it in plastic wrap for easy transport and you’re good to go.
Tip 2 – Bowls for little things
It might look artistic to lay everything out on a board like it came out of a magazine article, but for me it’s just not practical. Stuff gets out of hand and goes everywhere! Some things just need bowls because they are too small or they roll around too much.
I use ramekins, small baking moulds/tins, tea cups, saucers, small drinking glasses or shot glasses – pretty much anything in my kitchen that’s small!
Tip 3 – A little bit of prep goes a long way
It’s a bit like Santa at Christmas, I like to make a list then I check it twice! With so many small ingredients to include, it can be easy to lose track when you’re shopping. When you are making your shopping list, here are a few things to take into consideration.
- How many guests will there be, and what kind of mix between adults and children?
- What size board/tray/platter are you using?
- Any food intolerances or allergies (or absolute LOVES, so you need to buy extra!)?
- Are you going down the strictly sweet route (I like to include fruit too), or maybe include a small cheese selection with some crackers? Not necessarily everyone has a sweet tooth – a shock I know!
Tip 4 – What should I put on my platter and how much?
A good sweet platter is not all about teeth aching sweetness (unless that’s what you’re going for!) but a nice balance of sweet elements as well as some fresher, less-sweet options like fresh or dried fruit.
A balanced platter also needs some variation in size and shape, this adds visual interest as well as differing flavours.
- Small chocolates/sweets – M & Ms, jelly beans etc
- Larger chocolate bites/wrapped candy/sweet items – Kit Kat fingers/mini peanut butter cups/fudge squares etc (1 – 3 pieces total per person)
- Small or medium-sized biscuits or cookies, sweet sticks/wafers (allow 1 – 2 of each type per person)
- Fresh fruit – bite-sized like blueberries, raspberries or grapes work well – no chopping!
- Dried fruit
- Cheese and crackers
* Pro tip – adding something that’s a bit of a childhood flashback, or maybe a little retro can be a really great way to add a point of difference plus some fun to your dessert platter. Anyone for jelly babies, snakes or freckles?
Tip 5 – Optional hero element
I know, you are wondering what I’m talking about…let me explain…
I like to include a hero element in my sweet platters as well as all the smaller things. Something a little more substantial than chocolates or lollies or slices of fruit.
My go-to suggestions for a hero element:
- brownies, slices or bars – these are easily cut into multiple smaller pieces to serve
- chocolate dipped fresh fruit such as strawberries
- sweet dips such as Nutella, cookie butter or chocolate ganache for guests to dunk other stuff like fruit or biscuits into
There should be enough of the hero element for everyone to have at least 1 or 2 pieces. For this sweet platter that I am building at the moment, I am making my Tim Tam Balls to have as my hero element.
* Pro tip – your hero element doesn’t have to be homemade. Cheating is totally acceptable here – we are going for an easy dessert after all! I’m thinking maybe a good quality dulce de leche for dipping, some different flavours of creamy fudge or a storebought macaron selection.
Tip 6 – Presentation, presentation
We have all heard it before, people eat with their eyes. SO true. Having an eye towards the overall presentation of your sweet grazing board will help to make your dessert a success.
- Leave things in their natural state as much as possible such as grapes on the vine, cherries on the stem, unhulled strawberries. What looks more appetizing – a bunch of plump juicy grapes still on the vine, draped and nestled amongst an array of yummy little morsels OR some grapes that have been plucked off their stems and then just sat in a bowl?
- If you are going to include things that are coated in chocolate, consider breaking a few open and include these with the group on the board. This way your guests know what’s inside.
- Things like sliced pears or apples tend to go brown, a dip in some water and fresh lemon juice will keep them fresh.
- Leave wrapped chocolates/lollies etc in their wrappers. This way they are easier for your guests to identify plus it adds some interest to your board.
* Pro tip – go seedless wherever you can with seedless grapes etc. I also like to remove seeds from things like fresh dates in case your guests aren’t expecting seeds or stones. No matter how beautiful your sweet grazing board is, the party is pretty much over if someone breaks a tooth on something they were expecting to be seedless.
Tip 7 – Fill in the blanks
Once you have your platter assembled with the larger items, you may have some blank or bare spots – which we don’t want on our finished masterpiece!
A nice full platter with no blank spots makes your platter look generous and inviting. I like to have some things even flowing over the sides a little – this really helps create the illusion of an overflowing bounty of goodies! I tend to use things like bunches of grapes or wafer sticks for this.
A small example of things that make good fillers:
- chocolate covered fruit or nuts
- chocolate covered pretzels
- mini biscuits or cookies
- maltesers, jaffas or other small chocolate bites
- dried fruit
- small fudge squares
Tip 8 – Forgotten utensils
Toothpicks or disposable cocktail forks are great for picking up things that may be sticky or that you would like to dip into something else, so I like to have them either on my grazing platters or sitting right beside. It’s the little touches like these that are often forgotten, but make things so much easier for your guests.
They are kind of like the unsung heroes of the day – no-one notices them until they aren’t there when you need them – like my next forgotten utensil…
Napkins people! Serviettes! Whatever you call them, I have been to a lot of functions where there is nothing to wipe your hands (or face!) with! Total pet hate of mine, and I’m not alone!
That brings me to the next tip…
Tip 9 – Rubbish, we all have it…
Whether it’s the little green top from your fresh strawberry, or the toothpick you just used to spear a blueberry in order to dunk it in Nutella…where are you going to put it now?
Back on the board? Carry it around all night? Or maybe you would like your guests to keep running to the kitchen garbage bin? Probably a no to all of these…
I always supply a little bowl just to the side of my grazing board (usually on top of the stack of napkins to stop them blowing away!) for my guests to put their rubbish in.
Tip 10 – How to put it all together
- First you need to know which things on your platter will need bowls – and then have a bit of what I call a “put and look” to see where you would like to place them. Then we will basically fill the board around them.
- At this stage I put down larger items that will pretty much stay where I put them without spreading out too much. Things like bunches of grapes, fresh strawberries, medium-sized cookies – then we can move the bowls around if we need to.
- Then I start filling up the bowls. I don’t like to leave that until the end because we need to keep variations in colour throughout the board, so I like to work with the colour of these elements where they are going to stay. It’s not very visually appealing to see chocolate-covered sultanas next to chocolate-covered peanuts next to chocolate-covered honeycomb. Tasty maybe, but not as pretty!
- Start filling in the gaps with things of contrasting colours until it’s full!
Top 10 Tips For The Perfect Sweet Platter
- Tim Tam Balls optional
- Lotus (Biscoff) biscuits
- triple chocolate chip cookies
- peanut butter cups
- Ferrero Rocher hazelnut chocolates
- seasonal fruit strawberries, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, grapes
- dried fruit dates, apricots
- mini choc chip cookies
- dark chocolate coated pretzels
- chocolate coated dried cranberries
- chocolate coated honeycomb
- caramel fudge
- cookie butter
- chocolate wafer sticks
- M & Ms
- jelly beans
- Decide which things on your platter will need bowls, then place the empty bowls on the board. This is what I call a "put and look", then we will basically fill the board around them.
- Then place larger items that will pretty much stay where you put them without spreading out too much. Things like bunches of grapes, fresh strawberries, and medium-sized cookies - and move around the bowls if they need it.
- Then I start filling up the bowls. I do that now rather than at the end because I like to keep variations in colour throughout the board, so I like to work with the colour of these elements where they are going to stay.
- Start filling in the gaps with things of contrasting colours until it's full!