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What should be on a dessert bar?

A dessert bar is a great way to offer guests a variety of sweet treats at a party or event. With so many delicious options to choose from, it can be tricky to narrow down what to include. When planning a dessert bar, it’s important to have a good mix of flavors, textures, and types of desserts. Here are some tips on what makes for a stellar dessert bar.

Have a mix of dessert types

Aim to have 3-5 different types of desserts on your bar. This gives guests enough variety while still keeping the spread manageable. Some dessert categories to consider including are:

  • Cakes and pies – Choose a mix of flavors like chocolate, vanilla, lemon, or fruit pies
  • Cookies – Go for classics like chocolate chip as well as fun flavors like peanut butter or snickerdoodle
  • Bars and brownies – Fudgy brownies, fruit and nut bars, blondies, etc.
  • Puddings and mousses – Rich chocolate pudding or airy fruit mousses in mini parfait cups
  • Mini desserts – Bite-sized options like macarons, cupcakes, truffles, tarts, etc.
  • Fresh fruit – Sliced fruits like pineapple, berries, kiwi, or mini fruit skewers

Try to have a mix of chilled desserts, room temperature items, warm baked goods, fruity options, chocolaty treats, etc. to satisfy different preferences.

Offer bite-sized portions

Since guests will likely want to sample multiple items, bite-sized portions are ideal for a dessert bar. Some easy ways to make desserts small-scale include:

  • Cutting larger items into small pieces – Try squares of brownies, cake pops, or petit fours
  • Serving mini versions – Think mini cupcakes, cookies, tarts, or shooters
  • Offering desserts in spoons or small cups – Individual mousses, puddings, or trifles

Having tiny tastes allows guests to explore all the options without getting overwhelmed. Plus, it creates a fun, casual feel.

Include toppings and sauces

Let guests get creative and customize their desserts with fun toppings and sauces like:

  • Whipped cream
  • Chocolate sauce
  • Caramel sauce
  • Sprinkles
  • Chopped nuts
  • Crushed cookies or graham crackers
  • Shaved chocolate
  • Dried fruit
  • Cherries
  • Toasted coconut

Offering a variety of toppings encourages guests to try different combinations and makes the dessert bar feel interactive.

Include gluten-free and dairy-free options

To accommodate guests with dietary restrictions, make sure to have a few gluten-free and dairy-free treats such as:

  • Gluten-free brownies or cookies
  • Dairy-free chocolate mousse
  • Fresh fruit
  • Sorbet or dairy-free ice cream
  • Chocolate-dipped fruit
  • Mini cupcakes or donuts made with gluten-free flour

Offer a chocolate fountain

A chocolate fountain is always a crowd-pleaser! Provide bites like strawberries, marshmallows, pretzel rods, pineapple chunks, or rice crispy treats for dipping.

Include a fountain drink

Have a fountain machine set up with chocolate and vanilla milkshake options, along with fun mix-in toppings. Milkshakes make a great partner to dessert!

Make a s’mores bar

Set up a DIY s’mores station with graham crackers, marshmallows, chocolate bars, and fun additions like peanut butter cups, caramel, nuts, coconut, etc. Guests will love customizing their own gooey s’mores.

Offer coffee and tea

Have a coffee urn with regular and decaf coffee along with an assortment of hot tea bags. This gives guests the option of pairing their sweets with a hot beverage.

Include small plates and utensils

Provide small plates, napkins, forks, and spoons so guests can easily carry and enjoy their desserts. Mini tongs are helpful for serving bite-sized items. Cocktail napkins allow easy handheld eating.

Use tiered platters for a stunning display

Use cake stands, cupcake towers, and multi-tiered platters to show off the tempting variety of desserts. This creates a beautiful presentation.

Clearly label gluten-free and dietary-friendly options

Help guests with dietary needs quickly identify which treats fit their diet by labeling them clearly. Signs that say “Gluten-Free” or “Dairy-Free” help the dessert bar feel welcoming to all.

Have a nice mix of colors and textures

Aim for an array of eye-catching colors, from rich chocolate brown to pastel macarons to fresh vibrant fruits. Play with soft and creamy textures as well as crunchy and crisp ones. This makes the spread extra enticing.

Infuse fun theme elements

Tie your dessert bar into the party theme with fun elements. For example, for a tropical luau have pineapple and coconut flavored treats. At a kids party, decorate cookies with colorful icing and sprinkles.

Keep food safety in mind

To prevent foodborne illness, make sure to properly refrigerate or freeze items that need to stay chilled or frozen. Avoid leaving dairy, egg, or cream-based desserts sitting out too long. Frequently swap out or refresh emptied platters.


When planning your perfect dessert bar, focus on providing an array of flavors, textures, portion sizes, and dietary options. Include fun elements like chocolate fountains, sprinkle toppings, or make-your-own stations. Keep the spread visually appealing and label items clearly. With an abundance of sweet varieties and customizations, your dessert bar is sure to be a hit!