A dessert to remember
December 7, 2008 5:54 PM   Subscribe

What is the best dessert you have ever created? This applies to cakes, pies, cookies, et cetera.

I would like to blow my family's socks off this holiday season, by way of dessert. I am pretty proficient in the kitchen, so anything ranging from easy to difficult is welcome.

I just want it to be damn good- hopefully memorable enough to be requested in the future.

Please share any recipes you are willing to fork over and why they are superb. I plan on making at least three of the suggestions I get. Thank you in advance!
posted by rachaelfaith to Food & Drink (48 answers total) 119 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not very confident in the kitchen, so mine's on the extreme easy end. Grind up a whole bag of Oreos in the food processor, and then add a whole block of cream cheese and process that. Make little balls of that stuff and dip in that easy-melting chocolate. Everybody loves these things.
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 5:58 PM on December 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

Chocolate Cream Pie impresses everyone.
posted by adiabat at 5:59 PM on December 7, 2008

Chocolate Whiskey Truffles Souffle with Caramel Sauce is probably the best dessert I have ever made. The souffle is amazingly rich and the whiskey truffle is a wonderful surprise - but really the best part is the caramel sauce. I get requests for this every year.
posted by miss meg at 6:02 PM on December 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

This raw Black Forest Chocolate Cheesecake. Though I didn't make it. My roommate did.
posted by Manhasset at 6:10 PM on December 7, 2008

Response by poster: Very chocolately so far. These all look delicious, and run the gamut from simple to complex. Excellent!
posted by rachaelfaith at 6:11 PM on December 7, 2008

Chocolate Toffee Crescent Bars. They're easy to make and delicious.
posted by spork at 6:12 PM on December 7, 2008

My family's favorite chocolate chip cookie comes from the back of a bag of King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour. The recipe is here, although I offer the following modifications: 1) Use a chocolate liqueur instead of vanilla; 2) skip the barley flour and use all white whole wheat; and 3) use the best chocolate chips you can find.

Cider vinegar? Whole wheat? Yes. And they both work.

If you want to leave a little something for Santa, or just something retro and sweet for the adults, these are the way to go.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:17 PM on December 7, 2008 [3 favorites]

No matter how fancy I get, nothing gets raves like 7-layer cookies.
posted by rikschell at 6:18 PM on December 7, 2008

For presentation (and taste, but especially presentation), I really loved the watermelon sorbet with chocolate seeds. (Photos here, recipe here.)

In terms of things I've made for people that have been the biggest hits, I'd have to go with candied bacon ice cream. or the Mexican chocolate and dulce de leche crepe torte.
posted by veggieboy at 6:23 PM on December 7, 2008

I make my own English toffee, then crumble it and make peanut-butter-walnut-chocolate-chip-english-toffee cookies.
posted by schyler523 at 6:25 PM on December 7, 2008

Seconding rikschell -- Gourmet's Seven-Layer Cookie recipe is the best dessert ever, and impressive to boot. I've also made it as a two-layer torte (baking each layer in an 11-inch tart pan), covered in chocolate ganache, which was just as delicious but a little more elegant for a dinner party.

The only problem is that the recipe is a little involved, and once you make it for someone it's all they'll ever request in the future. I know this from experience.
posted by pluckemin at 6:29 PM on December 7, 2008

I got rave reviews for this apple-pecan tart. People liked how the different flavors melded well together - the maple syrup adds a nice touch. I've found at least among my acquaintances that they are impressed by home-made tarts, probably because it's not as usual as home-made pies or cakes.
posted by needled at 6:29 PM on December 7, 2008

A sundae put together as follows:
Scoop of French vanilla ice cream
Cover with freshly made, warm zabaglione sauce (use dry Marsala; the recipe doesn't specify dry or sweet)
Top with chopped toasted walnuts
posted by beagle at 6:33 PM on December 7, 2008

This almond cake may be a bit too simple, but it's really tasty!
posted by prex at 6:34 PM on December 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

My mom got this simple cake from a magazine, but now we force her to make it at ever gathering. The milk and caramel give the cake a pudding-like consistency.

Chocolate toffee bar cake
1 package german/swiss chocolate cake mix egg/oil
1 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
1 12.25 oz jar of ice cream caramel topping
8 oz of cool whip
3 toffee bars
Make cake in 13x9 pan as directed. Cool in pan on rack. Poke holes in cake with handle of wooden spoon. Wet with cloth to keep cake from sticking to spoon. Whisk condensed milk and caramel together. Poor slowly over cake. Spread whip cream on top and cover with crushed toffee bar. Chill overnight.
posted by wrnealis at 6:35 PM on December 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Cherry Berries on a Cloud is easy and always gets raves when I make it. The meringue and the cream cheese layers combine so that you can't tell where one stops and the other starts. Yum.
posted by nelvana at 6:39 PM on December 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Ras Malai Cheesecake. That was my favorite. But it's not very Christmasy.

