A Dessert Bar for the Graduate

by Donna Hann on 06/29/2017

Graduation Dessert Display

I love to plan parties. The designing, the creating, the cooking, the baking…it all sends me into creative overdrive. So when my sister shared she was hosting a graduation party this summer for her daughter, I got a little excited. Ok, a lot excited. I had to know the color scheme (black, red, and white with graphic prints), the formality of the event (casual), the guest count (100+), and the desired menu (grandpa’s pulled pork from his Big Green Egg, salads, and a fun nacho bar with lots of toppings). Aunt Peg offered to make her darling sugar cookie cutouts and I was asked to make cupcakes for dessert. (If you’ve been following along here long enough you know that baking is my thing). Three flavors of cupcakes was enough, they said. But no, simple is never my style, so five flavors it was. 

Cupcake Picks

I printed the cupcake flavors on red and white graphic paper and cut out a banner shape which I then hot glued onto candy sticks. These would be the picks I would use on the display to describe each cupcake flavor. Red Velvet, Salted Caramel, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, Strawberry Milkshake, and Mint Chocolate Chip were my offerings. The Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, Salted Caramel, and Mint Chocolate Chip cupcakes all started with my favorite gluten and dairy free chocolate cake recipe.

Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Swirled Buttercream


Cupcake Dessert Display

In addition to the picks with the names of cupcakes, I made picks that featured “2017”, “Congrats Grad”, and “Yay”. I downloaded the graphics from sweetrosestudio.com.

Cupcake Picks

I thought the cupcake picks were cute so far, but I wanted to have a few graduation cap picks to add to the display. A quick google search brought me to everydaydishes.com  where I found a tutorial to make these adorable graduation caps which I glued to black polka dot paper straws. I loved the way they turned out!
Graduation Cap Cupcake Picks

We’d need a cute backdrop, too, of course, because the graduate wanted to do a photo booth to capture the memories of all her friends and family. After a trip to Hobby Lobby and Hollo’s Papercraft to purchase heavy card stock, I began creating the paper fans in coordinating graphic patterns in our colors. Once I reached the party destination I would affix the fans with zip ties to a wicker room divider I already owned.

Paper Fan Backdrop

My sister’s daughter just loves succulents – a girl after my own heart! So a few weeks before the party, my mom and I planted jar after jar of succulents which we would use as dining table centerpieces, on the dinner buffet, and also on the dessert display. I just loved that my sister had this rustic wooden plant stand in her garage that we cleaned up and used as the cupcake stand.  Notice the galvanized “O” planted with succulents on the top tier of the cupcake stand?  That was one of my gifts for my sweet niece. I blame my mom for my addiction to planting. Anybody else find digging in the dirt therapeutic? It’s kind of like baking for me.  Plan and create and mix and tend to and out comes a lovely surprise (well usually). I digress…

Rustic Chic Cupcake Display with Succulents

A very large vintage glass window was the backdrop to the dessert station. We strung black and white craft string across the window and hung pictures from the grad’s senior year from it with clothespins.

Dessert Display on a Plant Stand

The day turned out great and if the leftover count on the dessert bar was any indication of it’s success, I think I should be happy. I think my favorite part was learning how to pipe and swirl multiple flavors/colors of buttercream using one piping tip onto the Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcakes. I always love a challenge. Any requests for party tips I can share here? Feel free to leave a comment.

Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Swirled Buttercream


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