Making dessert for a get-together is always delightful, but making mini desserts for a tea party is pure, unadulterated fun. I don’t know what it is about miniature desserts that are so endearing, but I love them. From perfectly iced petit fours in a rainbow of pastels to tiny cream tarts topped with even tinier wild strawberries, small desserts are sheer magic.
The fun thing about planning mini desserts for a tea party is that you can turn almost any beloved dessert into a charming miniature version. Chocolate cake? Make a sheet cake version and cut it into fanciful shapes before icing it with an elegant dark chocolate glaze. Gingerbread cookies? Get teensy cookie cutters and make the cutest gingerbread babies you ever did see. Belgian waffles? Cut them in small rounds and top each one with fresh cream, a single ripe strawberry, and a drizzle of melted chocolate.
A Simply Grand Napoleon
One of my favorite mini desserts is the Napoleon. A towering confection of puff pastry layered with cream, chocolate mousse, and whatever fruit is in season, a Napoleon is a beautiful dessert that looks much more complicated than it actually is.
I use my smallest cookie cutters to make puff pastry hearts and stars that I bake until golden brown. While they cool I whip heavy cream with vanilla and sugar, choose a beautiful jam such as strawberry, blackberry, or red currant, and wash and dry small fresh fruits such as blueberries, blackberries, or even little strawberries.
Then I form an assembly line and make my little towers: puff pastry spread with jam, topped with puff pastry spread with vanilla whipped cream, and capped with a final layer of puff pastry decorated with a little puff of cream and a perfectly ripe blueberry.
Mini Napoleons with Strawberry Jam, Fresh Cream, and Blueberries
- 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 teaspoon powdered sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 small jar strawberry jam
- 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
With a 1-2 inch cookie cutter, cut puff pastry into desired shapes and place 1-inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake according to manufacturer’s instructions. Remove from oven and cool completely.
Meanwhile, place heavy whipping cream in mixing bowl and whip until stiff peaks form. Stir in powdered sugar and vanilla. Set aside.
When pastry shapes are cool, divide them into three equal amounts.
Spread 1/3 with strawberry jam and set on serving tray. Spread 1/3 with whipped cream, and set carefully atop the strawberry jam. Top with remaining 1/3. Add small dollop of cream to the top of each Napoleon, and crown with a fresh blueberry or two.
Chill until ready to serve.
The Petite Panna Cotta
Panna cotta is another lovely addition to a mini dessert collection, especially when served in clear shot glasses or liqueur goblets. It’s a cold, creamy dessert that lends itself well to a variety of flavors, from coffee and chocolate to fruity variations.
This time around I made a pear panna cotta topped with a golden layer of caramel sauce. Pear is such a lovely warming flavor during cold winter months, and it pairs wonderfully with a rich caramel sauce.
If you don’t fancy pear, then try peach or apricot or even apple; they all go well with caramel. Make these a day ahead and let them chill in the fridge while you bustle about making last-minute preparations for your tea party.
Pear Panna Cotta with Caramel Sauce
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 2 tablespoons white sugar
- 1 teaspoon gelatin powder
- 1 teaspoon pear extract
- 1/2 cup caramel sauce
Place cream and milk in heavy-bottom saucepan and place over medium heat. Bring just to the boil, stirring often so it doesn’t burn. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat. Stir in pear extract and set aside.
Pour 1 inch of boiling water into a saucepan. Place 1 scant tablespoon of boiling water in a small, heatproof bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over surface. Set bowl in pan of boiled water, and carefully stir until gelatin dissolves.
Carefully remove bowl from boiling water, dry any water droplets, then pour into cream mixture and stir well to combine.
Divide mixture evenly amongst 6-8 shot glasses, leaving 1 inch room from the rim. Place in fridge and chill at least 4 hours.
Just before serving, pour 1-2 teaspoons of caramel sauce over each panna cotta. Serve immediately.
Dainty Chilled Cheesecake
Mini cheesecakes are always welcome on a dessert table. Rather than fuss around with miniature pans, I like to make one large cheesecake and cut it into individual rounds with a small cookie cutter or straight-edged glass.
I chose a chilled cheesecake this time, made a bit lighter by mixing softened cream cheese with whipped cream and gelatin. A graham cracker crust makes the little cheesecakes easy to pick up and happily soaks up any topping you might wish to add. I love passionfruit cheesecake, so after cutting out each shape, I topped it with a spoonful of passionfruit pulp. It brings a sunny bit of color and the flavor of the tropics, both welcome on a cold winter’s day.
Mini Passionfruit Cheesecake
- 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
- 1/2 cup butter, melted
- 1 1/2 teaspoons gelatin
- 1 tablespoon boiling water
- 1 cup cream cheese, softened
- 1/3 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 cup heavy whipped cream, whipped
- 1 small can passionfruit pulp
Grease a small, 6-inch springform pan. Set aside.
In food processor, process graham cracker crumbs and butter until crumbly. Press into bottom of pan. Set aside.
In medium bowl, beat together cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Set aside.
Place 1 scant tablespoon of boiling water in a small, heatproof bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over surface. Set bowl in pan of boiled water, and carefully stir until gelatin dissolves.
Carefully remove bowl from boiling water, dry any water droplets, pour into cream cheese mixture and blend well until smooth. Fold in whipped cream.
Pour cream mixture evenly into springform pan. Refrigerate overnight.
Using round cookie cutter 2-3 inches wide, cut out rounds of cheesecake and set on serving tray or individual dishes. Pour 1 teaspoon of passionfruit pulp over each one. Serve immediately or chill until ready to serve.
Time for the Tea
When I make mini desserts for a tea party, I like to serve them with light, fruity teas such as Vista Blend herbal tea with apricot and lavender, Tranquil Peach Herbal tea with pineapple, peach, and chamomile, or our special Holiday Embrace Herbal tea with cranberry, chai, and orange.