For some, hosting during the holidays is the pinnacle of their festive celebrations. For others, it's a stress-inducing task masking holiday cheer with a cloud of dread. However, for Erin Clarkson, hosting is a way of life and her blog, Cloudy Kitchen, is helping pros and novices alike elevate their hosting game with desserts crafted to finish the evening on a high.
So, to help alleviate the stress and enhance the enjoyment of this season, we asked Erin for some of her expert tips and tricks for successfully hosting amid the flurry of festive activities.
When Erin moved to New York with her husband for work, she started playing around with recipes to bring in to his office to share. Her proud Instagram snaps quickly gained attention, so her husband created for her a little website called Cloudy Kitchen — and, well, the rest is history!
“I have always loved to bake. I was really fortunate to spend a lot of time in the kitchen with my Grandma growing up,” says Erin. “I never expected it to be more than a hobby, [but], seven years later, it's my full-time job!”
Amidst gatherings with family over the holidays and testing new recipes on friends throughout the years, Erin’s tried and tested recipe for creating the perfect atmosphere for everyone to enjoy — including herself — contains four main ingredients: prepare, delegate, have back-ups, and invest in high-quality kitchen accessories.
1. Preparation is Key
When hosting any gathering, preparation is key and procrastinating tasks will only intensify stress levels — not to mention risk something being forgotten.
Planning in advance for your food and drinks’ menu for the night is essential in ensuring you acquire all the right ingredients while also eliminating the need for last-minute grocery runs.
It’s also helpful to outline an hourly task-list to follow on the day to ensure a smooth execution.
“[I like to] plan out my day and work backwards so I can at least attempt to have everything done on time,” says Erin.
Erin also suggests preparing items a few days ahead to help alleviate the list of tasks on the day.
“I’m a huge fan of making things ahead,” insists Erin. “My go-to dessert for something like this is a tiramisu, which doesn't require turning the oven on and can be made the night before.
When getting ready to host, don’t be afraid to assign tasks to your guests — especially if they are willing to help! Whether handling post-event cleanup or bringing a special dish to share, involving others can lighten the workload and contribute to a less stressful day for you.
“If friends offer to come over early to help out, take them up on it,” urges Erin. “I also like delegating things like a salad [...] or some things to add to a cheese board.”
3. Have Backups
Even with the best intentions, not every soiree will go off without a hitch. Having an extra bottle of wine, additional gravy, or freezer-friendly desserts on hand will be your saving grace if a recipe doesn’t quite go to plan or unexpected guests join the occasion.
“I always have cookie dough frozen in the freezer,” says Erin. “So, worst-case scenario, I just whip some out and bake off fresh cookies and serve with ice cream for dessert. You can never go wrong with warm cookies — ever.”
4. Set Your Kitchen Up for Success
When gearing up to host festive gatherings, consider integrating products into your kitchen that are purposefully designed for efficiency.
Our Penelope Kitchen Sink Drainer, functioning as both a drying rack and a spill-free cocktail zone, conveniently drapes over your sink, conserving space on the kitchen bench. Meanwhile, the Felicity Kitchen Sink Colander resides within the sink, offering additional storage for drying fruits, veggies, or utensils without occupying counter space.
"I love that the Felicity Kitchen Sink Colander can fit over the edge of the sink,” says Erin. “I spend a ton of my time doing dishes, and so every little thing that helps me out with this step is a game-changer."
Additionally, Erin recommends investing in a kitchen mixer that can handle the demands of entertaining while meeting daily needs.
“We entertain a lot [...] so it was really important to me to have a tap that was super user-friendly but still looks amazing,” says Erin. “I did a ton of research into kitchen mixers, and we landed on the Elysian Sensor Commercial Pull-Out Kitchen Mixer.
“I love that when I have super dirty hands, I can wave my hand past it, and it turns on [...] it really helps to keep things nice and clean. I also love the shower setting on the pull-out end. I make a lot of sticky dough and buttercream, and it is perfect for cleaning off my mixer attachments, along with making it really, really easy to keep the whole sink clean.”
Whether you’re expecting a hoard of guests or just want to be better prepared for the unexpected, follow some of Clarkson’s tips, and you’ll be sure to feel much more at ease this Christmas hosting season.
Need some more Christmas decor inspiration? Check out: Space Transforming Island Bench Ideas for Kitchen Entertaining