Turn dessert plates into masterpieces with inspiration from chef David Guas, owner of Bayou Bakery in Arlington, Virginia, and author of DamGoodSweet.


Pie The golden-brown crust gives any pie plate an organic look. Play that up with a rustic stroke of sauce and a touch of something green.

1. Dip a pastry brush into a sauce (one that is more sticky than runny, such as caramel, works best) and let the excess drip off. Slowly drag the brush across the center of the plate to make a painted stroke. "A little fade in color and texture is okay, and actually looks beautiful," Guas says. Place the pie on top.

2. Add a scoop of ice cream or a dollop of fresh whipped cream. 

3. Garnish with a touch of color: Pluck leaves off a seasonal herb like sage, thyme or mint.

Cake or Tart A simple drizzle of color (and flavor) is all you need.

1. Place the cake on the plate, leaving extra room on one side. Fill a spoon with dessert sauce. Tip the edge of the spoon downward over the plate to release a thin trickle of sauce, moving the spoon to trace a freehand pattern or squiggle.

2. For the world's easiest garnish, slice some blackberries or raspberries in half, then lay them alongside the squiggle, Guas says.

Cookie or Brownie The fastest way to upgrade a simple treat: Cut it into an interesting shape that can be stacked or arranged on the plate, then decorate around it.

1. Fill a spoon with a dessert sauce (warm it in the microwave for a few seconds if it's too thick to drip), whipped cream or greek yogurt. Tip the spoon toward the plate to make a circle with the sauce. Then, using the back of the spoon, drag the sauce in a shooting-star shape across the plate.

2. Sprinkle the dessert with a crushed hard candy like peppermint.