Photo: Courtesy of Elise Strachan

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That Soup and Chili Aren't the Only Things That Improve with Age
Doing as much ahead of time as you can is one of the keys to hosting a stress-free event. And while certain dishes are known to taste better a day or two after they've been cooked, you may not realize that even some desserts fall into this category: namely, chocolate cake. The version Strachan swears by is her mud cake. It has instant-coffee powder in it, as well as dark-chocolate chips, unsweetened cocoa and buttermilk—and after freezing the baked cake for a few days, weeks or even months, it becomes fudgier and more dense, with deep chocolate flavor you wouldn't get if you ate it the day you baked it. Just cool it completely, wrap it in two layers of plastic and pop it (unfrosted) in the freezer; it'll keep up to a month. Thaw the cake, covered with plastic, for two to three hours at room temperature; then decorate.