garden party - dessert spread

Set a garden party spread with charming desserts! 3 yummy recipes to fill out the table

These garden party desserts make for a pretty, and tasty, spread!

We’re looking spring straight in the eyes. So, it’s about time to plan a garden party! It’s the perfect excuse to get with a few girlfriends. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of attending a garden party, you know it’s all elegant and charming.

Tara Boss dived into the garden party’s dessert bar. It’s the daintiest little desserts that really steal the show. They’re fancy, frilly, and you can eat them all with a pinky up! Tara shared three ideas and recipes to serve up at a garden party: ombre cakes, panna cotta, and pavlova.


To give each dessert an elegant finishing touch, Tara shared a few topping ideas:

  1. Fresh Fruit
    • Slice up vibrant mangoes, juicy berries, and zesty mandarin sections.
    • Match the fruit colors to your decor for an elegant touch.
  2. Curds and Jams
    • Curds, thickened with egg yolks and butter, lend a velvety texture.
    • Jams, thickened with cornstarch, offer fruity goodness with visible pieces.
    • Swap fruits in curd recipes—just keep the measurements consistent.
  3. Whipped Cream
    • Light and airy whipped cream complements any dessert.
    • Add freeze-dried fruit powder for color and flavor.
  4. Charming Accents
    • Candied citrus pieces, edible flowers, mint leaves, and chopped pistachios add flair.
    • Don’t forget pearl dragees—they’re the secret to wowing your guests!


Cream Cheese/American Buttercream


  • 16 oz shortening
  • 2-8 oz pkgs cream cheese room temperature (replace with 2 sticks butter for American buttercream)
  • 2 sticks butter room temperature
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp extract or emulsion of your choice (vanilla, almond, lemon…)
  • 4 lbs. powdered sugar
  • Heavy whipping cream if needed


  1. Mix shortening until softened, add cream cheese and mix until combined. Add butter and mix until combined scraping sides as needed. Be sure to have room temperature cream cheese and butter to avoid clumps. Add salt and extract/emulsion and mix until combined. Slowly add 4 lbs. powdered sugar and mix until fluffy. If you need a softer buttercream, you can add heavy whipping cream 1 Tbsp at a time or use less powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached.
  2. To create a thicker buttercream, pipe a dam. Remove a cup of buttercream to a separate bowl and add additional powdered sugar to a thick, yet pipeable consistency. Fill pastry bag and cut end off to create rope ½-1” in diameter to pipe around each cake layer to hold regular buttercream or filling in.


Tara’s Cake Mix Fix


  • 1 box cake mix
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 c flour
  • 1 2/3 c water
  • 3 eggs (4 egg whites if using white cake mix)
  • 1 t vanilla
  • ½ t salt
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sour cream


  1. Because of the added sugar, flour and sour cream, Tara likes to add additional flavor enhancements, such as 1 teaspoon emulsion, (it has a higher flavor content than extract) 2 teaspoons extract, or 1 Tbsp lemon juice. (almond, butter, peppermint, pumpkin spice, caramel)
  2. If using a chocolate cake mix add ¼ cup cocoa powder to enhance flavor.
  3. Bake at 350 until the center is done. Times will vary depending on cake mix type. A good indicator that the cake is done is you will begin to smell the cake and the sides will begin to pull away. The center will spring back when you press your finger to it, toothpick or skewer will come out clean. Do not overbake cake layers. Cool slightly then turn out onto rack. Wrap in plastic wrap while still slightly warm and put in freezer, this will help keep layers moist.


Panna Cotta


  • ¼ cup (60 ml) cold water or milk
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons (4g) unflavored powdered gelatin*
  • 2 cups (480 ml) heavy cream
  • ¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean, scraped and seeded


  1. Place water in a small mixing bowl and sprinkle gelatin over the surface in a single layer. Be sure not to pile it as that will prevent the crystals from dissolving properly. Let stand for 5-10 minutes to soften.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat cream, sugar, vanilla extract or vanilla pod, sliced in half and with the seeds scraped out, on medium heat and bring just to a boil until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and discard vanilla bean. Stir in gelatin and immediately whisk until smooth and dissolved. If the gelatin hasn’t fully dissolved, return the saucepan to the stove and heat gently over low heat. Stir constantly and do not let the mixture boil.
  3. Pour cream into 4 individual serving dishes. Refrigerate for at least 2-4 hours, or until completely set. 4. If you like, top with fresh fruit, berries, berry sauce, or lemon curd.
  4. Panna cotta can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 3 days.


