Before my dinner guests arrive I really like to set up a dessert station on a tray or a sideboard. I collect spoons or dessert forks and put them in a little cup. I stack up dessert plates or ramekins, and put out any serving utensils I need. I also pull out (and count) teacups, to make sure there will be enough. Sometimes I put cream and sugar on the tray too, so it's all ready for after-dinner coffee. I try to make the tray pretty, with a tea towel or colorful napkin tucked underneath.
Then, when dinner is over and you are ready for dessert, you don't have to jump up and rummage around in the kitchen for everything you need. You can pick up the tray and move venues to another room for dessert, or just have everything right there at hand. Less interruption in the conversation that way!
If our dessert is all ready and presentable (like the pretty cake above, that my mother made) I'll put that out next to the dessert tray as well, on a pretty cake stand.
Do you ever set up a dessert station or dessert tray? Do you find that it helps? This is one of my favorite de-stressing tips; it really helps me feel prepared and relaxed for a dinner party, knowing that I have everything gathered that we'll need.
(Images: Faith Durand)