If you've been reading Unsophisticook for any length of time, you probably know that I'm typically not big on semi-homemade recipes or store bought baked goods. Oh, you'll find a few in the recipe index, but given a choice and the free time, I prefer to cook from scratch whenever possible.
The holidays are hectic though, with numerous personal and professional obligations. Sometimes it's almost difficult to breathe, let alone look a few days ahead at the calendar to plan for an upcoming event.
Store bought baked goods can be a real life saver during these times. But I'll tell you a little secret -- with the right presentation, your guests may not even know that you didn't slave over a hot oven all day! Let me show you...
So you head to the store and select a few sweets in the bakery department. Pictured here are a Hershey's chocolate cake, red velvet cake roll, and an Italian mascarpone cheesecake, all purchased at Walmart. Although I've tasted each of these items previously at an event and know they are pretty darn delicious, they don't look all that appealing in their plastic packaging, do they?
Now take a look at this...
They all look good enough to eat! And it really didn't take long to achieve this.
I simply removed the baked goods from all of their original packaging and presented them on platters and a cake stand that I already own. I sprinkled a little additional powdered sugar on top of the red velvet cake to freshen it up a bit, and then I dressed up the chocolate cake and the cheesecake with a simple sparkling sugared cranberries garnish that took almost no time to make.
Start with room temperature fresh cranberries that have been rinsed. Mix up a simple sugar syrup on the stovetop and drop in the cranberries.
Remove the cranberries from the simple syrup and allow them to drain on a cooling rack over a baking sheet for about 30 minutes.
When the cranberries have dried so that they're sticky to touch, they can be rolled in regular granulated sugar. Sure you could go with superfine sugar, but granulated is what's normally in my pantry, so I went with it. The longer you let them dry after this step, the crunchier the sugar coating will get, but they can be used as a garnish immediately!
Tips for sugaring cranberries:
- Starting with room temperature cranberries is important. Run them under warm water if you're pressed for time.
- If the simple syrup is too hot, it can cause the cranberries to pop. Allow it to cool slightly and test it out by dropping in a single cranberry. If it pops, allow it to cool a little longer.
- Refrigerate the sugared cranberries in a dry container for up to a week.
I have to tell you that if you love a good sweet and sour combo, you may want to make extra. I can't stop popping these little beauties into my mouth...
Walmart has a wide variety of products for your holiday entertaining needs. Be sure to look for the Walmart Holiday Entertaining Guide (pictured above) in stores for more suggestions! By taking a little extra time with the presentation, you can host an elegant holiday party even when you're crunched for time.