While most of us have barely put the finishing touches on our holiday home decorations, it's already time to start thinking about what we'll make for the most festive feast of the year.
And, as if entertaining an extra-large crowd isn't stressful enough, there is always extra pressure on the chef to make a centerpiece-worthy dessert that somehow single-handedly captures the spirit of the entire season on a serving tray.
The bad news is that most of us aren't expert bakers who specialize in such custom-designed desserts, but the good news is that we caught up with someone who is! Duff Goldman, of Charm City Cakes, has baked custom cakes for celebrity clients such as Oprah Winfrey, George Lucas, Betty White, Jewel, Tina Fey and Drew Carey, and he was generous enough to give us five tips for do-it-yourself holiday decorating.
Here's what he had to say:
1. Utilize Ice Cream Cones: Duff says to fill them with mousse or pudding and simply "Turn them over, and decorate the outside like Christmas trees, then sprinkle powdered sugar on them so they look snowed on!"
2. Don't Be Afraid to Use Flavors Other Than Peppermint and Cinnamon: He suggests using hints of citrus like lemon and orange saying, "They tend to be lighter and fresher and will be really popular after big, heavy holiday meals."
3. Use What You Can Find: Some of his suggestions are to use "Crushed candy canes on a chocolate cheesecake…candied orange peel served with a baked custard" or to add "dots and other gummies" as confectionary Christmas lights or tasty tree decorations. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination—just stick to stuff that's edible!
4. Don't Try to Make Anything Too Elaborate: Instead, Duff says to take traditional cakes and add one little surprise that makes a traditional cake familiar but at the same time exciting. For example, he suggests making a dulce de leche as a sauce for a traditional pumpkin spice cake (or pie).
And one last (maybe a little blasphemous) tip…
5. Utilize Ready-Made Cookie Dough: That's right, the great baker himself has just given you the green light to cut some corners! What's more, Duff says that just because it comes in a round tube, doesn't mean it has to stay that way (maybe mold in some imperfections if you want to make them look "homemade"). In fact, you can shape these cookies any way you want and decorate them accordingly. He also says it's a great way to get the kids involved!
What do you think of Duff's holiday decorating tips? Are you going to try any of them?
—Reporting by Claudia Rosenbaum