Last month, I was charged with the task of creating a selection of desserts for our local Kiwanis club’s fiesta-themed banquet. Chelsea was on the planning committee, and also gave me (or rather, my household) the responsibility of planning the drink menu. She requested authentic margaritas made by my husband, Chris. He loves to mix drinks and hates the typical sour mix used in basic margs, so we kept it simple and natural with fresh squeezed fruit juice and simple syrup for sweetening. Try making your own from scratch by checking out the drink recipe here.
For the dessert menu, I had a rough idea of the types of treats I wanted to make. I knew I wanted them to be bite-sized, delicious, and cute. I knew I wanted multiple options that were varied in flavor. And I knew I had a budget of about $1.00 per guest. Most importantly, I knew that trying to do this without the help of our friend Nicole (perhaps you remember her from the tiny creme brulee spoons at the French dinner party) would be idiotic. Nicole and I decided on three dessert options: margarita cupcakes, Mexican hot chocolate truffles, and churros. First, let’s talk about cupcakes. We made 48 mango margarita mini cupcakes, inspired by this Urban Bakes recipe. Our recommended alterations:
- add the lime zest while creaming the butter, to enhance the lime flavor (Nicole, you’re such a wizard)
- take these innocent baked goods to the next level by brushing the finished cakes with tequila and adding a teaspoon (or two) of tequila to the icing
Our cakes were pretty dense, so if you prefer a fluffier cupcake, I’d recommend using cake flour and skipping the mango to just make normal margarita cupcakes. On to the next: mini churros. Ugh. It’s hard to even think about them. Fighting the urge to stop typing and go grab a churro from a local taco truck. I was really intimidated by the idea of making my own churros, but Nicole is not only super talented, she is also ambitious and encouraging. I’m glad we went with churros — they were my favorite of the three desserts. And now I may need to buy my own electric frying pan so that I can deep fry things. This could be bad.
Nicole found a winning recipe online. It was in Spanish, so she used a combination of Google translate and her own baking knowledge to decipher the instructions. The recipe makes about 25 servings. Here’s the translation:
- Cut 80 grams (about 3/4 stick) of butter into small pieces and melt it in a sauce pan with 2/3 cup water.
- When it comes to a boil, add 2/3 cup flour (sifted with 2T sugar, 1/4 t cinnamon, and a pinch of salt) and stir over low heat until it forms a ball.
- Remove from heat and add 2 eggs one at a time.
- Using a closed-star tip, pipe the dough into short pieces and fry in 350°F oil until puffed up golden on both sides. Roll in cinnamon sugar, and fight off the urge to eat them immediately while they cool slightly.
Before we wrap up with our final dessert recipe, let me give a quick shout out to our chief party designer, Veronica. I love being surrounded by talented people. Both she and Nicole need to do some dedicated guest posts on here! Veronica had similar budget constraints but managed to pull off bright, beautiful fiesta decor. I truly feel having her decor as a backdrop for our creations made these desserts and drinks look even better. Finally, the truffles. They weren’t my favorite to eat cause I’m not that wild about chocolate, but they had a high impressiveness to effort ratio, which means this recipe passes the Annie test. I really appreciated how simple these were, especially since this event was on a weeknight. Without a full day to prepare, we were under a time constraint in addition to our budget constraint. These can be made a day or two in advance, allow you to focus your last minute energy on the items that need to be fresher (i.e. churros). We were making desserts for a crowd of fifty, so keep that in mind when viewing this recipe. You will want to halve or even quarter it unless you need over fifty truffles. These little guys are rich… I wouldn’t expect a normal human to devour more than one or two in a single sitting. Here’s the recipe:
- 2 lbs dark chocolate (I recommend two “Pound Plus” bars from Trader Joe’s, especially if you’re on a budget like we were!)
- 1 pint of heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Chop the dark chocolate and place in a glass or metal bowl. Heat the cream in a sauce pan until warm, and pour over the chopped chocolate. Let it sit for a few minutes, and then stir to combine. If the chocolate hasn’t completely melted, put the bowl over a saucepan with boiling water and continue stirring, or place in the microwave for about 20 seconds at a time, stirring in between. Add vanilla, cinnamon, and cayenne and mix well. Place in refrigerator for about 1 hour (won’t need to wait as long if you’re making a smaller batch). When chilled, form into balls. Mix one cup of unsweetened cocoa powder with 1/4 cup of powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and just one tiny pinch of cayenne. Roll rounded truffles in cocoa powder mixture and chill until serving time. So how did we do on the budget? For 50 mini churros, 48 mini cupcakes, and over 50 truffles, we spent $53.00. I had a lot of flour, sugar and eggs leftover, so (in order to declare that we stayed under our budget) I’m crediting those back! Smart shopping and good planning are essential when planning food or decoration for a non-profit’s event. It also takes practice. Chels and I have hosted a few fundraisers before and we’re getting better every time. These are a few desserts I will keep in my back pocket for events requiring crowd-pleasing creations within money and time constraints.