Make us your home page

Deck your holiday table with these festive food garnishes

The holidays are a time to deck the halls, but the festivities shouldn't stop there. Bring those time-honored decorating traditions to the table by going an extra step with a festive food garnish or decoration. Taking a few minutes to add some special touches to any dish will take your holiday meal up a notch. Try any of these quick and easy tricks:

Sugared cranberries and cherries

A dusting of sugar makes these sweet red fruits look like they've rolled around in the snow, which is perfect for any winter treat. Try them on top of a cake, cupcake or cookie for an old-timey winter garnish.

To make them, simply boil, on medium heat, 1 cup water in a medium saucepan with 1 cup sugar to create a simple syrup. Boil until the liquid thickens (about 10 minutes), and then let cool for 15 minutes. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and place a cooling rack on top of it. Toss 12 ounces cranberries or cherries (or both) in the syrup, in batches to ensure an even coating, then place them on the cooling rack to dry. After they're dry, which will take about 30 to 45 minutes, fill a shallow dish with another cup of sugar and lightly toss the fruit in it, rolling the cranberries or cherries around until they are thinly covered. Recipe adapted from

Frozen whipped cream

For an easy garnish to hot chocolate or a slice of hot apple pie, simply spread a container of whipped topping like Cool Whip on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. You'll have to do this quickly, because whipped topping melts fast. To ensure an even spread, run a spoon or spatula under warm water for a few seconds and use the back edge to smooth out the top. Freeze for several hours, or until the cream has hardened slightly. Use a festive cookie cutter of your choice to punch out snowmen, snowflakes, gingerbread men or any other shapes. Recipe adapted from

Pinecones made out of almonds

Almonds are a great tool for making any piece of chocolate or cheese look more festive. Arrange them atop a cheese ball or hunk of fudge for a creative addition to any appetizer spread. Shape a cheese ball or fudge recipe of your choice into a teardrop shape and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Using whole almonds and pressing firmly, stick the nuts pointy side up into the cheese or fudge, creating rows with the almonds until the entire teardrop is covered and it looks like a large pinecone. Nestle the pinecone atop sprigs of rosemary for added garnish.

Sprigs, herbs and leaves

Flora can be an intimidating garnish, especially when whatever dish you're bringing to your holiday party has to be kid-friendly. But the increasing popularity of using edible flowers and leaves makes it less daunting. Use sprigs of rosemary to resemble evergreen needles; you can insert them upright by the stem to resemble trees or use them as a bed for an appetizer or meat dish. Pull a few leaves from your poinsettias and use with sugared cherries or cranberries to resemble holly, or use cedar leaves to create a wreath on top of a cake. Use whole flowers, like poinsettias or amaryllis, to decorate a serving tray. Check with your local florist to see what they have in stock.

Rock candy

As if you need any more sugar during the holidays, use a clear rock candy stick as a garnish to any drink, like champagne, sangria or cider. The translucent candy looks like icicles and is fun for both kids and adults.

Contact Carlynn Crosby at [email protected]

Deck your holiday table with these festive food garnishes 12/20/16 [Last modified: Monday, December 19, 2016 3:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Review: Cast up to the challenge in Richey Suncoast's 'How the Other Half Loves'


    Theater has many plays where there are two completely different apartments depicted on the stage, usually split down the middle, one on the right, one on the left.

    "How the Other Half Loves" runs weekends through Oct. 29 at Richey Suncoast Theatre in New Port Richey. Cast members are Christine Stoll and  David Daly (in front) and Bob Marcela, Heather Clark, Mike Worssell and Blake Parker (in back, from left). [Photo by Jess Glass]
  2. Review: Excellent cast delivers entertaining production of 'Young Frankenstein' at Stage West


    I went to see the musical comedy Young Frankenstein at Stage West Community Playhouse in Spring Hill with some trepidation. I had seen a very good production of the show at another theater a couple of years ago, and I was concerned that I would subconsciously compare the two to the detriment of one or the …

    "Young Frankenstein" plays weekends through Oct. 29 at Stage West Community Playhouse in Spring Hill. Keith Surplus, left, performs as Igor and Lynda Dilts-Benson, right, as Frau Blucher. [Photo by Carol Ballard]
  3. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of Oct. 23-29


    R. L. Stine: It's fitting that the week before Halloween, USF's Lecture Series features the popular horror author known for the Goosebumps series. Stine will discuss his career, creative process and sign books Wednesday at the Marshall Student Center in Tampa. Free. .

    ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 09: Singer Anthony Hamilton performs onstage at the 2014 Ford Neighborhood Awards Hosted By Steve Harvey at the Phillips Arena on August 9, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Moses Robinson/Getty Images for Ford Neighborhood Awards)
  4. Seasoned cast scores an extra-base hit for St. Petersburg Opera with 'Faust'


    TAMPA — Charles Gounod's Faust sets the table early. The world-weary philosopher immortalized in a dramatic poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is in his study, lamenting his state of affairs. He's willing to give away everything he has to be young again, even his soul.

    The St. Petersburg Opera Company begins its season with Faust, in a production seemingly aligned with the original intent of French composer Charles Gounod and librettists Jules Barbier and Michel Carre. [St. Petersburg Opera Company]
  5. Blake High grad Taylor Trensch lands lead role in 'Dear Evan Hansen' on Broadway


    For those who saw Taylor Trensch grow up in Tampa, his rise from promising student to star is heartwarming and entirely predictable. In January, Trensch, 28, will be moving into the title role of Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway, one of the hottest tickets in theater.

    Taylor Trensch, a 2007 Blake High graduate, will play the title role in Broadway's Dear Evan Hansen. Courtesy of Frank Trensch.