by Dennis Weaver
Yes, I know you're busy. Some days you need an easy dessert you can put together that looks good and tastes great—without going to the grocery store. I'll show you a thousand possibilities. (Do the math; it's actually much more than that.)
I'm talking about a type of dessert here. Start with any bar cookie or dense cake recipe. If you have any boxed cake or brownie mixes tucked away in your pantry, they will do. It's what you put on them that counts.
Call these fully loaded desserts. Take pieces or wedges of cake, bar cookie, or brownie and dress them up with a topping, sauce, and whipped cream. This is a mix-and-match operation: Match the cake with the topping with the sauce with whipped cream. I think you'll be amazed at the possibilities and you'll make luscious desserts.
The Base: Brownies, Cake, or Bar Cookies
I like dense rather than light and fluffy cakes but either will do. Your recipe books are going to be full of recipes for these or you can grab a mix:
• Snacking cakes
• Bar cookies
• Coffee cakes
The First Layer: Toppings
I'm partial to fresh fruit here but frozen fruit will do—even squiggles of pastry fillings. You can use prepared fillings. We're certainly biased to our Chubby Cherry topping—we think it's really good—but you can use a topping of your choice.
• Sliced bananas
• Sliced peaches
• Fresh strawberries
• Sliced mangos
We use Designer Dessert Sauces a lot—chocolate, raspberry, and caramel are my favorites--but ice cream toppings work as well as homemade syrups and sauces. Lawford's Private Reserve Cream Syrups make great dessert sauces. If you want to go homemade, here are some recipes to get you started:
We rarely make standard whipped cream. It's too much fun to make flavored whipped cream. Basically, we're substituting other flavors for the vanilla. I'm very partial to brown sugar instead of white and think it makes the whipped cream taste richer. We use brown sugar instead of granulated sugar with warm flavors like caramel and butterscotch. Orange Cloud and Lemon Cloud Whipped Cream call for orange or lemon zest respectively. (See how to make flavored whipped cream.)
My "Go To” Pan
My most used baking pan in the kitchen is my Candy Apple Red Silicone Springform Pan. I use it for cakes, bar cookies, brownies, and desserts—even cornbread. It doesn't leak—it has a double gasket--and it's easy to peel the ring off and cut right on the glass base for perfect slices. Any recipe that calls for a 9 x 9-inch pan or an 8 x 10-inch pan works in this pan.
To get nice, neat uniform slices in a rectangular pan, we line it with parchment paper and when baked, lift the parchment paper and cake from the pan to cool. Then we trim the crusty edges and break out a ruler to cut uniform little slices. We skip all that with our silicone springform pans: no parchment paper, the edges don't seem so crusty, and we just cut the cake into neat wedges and we're done.
Here are three sample recipes. These are made with brownies and blondies because I'm on a brownie and blondie kick right now and we have lots of brownie and blondie mixes. But you could also make these with cakes.
Chubby Cherry Brownies
Make the brownies according to package instructions. After the brownies have cooled, cut the cake into wedges. Top the brownies with Chubby Cherry topping and drizzle them with chocolate sauce. Add vanilla, amaretto, or cherry whipped cream—my favorite is a cherry whipped cream. Garnish with chocolate curls.
Shown is a Chubby Cherry Brownie topped with Cherry Whipped Cream.
Banana Split Brownies
This is just a banana split with or without the ice cream, on top of a brownie. Cut the brownies and layer them with banana slices. Put optional ice cream of Bavarian cream over the bananas and a generous drizzle of chocolate sauce. Top with vanilla or banana flavored whipped cream and optional chopped peanuts and a cherry.
Shown is a Banana Split Brownie topped with Banana Whipped Cream.
Strawberry Shortcake Brownies (Blondies)
You can use either brownies or blondies for this. Cinnamon chip or white chocolate chip blondies are great with strawberries.
Top your brownies with sliced strawberries. Add a drizzle of white or dark chocolate sauce. Top with plenty of whipped cream vanilla, lemon or orange.
Shown is Strawberry Shortcake Blondie topped with Brown Sugar Whipped Cream.
Dennis Weaver is the founder of The Prepared Pantry. He is the author of How to Bake, a 250 page book about the art and science of baking and has written many articles. He has worked as a professional baker. He is married and has five grown children.