You guys, I have some guilt about Amy Atlas's newish book. I should have showed it to you ages ago. On the other hand, I've had some time to live with it and page through it (over and over), and now that the holidays are coming up, I feel that this is just the right time to return to this gorgeous, fun, genuinely helpful book. Atlas is the queen of the color-coordinated dessert buffet, a much-beloved staple of Pinterest and wedding receptions, (she calls herself a "sweets stylist) — and this book shows you how to achieve these sweet party showstoppers yourself. And you know what? It actually makes it look easy. Amy Atlas is a New York City-based party planner and stylist who has become well-known for her ultra-coordinated, playfully themed dessert tables. She has spawned many imitators, but I always find a sense of play and joy in her original designs, both of which help to balance out what could feel like an overly-constructed, ostentatious display of desserts.
This book shows you how to recreate 14 of her designs, from a poppy orange zigzag table, to a pastel party, to a bee-themed dessert spread, to a swanky layout for a movie night. Each section gives recipes for the treats featured, along with instructions for decorations, labels, tags, flowers, and everything else to get the look.
• Who wrote it: Amy Atlas
• Who published it: Hyperion
• Number of recipes: Over 100, plus over 75 craft projects
• Recipes (and projects) for right now: Spooktacular Halloween, with Bewitching Bark, Wicked Pumpkin Cupcakes, and Broomsicles. Apple of My Eye with Brownie Apples, Apple Print Tablecloth, and U-Pick Goody Bag.
• Other highlights: This book is surprisingly accessible. I find that many styling-focused food books are so much eye candy, big on aspiration and low on practical inspiration. But this one patiently steps you through each recipe and craft, lavishly illustrated with close-ups and process shots. Atlas offers a wealth of little tips and sidebars, too, for quick shortcuts to crafts, and ways to mix up her themes and colors.
This is perhaps the strongest aspect of this book: It's so inspiring and yet if you, like me, can't imagine constructing an entire dessert table, with all the work that entails, you might find just one creative idea, like her smart little table runner covered in Necco Wafer polka-dots, to brighten an otherwise casual birthday party. The ideas are mix-and-match, and the recipes and crafts are almost uniformly appealing and fun.
• Who would enjoy this book? Anyone who loves throwing over-the-top parties, especially baby showers and birthday parties, and who gravitates, like a homing pigeon, to color-coordination and picture-ready dessert tables.
Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: Sweet Designs: Bake It, Craft It, Style It by Amy Atlas (Hyperion)
• Visit Amy's website: Amy Atlas, and find her on Twitter.
(Images Faith Durand)