Pastry chef Christina Tosi’s tips for upgrading a store-bought dessert

Pastry chef Christina Tosi’s tips for upgrading a store-bought dessert

  • Christina Tosi spoke with Insider about her tips for upgrading store-bought desserts for celebrations.
  • The founder of Milk Bar said focusing on presentation is an easy way to elevate any sweets you buy.
  • She also said to look for opportunities to add mix-ins and make the guest of honor feel seen.

Celebrity pastry chef and TV host Christina Tosi became famous after the success of the Milk Bar bakery. The birthday cakes, cookies, pies and more all have looks – and flavor profiles – that are uniquely Tosi and undeniably beautiful.

In an interview with Insider ahead of the Jan. 20 season two premiere of Netflix’s “Bake Squad,” the chef shared his tips for how people of all skill levels can elevate store-bought desserts for celebrations.

Whether you’re making a cake from a boxed mix or picking up pre-made confections, this “MasterChef Junior” judge has a tip to make it look even more special.

Maya-Camille Broussard on

Maya-Camille Broussard, an expert on “Bake Squad,” displays desserts on personalized trays in season two of the show.

Courtesy of Netflix “Bake Squad”



The power of presentation

Tosi told Insider that she finds assessing presentation to be “the easiest way to elevate a cake mix or a store-bought dessert.”

She said you can play around with stacking things like cookies or small cakes and spreading them throughout the party space to really show off the desserts.

Tosi also said you can think about contextualizing them for the specific celebration happening, whether it’s through specific flavors or something else that makes the guest of honor feel seen.

“So much of the creations we make on ‘Bake Squad’ are about someone’s occasion,” Tosi said. “So if it’s someone’s birthday, it’s not just a birthday cake — it’s a birthday cake surrounded by things that personify the person we’re celebrating or the event or the occasion we’re celebrating.”

Slices of Milk Bar birthday cake

Slices of Milk Bar birthday cake.

Daniel Zuchnik/Stringer/Getty Images



Play with the shapes and sizes of the desserts

Related to the presentation, Tosi also suggested completely changing the visuals by cutting desserts into pieces.

So if you go to the store and buy a pre-made cake, a box of cookies, a tray of brownies, or anything else of that nature, you can make them look a little more festive by cutting them up and removing the classic store-bought appearance they may have.

It’s a small change, but it can show that you put a little extra effort into the desserts, even if you haven’t made them from scratch.

Milk Bar cookies

Some add cereal to cookies at a cookie master class hosted by Tosi.

Daniel Zuchnik/Stringer/Getty Images



Be creative with mixes

Milk Bar cakes are known to contain many colorful and eclectic ingredients, and Tosi says you should feel free to make this at home too. If you’re making a cake from a boxed mix, store-bought cookies, or even serving something that’s already made, think about how you can add your own extra flair or flavors.

“You can take your average cake mix and swirl in color, texture, flavor, etc.,” Tosi said, adding that it’s all about conjuring up “those vibrant moments that create even more occasion for celebration.”

The chef said using things like mixes in cookie dough or cookie dough, and colorful swirls in batter or frosting will make the desert much more eye-catching. But, she added, these upgrades can also make the person or people you’re celebrating feel taken care of.

Regardless of what tweaks you make, Tosi said making the guest of honor feel understood is the best way to scale up something you bought at a store in a hurry.

“You don’t have to be a pastry chef to make something amazing happen, that’s for sure,” she said.

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