hunt, gather and host: chocolate dessert party


If it were totally up to us, we would be living on a farm or rural homestead in the middle of nowhere, spending our days foraging for mushrooms, milking our goats and gathering pine boughs from our backyard. But the reality is that we live in cities, and when one of those cities is Chicago, in the dead of winter, there isn’t too much nature to be found in our backyards (and, well, we don’t have backyards). We love having flowers in the house during these bleak weeks, but most flowers can’t withstand the dry heat in our homes for more than a few days. Thank goodness for one of the hardiest flowers around: carnations! These are the longest-lasting blooms, and we love using them for parties because they are so robust, and all of the fussing doesn’t phase them. bbbsisters

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Pink was the perfect color for our chocolate dessert party; we stuck with pink and brown (chocolate!) as our colors, and kept all of the lines really clean and simple so that the densely packed carnations and indulgent chocolate treats would really be the highlights. We used a huge roll of brown craft paper as the table “cloth,” then had the idea of drawing the guest’s names on the craft paper with a white colored pencil. The small brown hearts scattered across the tables are cookies! And one of our favorite unexpected table elements was the tiny buds from the carnation stems, which we scattered across the tablescape.

Basically, this party was an excuse to bake every indulgent chocolate thing we have been wanting to make (and, uh, eat). We had dense flourless chocolate cakes flavored with rum and almonds (for which we whipped up a rich chocolate frosting), a light and fluffy chocolate angel food cake, sandwich cookies (which we filled with pale pink whipped cream), chocolate truffles (we flavored ours with peppermint extract), and chocolate cutout hearts. Short on cake stands, we had the idea of using glasses and vases with plates sitting on top and filled those with pink and white M&Ms for extra color. The perfect small cake and cookie platters!

We wrapped larger heart cookies with white string to set each place setting, and gave the girls a bracelet party favor. These look way harder to make than they actually are; the secret is having a great source for beautiful ribbons and trim. Pick your favorite two or three ribbons and layer them on top of one another. Then top with a decorative fabric flower or beading detail and hand stitch everything together. Leave the ends long so they’re easy to tie on and have long pretty tails.

Since this party was for two couples and two single gals, we wanted to send everyone, not just the girls, home with favors. A party is so much more fun when everyone goes home with a little treat. So we put together our own hot chocolate kits. First, we made a powdered hot chocolate mix. Next, we dipped bamboo spoons in melted chocolate flavored with a pinch of cayenne pepper, but you could really flavor it with just about anything you want to spice up the hot chocolate. Finally, we added homemade pink marshmallows! We cut them in the shape of hearts (using powdered sugar or corn starch is key for handling them so they aren’t overly sticky). We labeled each element: 1. Mix with milk; 2. Stir; and 3. Enjoy! Then we packaged them together in white paper bags wrapped with white string.

Photos by Anna H. Blessing. Styling, crafting and food by bbbcraft.

Fancy House Road

For some reason, people give carnations such a bad rap (This blog post will make people eat their words). I love how elegant the carnations look in these arrangements. Lovely.

-Camberley

Maria Black

Wow, these are great party ideas. I love the idea of sending hot chocolate home as a favor, especially with all this cold weather! Carnations are also great, very VDay. Thanks for the post.

Connie

What fantastic ideas for a party! Makes me want to host a little tea party with tiny indulgent treats and gorgeous floral centerpieces! Love love!

Bridget

As a floral designer I love all flowers, But it is sad to say most people ignore the beauty & glorius clove like scent of the carnation! I count them as one of the best flowers too. So nice to see them invited to this fun chocolate valentine party. I wish I had been invited!

Nicole

Could you girls be any cuter?! I want to live in all these photos!

IVY

I AGREE WITH BRIDGET,THE SCENT IF CARNS.,WONDERFUL,I TOO A FLORAL DESIGNER FOR TEN YEARS PRIOR TO WORKING FOR SELF,AND PEOPLE ACTUALLY HATE THEM,I WAS BASICALLY FORBIDDEN TO BUY OR USE,BUT FUNNY THING IS I HAVE A HIGH PROFILE BILLIONAIRE CLIENT AND ITS HIS FAVORITE FLOWER. I LIKE THE VAST ARRAY OF COLORS YOU CAN GET AND MIX,AND MOUND,YEAH CARNATIONS!

Betsey

As my daughters will attest, Valentine’s Day is my favorite holiday, and this is the most visually pleasing (colors, carnations) and mouth-watering-inducing (chocolate) celebration of it I have ever seen! Standing ovation!

naomi

very fun ideas! you could easily add a social justice focus to a chocolate party by using fair trade chocolate and having attendees sign the “Hershey’s–have a heart” petition. why not use a fun, lovely, and yummy event for a cause?

EMILY

I giggled when I read the opening to this because just last week I was telling some girlfriends: I wish I lived on a farm, chasing after chickens and baking apple pies. Sigh.

Kristen Hess

beautiful photography ladies! and what a fun Valentine’s Day idea..love it (any macarons to spare, please send them my way @artfulgourmet)

MJ

This is just what I’ve been looking for! Some beautiful ideas for a fancy bookclub gathering I’m hosting next week!

Vanessa Elizabeth

That is certainly a great way to ward of Winter! Such a neat idea for the Carnation arrangement, too.
I totally share their senitment for living some place rural. As much as I now embrace the city life, I do get nostalgic for the place that I grew up.

Emily

Hmm, some inspiration for a brunch on Saturday — it’s my husband’s birthday on the 12th so we always try to make a special occasion out of the whole weekend!

Jana

Another floral designer here. And my hands-down favorite way to use carnations is in ball form. Cover a styrofoam ball with them (toothpicks or pins work) and people go crazy over it!

Love your inclusion of them into your prettiness!

Mica

These are delicate and lovely pictures. Pretty styling. Fun cake stands.
I am big on party favors and the bracelets are sweet.

Upscale Downhome

So much to love with this party idea! I especially like the vases filled with candy used as cake pedastals and the hot chocolate kit treat. Simple, doable and beautiful!

ApresFete

I LOVE these impromptu cake stands: beautiful and clever. The whole party has a great color palette and I admire the white handwriting!

Anouk Cree

I was so happy to see this idea on your site! I am hosting such a party on Feb. 17th for a Valentine’s Day themed Baby Shower for a good friend. Chut! It’s a surprise!

Jessica Nicholson

I agree I also love carnations! especially these cotton candy pink ones against the yummy chocolate so decadent!

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