From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
For a successful New Year's Eve gathering, "it's key to time the party right," says celebrity event planner Preston Bailey, who designed this dessert party for eight after a similar fete he planned for Sarah Jessica Parker. He suggests kicking off the evening at 10 p.m.—which means you can skip dinner. "People have already eaten," says Bailey, who instead offers his guests a mix of fruits and sweets that incorporate his favorite ingredient: chocolate (see cupcake recipe courtesy of myrecipes.com on the next page). "I always have something decadent for people when they walk in," he says. So what's his secret for getting guests to finally walk out before sunup? "Start yawning!"

PICK UP PROSECCO!

Instead of champagne, buy one bottle of this sparkling wine for every two guests. Zardetto Prosecco Brut, $15.99; wine.com

GRAPES

"They're pretty and easy to buy in bulk. Plus, they're a nice alternative to berries," says Bailey.

RIBBON

Bailey adorned glass stems and platters with ribbon curls in hot pink for "a little sizzle."

COOKIES

"Small bites are great," says Bailey, who suggests serving walnut chocolate chip cookies and mint chippers.

FANCY NAPKINS

For a centerpiece, Bailey filled a bowl with napkins folded into quarters and fluffed to create paper flowers.

STYLISH SERVING PIECE

Display your treats with a bit of flair. Tiered pedestal serving plates, $24.99; target.com

CHOCOLATE-CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES WITH WHITE FROSTING

Makes: 12

¾ cup unsweetened cocoa

¾ cup all-purpose flour

½ tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

½ cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla extract

½ cup sour cream

1½ cups milk chocolate morsels

White Frosting:

½ cup unsalted butter, softened

3 cups powdered sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 to 3 tbsp. milk

1. Sift together cocoa and next 3 ingredients in a medium bowl; set aside. Beat butter and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating until well blended. Stir in vanilla.

2. Add cocoa mixture to butter mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with cocoa mixture. Beat at low speed until blended after each addition. Stir in morsels.

3. Place 12 paper baking cups in a muffin pan; spoon batter evenly into cups, filling completely. Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pan 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack and cool 30 minutes.

4. For frosting, beat butter with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until creamy. Gradually beat in powdered sugar until smooth. Beat in vanilla and 2 tbsp. milk, adding additional milk if necessary for desired consistency. Spread cupcakes evenly with white frosting.