The in-laws coming? Got a super hot date and want to impress him? Want to show Sharon at the office that you can make more than microwave meals? Well you too can make super fancy desserts easily with just your basic skills.
So are you ready to look fancy AF? Of course you are. The cool thing about baking is that it’s actually not too hard to make your baked goods look and taste extra decadent and fancy.
All it takes is a little creativity, a couple ingredient upgrades, and a bit of time and patience. Baking is a science. But pretty baking is an art.
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How to upgrade to Fancy Desserts
Replace your vanilla extract with vanilla bean paste
Your cakes and frostings will look super professional and extra elegant with bean paste instead of the extract. Not only will you have a richer flavor but also those high class little black dots that let’s people know that this is some high quality goods.
Roll out your doughs on powdered sugar instead of flour
The powdered sugar prevent the dough from sticking just like flour does but it absorbs into the dough leaving it beautiful without a crusty white layer of flour.
Have a grater at the ready
Taking a moment to grate some fresh chocolate or citrus peels makes your food extra pretty. There’s just something so fancy about those fresh spiraled chocolate on top of your beautiful cakes and cupcakes.
Skip chocolate chips and use a chocolate bar
Chocolate chips are great. But chocolate chunks are better. They give that rustic bakery style charm and add extra chocolate, texture, and aesthetic appeal.
Add some instant coffee to your chocolate cakes or brownies
Talk about flavor explosion! A little (as in a teaspoon) of instant espresso powder just makes it’s flavor and richness to a whole other level.
Or add some cinnamon
Same thing. Plus, it gives a sense of warm and cozy decadence.
Almond extract makes a sugar cookie taste like you’re ready for tea with the queen
Just a teaspoon (or less even) makes your vanilla cakes, sugar cookies, and shortbread taste like the height of elegance.
Upgrade your store bought mix
Some may disagree but YOU DO NOT HAVE TO MAKE EVERYTHING FROM SCRATCH TO BE FANCY. Life happens and sometimes you’re in a time crunch.
So you should know how to upgrade you basic ass cake mix from the grocery store. Check out this post and fool everyone into thinking that every cake you make is straight from a bakery’s over!
Know your substitutions
Nothing is worse than realizing halfway through creating a recipe that you’re out of eggs. I’ve been there. It’s a nightmare. Knowing what you can use as substitutions can save your recipe from disaster. It also helps you avoid that dreaded thing of putting on real pants to go to the store.
Don’t manhandle your sprinkles
You know why I don’t use sprinkles a ton? Because. They can look super messy if you don’t handle them correctly.
Many cake pros who use a ton of sprinkles on their creations hand place a vast majority of them. Let me say that again: They hand place their sprinkles….with a set of tweezers.
Talk about dedication!! But that’s why their stuff is so freaking gorgeous! Attention to detail, skill, and a steady hand makes your sprinkles a work of art.
Cookie Scoops are your best friend
Besides making consistently sized cookies, cookie scoops elevate your desserts to a new fancy level.
Cookie scoopers are great for frostings, making marbled batters, scooping the right amount of ice cream for ice cream sandwiches, or for perfectly even filled cupcake liners.
Look at those easy peasy scoops on that German Chocolate Cake. Love this cake? Make it yourself!
The Amazing German Chocolate Cake
Let things take a chill pill
Put your pie crusts in the freezer for 15minutes before baking and chill your cookies for 20 minutes beforehand.
Chilling your doughs and crusts keep them from spreading too much and prevents your pie crusts from shrinking.
Go Slow and take your freaking time!
Don’t only let your fancy desserts chill. You need to chill too. A rush job is not a fancy job.
A good rule is to give yourself double the time you think you need to make something. Give yourself time, go slow, and be patient. Beautiful things take time, technique, and love.
So put on your favorite playlist, get the good vibes flowing, and devote plenty of time to your creation.
Master some plating techniques
Plating does literally nothing to change your dessert. HOWEVER! It does make it seem extremely fancy. It’s extra classy and something that we only think of professional chefs doing.
Youtube is full of plating techniques for desserts. Check some of them out. You’ll see what I mean
When in doubt add something fresh.
Fresh fruit, fresh mint, fresh herbs…fresh, fresh, fresh. Fresh is fancy.
You know how restaurants put that useless piece of lettuce on top of your fancy plate? You can’t really eat it, but it really does just look fancier?
Yeah, that’s essentially what we’re going for except we’d like to have our fancy and eat it too.
