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creating a pastry presentation

Patricia Austin

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Hello All,


I have taken on a job to make pastries for the local bank at their annual who's who gala function. The event is for 300 people; they have hired two savory caterers and myself for pastry/sweets. Originally I was going to just drop the goods off and let the caterers take it from there but the individual I am dealing with at the bank convinced me to be there, set up my own 8 ft fancy display table and use the function to showcase my work. This is a great account for me and if everything goes well she (the bank person) said they would contract with me again next year.

So . . . the part that is totally new to me is creating a table display! I arrange pastry case displays alot but this is different. I am imaging a tiered look of some sort but I'm completely starting from scratch. I thought that I could practice before hand with gathering boxes and draping them with cloth etc. but then it occurred to me that it would be a good thing for me to reach out to see if anyone on egullet has experience and/or thoughts on the subject. How does one go about creating a table display????? Hints? Tricks? Things to be careful of?

The event is in three weeks. I will have an 8 ft. table that will be positioned at the entrance to the party. There will also be trays of petite fours being passed around by the caterers that I will need to keep replenished.

thank you , thank you.


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To minimize stress, have some nice big trays already arranged, plus a few sheet pans of things to be arranged there. You may or may not want to have a centerpiece, such as a croquembouche or a lollipop tree or whatever, but different heights add interest, especially in a big room. You can invest in a nice stand, or improvise with cans and cardboard rounds, but make sure everything is as stable but portable as possible, and have lots of business cards.

Flowers and fruit (real or plastic) make it easy to create an inviting display, but make sure they are food-safe or don't touch the food. Take the time to arrange the pass-trays nicely too, they make a difference.

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The one thing I watch most for (and I've never done an event for 300), is making sure that as food is eaten the table doesn't get destroyed and look junk-ed up. I would (if allowable) put the table so it can be accessed from all sides, and then pull partial trays regularly to the back to build new trays.

Just a random thought...I've been trying to figure out a system for creating a towering phyllo ribbon pyramid. I think it has potential for dramatic flare.

And following on Trishiad's idea - I like using glass blocks for displays.

Edited by gfron1 (log)
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I like to use clear glass vases filled with assorted whole fruits (red apples, oranges, lemons, pears, kiwis, etc.) or other holiday themed items for easy & elegant elevations that are still relatively cheap. Here are 2 examples:

Round Vase

Square Vase

Good luck!

Always speak your mind. Those who mind don't matter and those who matter won't mind.

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r, T, g, D,

Thanks for your responses, all very helpful.

gfron1, I'm not sure what you mean by glass blocks. How large are they and where would I find them?

Trishiad, I do have some large cookie tins, good idea. Are the "tiles" your speaking of ceramic tiles?

I need to decide about a centerpiece. Since I am incorporating edible miniature roses into some of the pastry decoration I'm leaning towards a pastry centerpiece. I will be using different sized and designed antique glass plates for display. I live in Vermont, and so I can go towards the rustic/elegant look (which is my tendency anyway), so in this moment I am thinking about using a few wooden boards (nice ones!) and perhaps wooden blocks for display. Wood coupled with glass, flowers and pastry can be very earthy and elegant. I'm also considering how to possibly incorporate the season. . . .

Geez, there are so many possible directions to go in; how exciting and somewhat overwhelming. I'll center my focus eventually, but there is so much energy in the beginning of a creative process. I really appreciate the eGullet forum for support and ideas.


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Wooden boxes, cookie tins, nice cloths, big napkins, flower arrangements, and cheap stick-on mirror tiles from Home Depot are what we used for this for a woman's shelter benefit gala. Chocolate petit four boxes with fruit, chocolate and lemon curd mousses and so on. People got distracted by it. They were like seagulls at the dump. I had to tell the organizers I wasn't the dessert police.


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Hard to give an opinion without knowing more precisely what kind of pastry items you pretend to do.

Anyway, for my particular taste i like a minimalist look, specially when there will be so much people to serve. Why don't you choose a theme (one ingredient for example : chocolate, pineapple, strawberry, cinnamon, whatever) and build your table presentation AND the pastry items all around that same theme/subject ?

Non despite that "theme" idea, I guess that a round table worked as a "wedding cake" structure allways work fine. (8 ft table, 7ft 2nd layer, 6 ft 3rd layer and a non-eatable center piece) The mirror trays displayed on the previous post from McDuff work gorgeously and give your table a trendy look. I guess that having some non-eatable elements modularly displayed in-between the pastry items might avoid that "junked look" gfron talked about. At least partially. Smaller trays will be easier to replace because they get empty quicker than larger trays. That way you will avoid the "half-empty" effect.

I had never done anything similar, i don't even work at the pastry industry. But these are the things I do notice when I go to any similar event.

Edited by filipe (log)

Filipe A S

pastry student, food lover & food blogger

there's allways room for some more weight

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I tend to stay away from large centerpieces - other than some flowers (or I like the fruit in vases) - your desserts should really be the centerpiece. I assume you're doing 'pieces' and not cakes/tortes?

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Good idea to checkWendy's blog, Canadianbacon.

Mirrors . . . I like that idea too and I do have a little collection of them, tucked away and forgotten until now. Thanks for posting the delicious photo McDuff, It's so true that beautiful tempting desserts can create a restless crowd.

Pam R, I am leaning towards doing a floral centerpiece with cranberries in the vase. I think I want to keep it simple partly because this is a first for me and also because there is alot of dessert variety which will bring it's own interest.

My table will be rectangular and I have a long list of items per their request. I wonder, is there any reason to place the whole, sliced items higher-up or down? I guess asthetically they could be in either place.

Here is the grand list: the cakes will be whole except the Chocolate Mousse and Tigers. All of the other pastries will be individual servings or petite four size.


Ginger Cheesecake

Pumpkin Rum Cheesecake

Chocolate Grappa Current & Pine Nut Torte

Joconde-Raspberry Mousse

Chocolate Mousse Cakes

Tiger Cakes


Raspberry Frangipane Tarts

Lemon Cream

Apple Tart Tatin

Almond Cream Tarts

Chocolate Victoria Tarts



Cream Puffs

Fresh Fruit Tarts



Chocolate Macarons

Chocolate Truffles

Sablés: Chocolate, Lemon, Linzer

Almond Horns

Tuile Cookies

Shortbreads (Scottish & Cocoa Bean)

Hazelnut Meringues

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries



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