Ras Malai is a traditional Indian dessert of homemade cheese balls (very similar in texture to ricotta) soaked in cardamom, rosewater and pistachio infused cream.

I made a pistachio crust, and a cardamom ricotta cheesecake, and topped it by the slice with a rose cream. Decadent, creamy, floral, exotic.

This Roasted Pear Spice Trifle with Pumpkin-Caramel Sauce was excellent too. My standby socks-knocker for Christmas is a beautiful Persimmon Pudding like this. Try Nancy's, with hard sauce. You need a gorgeous mold, and the rest is a snap, but it's so dark, moist and glorious with a pat of cool hard sauce melting over it.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:40 PM on December 7, 2008 [5 favorites]

I call them disaster cakes.
Take puff pastry, smear with raspberry(or apricot) jam/jelly, cut into quarters, add sliced pears/strawberry/pineapple whatever fruit filling you want. fold the corners over to make little triangular packages. brush with eggwash and bake until golden crispy.

Devilishly sweet, and super quick and easy to make.
posted by robotot at 6:53 PM on December 7, 2008

Oddly enough, despite the fact that I cook all the time and cook all the basics, both of mine are puddings (something a little odd in today's world).

This insanely good cranberry pudding. And Bird's Nest Pudding - basically whole, spiced baked apples nestled in a creamy warm pudding/cake. Both excellent presentation pieces.
posted by Miko at 7:15 PM on December 7, 2008 [4 favorites]

I love the Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread. It's simple, but it's great with either whipped cream or ice cream (perfect when you've got another dessert nearby which uses those as accompaniments) and it's got a slightly complex taste that is a nice alternative to chocolate. I bet it would go great with a nice tart berry garnish of some sort.

I've always wanted to make Thousand Leaves Torte/Cake/Whatever. There are many variations, but the gist is that you've got a whole bunch of crepe-like layers with custard in between. OMNOMNOMNOMNOM.

If you have some good cake recipes, try doing what we did with my friend's wedding cake. She got to pick four (split up into 8, actually) layers of cake and a whole bunch of different fillings. So she would have four layers of cake, each split in half and filled with a different filling, and it was glued together with some sort of preserve, in addition to possibly being brushed with a spirit.

So... don't go hog-wild or anything, but one thing she had was something like a layer of lemon cake and a layer of chocolate cake followed by two of the same, with each split, and key lime buttercream between some layers, and raspberry mousse between others, and the middle could have had rum brushed on it before getting a "glue" of fresh raspberries and homemade raspberry preserves.

You could make an awesome precut tray with different flavors of those. So pretty!
posted by Madamina at 7:15 PM on December 7, 2008

Butter cake, in 3 layers. Between the layers put blood orange marmalade and chocolate ganache, also ice with chocolate ganache. I can't usually be bothered to even it out, so it looks tottery and all, but it's fantastic.


Lightly mix 4 eggs, 1/3 cup milk, 1 tbsp vanilla in a bowl.
In a larg mixing bowl, combine 4 cups flour, 2 cups sugar, 2 tbsp baking powder, mix slightly to blend. Add 1 cup butter, 1 cup milk, mix until ingredients are moistened. Beat on medium speed to aerate. Add the egg mixture in 3 batches, being sure to scrape down the sides.

Bake in 3 prepared 9" pans at 350 for 25 minutes or until tester comes out clean.


Grind up about 9 ounces chocolate. Heat 1 cup cream to boiling, pour over chocolate. Allow it to melt the chocolate, about 5 minutes. Stir until smooth. Let cool until lukewarm, cover the cake.
posted by jeather at 7:29 PM on December 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

I just made this pie. It's very impressive.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 7:32 PM on December 7, 2008

I beg to differ on the chocolate chip cookie recipe. I have never come across a better version than the one from the New York Times. There are actually no words to describe how outstanding they are. It's all about letting the dough sit for 36 hours, the sprinkle of sea salt, and the hand chopped, high quality chocolate. Be sure to check out the story on them as well.
posted by Thin Lizzy at 7:34 PM on December 7, 2008

Maple Pecan Blondies a la Mode

Basically take a batch of Blondies made from scratch (I like America's Test Kitchen/Cook's Illustrated version) and cut into squares. If the Blondies aren't warm, reheat them briefly in the microwave. Top each one with some good quality vanilla ice cream. Add a dollup of real maple syrup to each one and garnish with toasted pecans.