Fresh strawberry on top of a dark chocolate cake gives a beautiful contrast. Lemon zest on top of a cheesecake makes it feel super summery. Adding a fresh something on top can give some life and extra feeling into your dessert.
And when you can add life and emotion to a pastry….. you fancy.
Add some more chips after baking
My favorite thing to do when I make cookies is to add more chocolate chips right after pulling it out of the oven.
It really gives it that finished professional bakery feeling.
So when you pull your chocolate chip, m&m, or candy chip cookies out of the oven, plop some more of those beautiful chips on top. They’ll melt and it’ll make everything every ooey gooier.
Which let’s be honest, makes the best kind of cookie.
Use a ceramic knife to cut brownies
Ceramic doesn’t conduct heat. No heat means a smooth and crisp cut. It’s beautiful. It’s professional. And it’s definitely #foodporn.
Crumb Coat Your Damn Cake
Nothing is more disappointing than a cake that was perfect until that damn frosting sticks a little too much and tears up the sides of your cake. Girl, you know what I’m talking about. We’ve all been there for that heartbreak.
Crumb coats are important and simple to do to prevent that moment of horror of ripping half your cake corner off with your buttercream.
A pretty crumb layer prevents this and makes your buttercream go on smoother and much fancier looking.
Unsure of how to do that? No worries. I created an easy video to help you succeed! It’s not perfect, but what in life is?
Smooth that buttercream
On that same train of thought, smooth out that buttercream! If you’re struggling to get it smooth let me help you out. Run your offset spatula under some hot water, dry it, and then run it over your frosting again.
The warm metal just barely melts the buttercream and then BOOM! Smooth and decadent frosting. It’s like magic and you are the wizard.
Stock up on some garnishes
Garnishes make things extra fancy. Topping a simple cake or cookie with some nuts or sprinkles gives your dessert a little extra flare. Having them ready to go in your pantry helps give you an edge when its missing just a little “something”.
Plus a little garnish is the easiest and laziest way to decorate. And I’m all about making lazy efficient.
Note: Don’t have any fancy sprinkles, nuts, or candies? Powdered sugar or cocoa powder sprinkled on top does the trick too.
Coat your chocolate chips, dried fruit, and candies with flour before mixing into your doughs and batters
If you’re going to add these things into your batters and doughs, you HAVE to coat them in flour. This prevents the things from sinking to the bottom. You’ll be able to keep your candies, fruit, nuts, and chips evenly throughout your baked goods.
How professh of you.
When in doubt, keep it simple
When you’re short on time, unsure of what make, or stressed about making something fancy, KEEP IT SIMPLE.
Sometimes the best fancy desserts are the simplest. Why? Because simple is elegant. Elegant is the original fancy.
Take creme brulee. So fancy. Actually super simple. And if you don’t believe me check out this creme brulee recipe from Crazy for Crust. Dorothy’s amazing recipe is my go to creme brulee recipe because again fancy and so easy there’s no torch required. Win win.
Don’t go overboard
Speaking of keeping it simple, when decorating it is so easy to go overboard. Resist the temptation. Too much of a good thing looks much less fancy.
Take it from someone who has been there. Using too much gold luster dust just looks tacky. Fanciness is hidden in the details. Tackiness is when fanciness becomes the focal point of the dessert.
Fail. Over and Over.
Hate to break it to all the perfectionists out there…you’re going to fail over and over.
Practice makes a masterpiece.
Don’t fear failing because when fearing failure, you limit all of your potential to create something amazing. Creativity, beauty, and all the good things in life require flaws, change, and effort. That’s what makes those things so special and valuable.
Also, if you’re really pinched on time and fail, the grocery store has suitable desserts too. (I said suitable desserts not fancy desserts. They’ll do in a pinch).
Repurpose your failures
But your failures don’t mean it’s not salvageable. You just now get to be extra creative.
My family requests this awesome apple crisp that I made one Thanksgiving. The problem is I legit have no idea how I made it because the topping was made from a batch of ground up snickerdoodles that were hard as a rock.
Repurposing your failures reduces your food waste and can make a typical recipe a requested favorite. Just PLEASE write down what you do so you’re not a constant disappointment because you’ll actually know how to recreate the fancy thing.
Related: Reducing Food Waste in the Kitchen
Knowing how to make your desserts a little more fancy is extremely beneficial. Because quite frankly, no matter how enlightened we are, we will always have someone that we’d love to impress with our baking skills.
So apply some of these techniques and improve the visual appeal of your food and make those desserts FANCY.
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