One of life’s greatest pleasures is getting together with friends or family for a dinner party: There's familiar faces, delicious food, and guaranteed eye-crinkling laughter. Gathering has looked different for a while now, but that only makes the opportunity to dine together even more special when it happens. If you're responsibly participating in a dinner party — either now or when the time is right for you — make sure to bring something extra-special along to fully honor the occasion. For me, that’s meant replacing the usual scented candle and grocery store bouquet with some fabulous bakes that I simply must share with you.
My list of go-to recipes checks a couple of boxes. They’re great as either an unexpected addition to the menu, or as a true gift that your host can keep for the next day. They’re straightforward with relatively short prep and bake times, and hopefully, they can be transported without much hassle. (I’ve taken some strapped to the back rack of my bicycle!) And the most important box to tick: They're all guaranteed to please your host! They've already gone out of their way to entertain, which is arguably the most challenging part. Reward them with something tasty and homemade.
Ranging from savory appetizers to show-stopping desserts, here are the dinner party bakes I heartily recommend:
With numerous individual twists of flaky pastry, cheese, and Everything Bagel Topping, more often than not this centerpiece-worthy treat finds its way directly to the kitchen counter as a super-snackable appetizer before the main course. It’s also been known to be broken into later in the evening over a rousing game of charades.
Start the night with a bit of spice! Made with our corn-based masa harina, these bite-sized treats feature fiery chipotle chile and a cheddar treasure tucked inside. I’ve found these little twists on gougères always surprise and delight those lucky enough to pop one in their mouths, especially during pre-dinner Aperol Spritzes and Negronis.
Light and buttery, it’s safe to say these super-soft rolls won’t have a chance to go stale. They go with any meal, ensuring they’ll be gobbled up alongside whatever menu the host has put together. Though actually, the first time I showed up with a steamy bag of these rolls, the host didn’t serve them in the dinner bread basket. Instead, I got a photo the next morning of a toasted roll with jelly accompanying a cup o’ joe!
Bright, citrusy lemon curd hugged inside sweet, beautifully braided bread dough? Get ready for a seat at the head of the table! This is a great choice to fill out the bread options, wait to serve after the meal for dessert, or leave for the host to enjoy all to themselves. If there’s ever an opportunity to use citrus flavors, I'm first in line. But if you’re not much of a lemon lover, try this Cheese-Filled Sweet Bread instead for a different flavor option.
Filled with sweet cinnamon sugar, this already Insta-famous bread is perfect as a shareable pull-apart style dessert, or for the morning to follow. Despite its magnificent appearance, it’s incredibly easy to shape and the pattern is very forgiving — it's my low-risk, high-reward recipe. (Looking for a gluten-free option? See our Gluten-Free Cinnamon Star Bread.)
If I’m asked to bring dessert, this is at the top of my list. Simple elegance from the inside out, this impressive cake will appeal to every palate. My favorite part: The pan does all the work … and I can take all the credit. If you’re looking for a beautiful dessert that doesn’t require professional-level decorating skills, this is it. For extra shine, you can dress it up with fresh berries or a drizzle of sweet glaze, or simply serve as-is. (Looking for a gluten-free option? See our Gluten-Free Vanilla Bundt Cake.)
Oh chocolate, I didn’t forget you. Layer a fudgy chocolate cake with delicate mousse, fresh raspberries, and a rich chocolate frosting, and you’ve got a dinner invitation for life. Though I truly adore all these recipes, this is the one where I always pray the leftovers are sent home with me — dreams do come true! (Looking for a gluten-free option? See our Gluten-Free Chocolate Mousse Cake with Raspberries.)
Whenever you head to your next dinner party, keep this list and a handy container for transporting at the ready! (This Snap Lock Pie Carrier is my favorite.) I promise the heartfelt gesture will go a long way, now more than ever.
Do you have any go-to dinner party favorites? Share them with us in the comments, below.
Cover photo by Liz Neily.