mastering plated desserts label

Plated Desserts 101-Mastering the Art

four plated desserts with different sauces sitting on a plate

Mastering the art of plated desserts might be easier than you think. Here you get the 101 class version. There is nothing like a fancy plated dessert when you visit a restaurant and wowed when that wonderful masterpiece is brought to your table to devour. Very exciting.

Combined with imagination and coupled with a few foundational components, you can construct one with your own creative touch.

What makes these desserts so special are their individuality and their artistic touch. It’s like eating your very own dessert masterpiece.

First Job-Pastry Line Cook-Plated Desserts

My first job out of culinary school was in high end restaurant constructing plated desserts. Awesome, was a good way to describe the job and I loved every minute of it. The Pastry Chef who I worked under was simply wonderful. To my surprise, when I interviewed she allowed me to jump right in for 30 minutes on the line to see if this was the job for me! Wow, of course I accepted!!!

I worked for a wonderful pastry chef that taught me so much. She took me under her wing and taught me the art of this technique with her amazing recipe creations that customers absolutely loved. Thank you Susan, for teaching me so much!

Part of my job consisted of assembling all the components for the “line” so when desserts were ordered all the ingredients were at your finger tips to construct one of many dessert options on the menu.

Favorite Class

Also, plated desserts were one of my favorite classes in culinary school. I just loved the thought and design that went into every execution. This part of “pastry” is where pastry chefs really get to shine in out of the box creativity and delicious flavor and texture combinations. Additionally, I gained some really great plated dessert ideas.

Plated Desserts-Perfect Ending

A delicious dessert should be a memorable ending to a great meal that also places the final touches on a great culinary experience.

We eat with our eyes and if it looks great, we will definitely be more inclined to try it. They truly bring elegance to the table, don’t they?

Creating-Starting Ideas

So here are few ideas to get you started in creating your own amazing dessert.

  • Start with a flavor profile- this can be single or multiple
  • Think about what season you are serving the dessert
  • Do you want it hot, cold, crunchy, or maybe a little of both
  • Think of color combinations
  • What size or shape would you like to be, small or large
  • Think about the different cooking preparations you will use
  • Try to aim for an equal balance of flavors- sweet and rich, soft and warm, tart and cold, etc.

Plated Dessert-Components

Main Item

This will be your focal point of plated desserts, you main body, your “star” of the plate. Some examples:

  • Mousses
  • Tarts
  • Custards
  • Cakes/Cupcakes
  • Ice creams
  • Pies

Here are some links to some of my post of a few plated desserts that have been my favorite.

Mixed Berry Shortcake, Strawberry Cheesecake, Fruit Tart, White Chocolate Mousse.


Sauces just take the dessert to another level and just boost the presentation of you star attraction.

They provide moisture and richness to the dessert. I mean who doesn’t like mopping up a dessert with a great sauce. I like to call sauces the side-kicks. I think this is the second most important part of the dessert.

Sauce making is still one of my favorite aspects of desserts. Finding creative ideas is always a good challenge in how to decorate my plates.

The sky is the limit to the designs you can create. You can either use the sauce as a bed to sit your main component on or use them alongside to enhance the star of your dessert.

Another great plated dessert idea is you can also have one main sauce and use other sauces to compliment your plate design. For example, you could use a chocolate sauce and then other fruit sauces to go along if they work together with your main dessert.

Examples of some traditional sauces:

  • Chocolate
  • Caramel
  • Custard-Creme Anglaise
  • Fruit Couli (Fruit sauces) fruit cooked down and thickened

Plated Dessert Garnish

Garnishes are accompaniments to the dessert. They compliment your main star and just seal the presentation.

For example, if you are doing a blueberry tart with coconut pastry cream, then toasted coconut might be a great garnish you would use. You want to make sure the garnish compliments the flavors of the dessert.

I like to think about color when it comes to garnishes. Making them really stand out. An easy example of this is garnishing with mint. That bright green touch just really brings a vibrant touch of color.

These are usually placed on the dessert after the sauce and main item is plated. I personally think this is the fun part of the plating. You get to be that artist that you always wanted to be.

Some garnish ideas:

  • Whipped Cream
  • Sliced or whole fruit
  • Sugar decorations
  • Herbs such as basil or mint leaves
  • Nuts
  • Chocolate decorations or shavings
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Cocoa Powder


The last thing to complete the plated dessert is adding a crunch item. This gives wonderful texture to the dessert and especially goes well with a creamy or smooth main dessert item.

These usually come in the form of a cookie or what pastry chefs refer to as tuiles. But really you can make them anything you would like.

Some ideas on crunch:

  • Cookies
  • Nuts

Creating Dessert Trio’s-One Last Note

One thing I really became fond of is creating dessert trios. Little bite size versions of regular desserts but collectively placing them on one plate to be eaten as one. Sometimes I like to call these a mini dessert circus. You get to try a little of three yummy desserts.

Remembering the first trio I designed where the theme was fruit. Spring was in the air and I decided to highlight the fruits of the season.

Trio of desserts with fruit plate with sauces
One of the first dessert trio’s I constructed
Blackberry mousse, deconstructed raspberry tart, fruit salsa in phyllo basket

Some things to think about when designing your magical trio.


Focus on texture and cooking methods. For example, a sorbet, a cake, and type of cookie marry well together as they all have different textures and mouth feels.


Try to get the different desserts that will have different colors. An example might be one that has chocolate, one that has fruit, one that is neutral in color. Color is very eye appealing and draws in your senses.

Serving Ideas

Think about how you will serve each mini component.

Some ideas are directly serving on plates or small servings dishes that stand alone. There are so many styles out in stores you can use.

Shot glasses are also a neat way to serve a mousse or pudding.

Pictured here is one that I made for friends that visited in the summer. They all have different textures and I can tell you there wasn’t a crumb left on anyone’s plate including mine.

trio of mini desserts on a plate
This was a fun trio I made for summer time
Chocolate cake, Orange Sorbet, Mini Pavlova

Now you have the basics in creating your own dessert works of art. Start off with something simple then work you way up to something extraordinary.

Creativity has no end and imagination is anything you want it to be!

More from the Pastry 101 series:

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