If you patronize fine restaurants and order dessert, you’ve probably noticed the “plate painting” that turns a piece of cake, tartlet or other pastry into a piece of art.
But it’s not just for baked goods: Custard, pudding, even fresh fruit can also benefit from an artistic touch.
In most cases, the plate is painted before the dessert is placed on top. With a sauce, for example panna cotta with creme anglaise, the dessert is placed atop the sauce and then the sauce is decorated.
The idea is not only to create art, but to add more flavors to the dessert. Everything you use should be a flavor match to the dessert, and should be consumable with a fork or spoon.
This article from Wilton shows all the easy ways to start.
The simplest thing is to use a sieve to cover the dessert plate with cocoa powder (shown in the Wilton article). But you should also try:
Fill a squeeze bottle with caramel sauce, chocolate sauce or other flavor, and squeeze out squiggles, loops, curls or zigzags. You can use two different sauces for contrast. This video shows you how.
Fruit coulis (coo-LEE, French for strained purée) in a squeeze bottle; parchment paper to make the piping cone. You won’t believe how easy it is to make flame and heart patterns on your plate.
This video shows how easy it is to make dots with fruit purées.
You can also use both of these techniques to decorate the frosting on top of cakes.
PLATE DECORATING TIPS
Go for a contrasting color. For example, a chocolate dessert is enlivened by raspberry coulis or caramel sauce—or both. As you get more comfortable, use two or three colors.
Add different textures. For example, berries, cookie crumbs, streusel, mini marshmallows and/or macarons or pomegranate arils, artfully placed on the plate, contribute both aesthetic and fun factor. One of our favorite ways to add color is to dice pâte de fruits (French-style fruit jellies—very upscale Chuckles) and scatter different flavors on the plate.
Don’t cramp the elements. Depending on how many components are on the plate, use a dinner plate or charger to spread them out.
Combine with other garnishes, like creme anglaise or whipped cream.
Don’t give up. If you want to decorate but don’t think that you have any ingredients on hand, look again. Jam can be diluted to approximate coulis; baking chips can be melted (they’ll harden on the plate, but that’s OK; or you can add vegetable oil to keep them fluid. And there’s always an apple or orange on hand to dice and scatter; or some candy that can be employed.
FIRST PHOTO: A simple scroll design. Photo courtesy GracesSweetLife.com. SECOND PHOTO: Anyone can make a simple zigzag with a squeeze bottle. Photo courtesy Wilton. THIRD PHOTO: You can turn dots into hearts with the nozzle tip. Photo courtesy Kuhn Rikon. FOURTH PHOTO: Pretty soon, you’ll be able to do this. Photo courtesy Harvest On Hudson.
This video shows how to make a complex design, but also gives you all the technique for simple squiggles.
Remember: Practice makes perfect. You don’t need a steady hand to start; but the more you try, the more you’ll be able to do. Practice on desserts for family dinners, or with snacks like brownies.
And above all, have fun with it!