Ina Garten’s ‘Incredibly Easy’ Dessert Platter Doesn’t Require Any Baking

Ina Garten’s Country Dessert Platter is the epitome of “storebought is fine.” The Barefoot Contessa dessert created by the celebrity chef and longtime Food Network star is all about serving a mix of treats from the bakery. 

Make Ina Garten’s Country Dessert Platter when there’s no time to bake

Ina Garten raises her hands to her sides wearing a blue button-down shirt
Ina Garten | Daytime Emmy Awards 2021 via Getty Images

There’s nothing to make when it comes to Garten’s Country Dessert Platter. It’s all about arranging various baked goods on a platter. As the cooking show host often says, how easy is that? 

Garten’s Country Dessert Platter recipe originally appeared in her first-ever cookbook, 1999’s The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. For those who don’t have a copy at home, Food Network has all the details. 

This is an incredibly easy platter to arrange, even if you don’t have time to bake! Buy a delicious and beautiful assortment of cookies, bars, and pastries from your local bakery and you’re almost done,” Garten began. 

She continued, saying there’s a method to selecting delectable treats from the bakery. “At Barefoot Contessa, I choose things that are both colorful and easy to eat with fingers,” she said, referring to the specialty food store she sold in the late ‘90s.

There should be a mix of perfectly sized, colorful baked goods on Garten’s Country Dessert Platter

Ina Garten laughs as she watches Stephen Colbert pour out the contents of a bowl
Stephen Colbert and Ina Garten | Scott Kowalchyk/CBS via Getty Images

Before rushing to the bakery to get dessert, keep in mind Garten’s advice for creating a Country Dessert Platter. 

“Remember, lots of baked goods look delicious on their own, but grouped together, they can look very brown,” she said. “I mix colorful things like lemon bars, pecan bars, brownies, cookies, strawberries, figs, and slices of lemon cake.”

So don’t just go for cookies, brownies, and pastries in brown hues. Pick a few treats with some colors to round out the platter.

As for the platter itself, Garten suggests using one that’s round or oval and “very flat.” It doesn’t have to be fancy. “I like to use something simple, such as silver or china,” she said, adding that she puts doilies on the bottom of the platter. 

When it comes time to put the food on the platter she warns against cutting anything into pieces that are too small. “Cut each cake or bar into large bite-sized pieces,” she said, noting that “pastries cut too small tend to look like a dog’s breakfast.” 

What about the opposite? “Too large and the platter looks unapproachable,” she said. Her suggestion is to cut “large brownies into two finger-sized pieces and to cut the slices of cake in half.”

The Food Network star follows Japanese design principles when assembling a Country Dessert Platter 

Ina Garten smirks wearing a blue scarf
Ina Garten | Manny Carabel/Getty Images

The baked goods have been purchased, the platter’s on the counter and lined with doilies. But how to arrange it? As Garten explained in The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, “the design of the platter is very simple.” 

She follows Japanese principles where “‘Earth’ is a solid element, which grounds the design; ‘sky’ is something taller, which curves upward; and ‘water’ is something spilling forward.” 

Because, as Garten noted, the “eye wants to be drawn to one focal point,” she arranges slices of cake down the center of the platter for “grounding.” Then she works outward from there.

“I place the pastries in paper muffin cups and arrange them in a flowing pattern around the cake. Then I pile strawberries and figs or grapes high to give some height to the design,” she said. Finally, she adds cookies and lemon or hydrangea leaves to fill in any spaces.

No surprise here, Garten likes “platters that appear more casual than formal.” However, as she noted, “there’s a fine balance, however, between casual and just plain messy.” The key, according to the cookbook author, is to follow the aforementioned steps.

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