Come the first of October, bakers everywhere crank up the heat on their ovens, and a riotous waving of spatulas ensues! All in celebration of National Cookie Month, my favorite time of year! In the spirit of the season, I offer you this fanciful Halloween cookie fest and my secrets for setting spine-tingling tabletops.

Creative table displays are easier (and cheaper) to come by than you might think. Simply combine some lovely treats (such as the Friendly Ghost meringues and Great Pumpkin Cookies, shown top right and in Cookie Swap) with a few design tricks, and you’re sure to be pleased with the magical results! Here are my top four tips for creating scintillating scapes – lessons to be applied now or at any other time of year!

Table Taken to New Heights
Table Taken to New Heights Photo by Steve Adams

1 | Choose a surface that fits the theme.

The table is a focal point of the food display, so be sure you put it to work to reinforce your party’s mood. Fussy and refined wouldn’t work in the eerie attic where I hosted this fest, so I opted instead for rustic and weathered in the form of a battered door loaned by a local antiques store. Two old sawhorses, borrowed this time from a friend, gave the door the necessary tabletop-height (top photo).

Creative Container
Creative Container Photo by Steve Adams

2 | Add interest through elevation.

Avoid mono-level displays that hover close to the tabletop. The human eye is naturally drawn to varying elevations. I added quick and cost-free dimenstion to this table (top photo) by stacking serviceware on rocks collected from the nearby railroad track and by turning stray backyard twigs into trees. (Just sink the twigs into rock-filled buckets and hide the buckets behind the table.) My haunted gingerbread house facade also adds an other-worldly dimension, looming as it is over a cookie graveyard scene. For details on how to construct the facade, check out Cookie Swap.) 

What a Hoot!
What a Hoot! Photo by Steve Adams

3 | Banish boring plates.

It’s amazing how lively a table can look if you simply dispense with the usual serving plates and platters. Here, I chose cast iron skillets and pans and old ammunition boxes filled with ground cookie crumbs for my serviceware (as pictured under the sugar cookie tombstones, second photo from top).  

Sweet Surprises
Sweet Surprises Photo by Steve Adams

4 | Insert edibles where guests least expect them.

Sweet surprises are a sure way to grab guests’ attention. At this party, I positioned moon and owl cookies (third photo from top) in the twig trees, where they were ripe for plucking. I also extended my homemade treats with store-bought goodies nestled in unexpected places. Now who would have thought that white jelly beans could be a playground for chocolate spider truffle candies (bottom photo)?