If using sheet gelatin, substitute 2 ½ sheets of gelatin for powdered. Add the sheets to a bowl filled with 2 cups cold water. Let sit for 5-10 minutes, then remove the sheets once they are completely soft and whisk them into the hot panna cotta as directed in the recipe (you don’t need to add it along with the water, such as in powdered gelatin – add the sheets only


Lemon Pavlovas



  • 5 egg whites
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar (250 grams)
  • A few drops food coloring of choice
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract (optional for extra lemon taste)

Lemon Curd

  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter room temperature (85 grams)
  • 2/3 cup sugar (133 grams)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (120 ml)
  • 6 tbsp lemon zest



  1. Pre-heat the oven to 215 Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set it aside.
  2. Whip the egg whites on medium speed with an electric mixer for 1 minute. Gradually add the sugar to the mixer.
  3. Once all the sugar has been added, raise the speed to high and whip for 9 minutes. Total whipping time should be 10 to 12 minutes. Towards the end of the whipping time, around minute 8, add the food coloring, if desired, to the bowl. The meringue should have stiff peaks and should look glossy and shiny.
  4. Add the cornstarch, lemon juice, and lemon zest to the meringue and mix with a spatula until incorporated.
  5. Transfer the meringue to two 16” piping bags fitted with an open star tip. (1M)
  6. Pipe the meringue into 3 1/2” inch nests, leaving some space in the center at the top so you can fill it later.
  7. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 1 hour. Turn the oven off and leave the pavlovas in there for 30 minutes. Let them cool down before proceeding with the filling. The unfilled pavlovas can be stored for up to 5 days in an air-tight container at room temperature.

*** It is especially important to leave the pavlovas in the oven after they are done baking. If you remove them from the oven immediately, or if you constantly open the oven door, the pavlovas will crack or deflate due to the sudden temperature change.

Lemon Curd

  1. Beat the butter with an electric mixer for about 1 minute at medium speed.
  2. Add the sugar to the bowl and beat with the butter for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time to the bowl, and mix until combined.
  4. Add the lemon juice and zest and mix until combined. You may notice the mixture separating at this point. It is ok, it will come together later once it is cooked.
  5. Transfer the mixture to a small saucepan with a heavy bottom, and cook at medium-low heat, stirring non-stop, for about 10 to 15 minutes, until the curd reaches 170ºF. If you do not have a thermometer, the curd should be thick enough to heavily coat the back of a spoon.
  6. Remove the curd to a bowl and let it cool down, then chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

To assemble Lemon Curd Pavlova

  1. Spoon the curd in the center of the pavlovas. Top with whipped cream, mixed berries, or any topping you desire. You can also top the pavlovas with a dusting of powdered sugar before serving.


Curd: Do not stop stirring the curd at any point, and do not cook at high heat, because that will make the eggs curdle and the curd will taste like scrambled eggs.

Pavlovas: Make sure the meringue is super stiff before you stop whipping. If the meringue isn’t stiff enough, the pavlovas will lose their shape once you pipe. The times indicated above are just a guideline. Keep whipping until stiff peaks are reached.

Filling: You can also add some whipped cream to the center of the pavlovas, and then top with the lemon curd. It will be scrumptious!

Serving: I do recommend filling them the same day you are serving, as the pavlovas will soften up with the curd the longer they sit.

Shelf life: The lemon curd will last for up to 5 days in the fridge, and the pavlovas last for up to 5 days in an airtight container at room temperature, but they start to soften up.

Find more from Tara on her Instagram, Tara offers custom dessert orders and cake and cookie decorating classes.

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