I have two left thumbs when it comes to anything crafty, and I approach making things "look pretty" more like a wrestling match than an afternoon of fun. But if I can do it, so can you. I have three tips that will take your special treats from baking sheet to gift-ready in no time flat.
Before we get into specifics, my general advice here is to have a plan, and to have your plan before you go into the kitchen. Say you want to make gingersnaps — along with picking up the ingredients and making sure you have enough baking sheets, think about how you might want to wrap those cookies up later. I've found that it's much better to think through these things from the get-go rather than finding yourself stumped as the cookies are cooling.
1. Stacks & Groups of Three
Thin things look better in stacks and bigger things look better in threes. This is actually an old trick from my culinary school days, but it definitely applies here. For instance, imagine the crackers above jumbled together in a tin — much less elegant, right? The same is true for things like toffee, brittle, and thin shortbread cookies.
If you're gifting something larger — say some biscotti or a bag of chocolate truffles — a bunch of three looks much more visually appealing than if several are crammed together in a bag. If three feels like too few, go for an odd number instead: groups of five or seven or so on. There's something about groups of odd numbers that just looks better to our eye.
2. Let the Food Shine
The subtitle for this one is "KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid." For years, I tried to wrangle all sorts of fancy packaging — elaborate bows, perfectly pleated cellophane, fancy doo-dads dangling from the ribbons. I finally realized that I was making it way too hard on myself, and really, it's about letting the gift itself shine — not the pretty packaging.
Since then, I've stuck to using things like Weck jars to show off a batch of granola or simple clear cellophane pouches for gifting some cookies. It doesn't need to be elaborate or fancy — it just needs to feel genuine and heartfelt. Most of the time, the food you made can do this all on its own.
3. Take Help From the Pros
The pros in this case are our old pals William Sonoma, Sur La Table, Michael's, King Arthur Flour and similar company. It's not cheating to use their lovely polka-dot ribbons and origami disposable baking pans — it's smart! Here are some of my favorite resources for gifting supplies:
- Polka-Dot Cellophane Treat Bags from Sur La Table — lots of colors, lots of sizes here.
- Red-and-White Striped Baker's Twine from Sur La Table — A few circles of colorful twine make any gift instantly adorable.
- Cupcake Boxes from Williams Sonoma — Also great for gifting truffles and chocolate-dipped fruit.
- Loaf Paper Baking Pans from King Arthur Flour — Bake it, gift it, done.
- Weck Jars from Crate & Barrel — Never underestimate the power of a simple jar to make food look stunning.
- Michaels — Just a general link here for things like ribbons, stickers, twine, colorful tissue paper, and on and on. Prepare to fall down the gift-wrapping rabbit hole.
Next time you're at one of these stores, I recommend just perusing their baking aisles and picking up a stash of basic gift-giving supplies. I've found that having some pretty cellophane bags and a choice of ribbon on hand is extremely helpful when it comes to that gift-giving wrestling match.
What other tips do you have for making your edible gifts look pretty?
(Image credits: Emma Christensen; Regina Yunghans)