Guaranteed mouthgasms.
posted by mmascolino at 7:39 PM on December 7, 2008

The prettiest dessert I made to take to an event was the cake featured on the front of the cake chapter of Julia Child's The Way to Cook. A coffee liquor-flavored cake with solid chocolate around the edges and making a bow on top. It tasted incredible and looked like a million dollars. It was challenging but not too much, a just right project for someone who is good in the kitchen. It was the first time I had ever made a sponge method cake, the kind that you have to whip over a water bath.

The dessert that always gets eaten is apple crisp, although it's usually me who does the eating. It rarely makes it to the party it was intended for.
posted by Foam Pants at 7:54 PM on December 7, 2008

This flourless chocolate torte is so rich and fancy. I have made it probably ten times, and it always turns out well. But it is really rich, and tastes very much like dark chocolate, so if your guests prefer a sweeter chocolate cake, this might not be the best.

But it is so good!

I usually serve it with both a raspberry sauce (made by heating up some seedless raspberry jam and a little water to thin it out, sugar, too, if you have a sweet tooth) and a really loose whipped cream (just mix heavy cream and powdered sugar with a whisk until it thickens a bit, but not until it is stiff like full whipped cream). You can get extra-fancy by pouring some cream on a plate, then putting some drops of the raspberry sauce on top and swirling them into fancy patterns with a toothpick like they do at expensive restaurants on your birthday. (The red and white looks quite holiday). Then, put a nice slice of torte on top and maybe a few fresh raspberries and voila!
posted by foxinthesnow at 8:03 PM on December 7, 2008

Poire Hélène: poached pears with vanilla ice cream and hot chocolate sauce.
posted by Jode at 8:13 PM on December 7, 2008

the Dolce Torino was sourced from a classical book of italian cuisine, Pellegrino Artusi "La Scienza in Cucina e l'Arte di mangiar Bene", by many regarded as the first italian recipe book of the modern era. It was a small tradition in my family that my mother would prepare it for my dad's birthday and mine (which are very close). Sadly, after her passing my father wouldn't touch it anymore.

All doses are metric and can be multiplied to your liking. It's very rich, so this dose, which end up to a square about 6" by 6" by 1.5" in height, might make for 4 generous portions or 6 regular ones.
  • 100g ladyfingers or sponge cookies
  • 100g bittersweet chocolate (60% cocoa, only cocoa butter)
  • 100g fresh butter
  • 70g icing sugar (a hint of vanilla might be ok, but not too much)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • alchermes liquor (this might be hard to find)
work the sugar, the butter and the egg yolk to a soft cream with a wooden spoon,
melt the chocolate in a double boiler and pour it into the butter cream, the warm chocolate will almost liquify it: keep working (you can cool the bowl in cold water) until it has regained a good consistence.

Split the ladyfingers in half heightwise, dip in the liquor, and arrange in a square on a plate, alternate one layer of biscuits and one of chocolate-butter cream, finish with a layer of cream and coat the sides too.
Cover the cake in toasted, coarsely ground hazelnuts or, better yet, pistachios (unsalted, natch), and let rest everything for a few hours in a cool place so that the cream can stiffen up a little bit. (the fridge is too cool, in that case take it out an hour or so before eating)
posted by _dario at 8:37 PM on December 7, 2008

I get requests for frozen chocolate mousse truffles all the time. You can vary the liqueur if you feel like it.
posted by craichead at 8:44 PM on December 7, 2008

This. Chocolate & Peanut Butter Mousse Cake. I skipped the bittersweet chocolate glaze - it was absolutely perfect without.
posted by shaun uh at 8:48 PM on December 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Another piéce de resistance of mine is a somewhat faithful recreation of the Imperialtorte, which can be had at the café of the Imperial Hotel in Vienna and is so much better of the already scrumptious (though a bit tired) Sachertorte. The main difference is in the number of layers - you have to have professional tools and skills to bake thin yet soft layers - which in the original are - um - seven. Oh, and the original is square, so if you have a square mold, go for it.

Prepare the cake: for a 24cm (9.5 in) diameter round cake
- melt 150g chocolate in a double boiler
- work together to a soft cream 150g butter and 75g icing sugar
- mix in the molten chocolate and one by one 5 egg yolks (keep the whites aside)
- whip the 5 whites until very firm with 75g more icing sugar, and very slowly and delicately - mix alternatively a part of the meringue and some sifted flour (total flour must be 150g) into the egg/chocolate/butter mix.

There is no raising powder as all the air you mixed into the cake mix should be enough to get a nice, soft cake.

Bake in a cake ring (buttered and floured) for 45 to 50' at 350F, or if you have low molds, bake four layers for 10 to 15 minutes. Once cooled, cut the cake into 4 layers (I use a thin electric guitar string - new!) - if you baked the layers individually - well, no cutting is involved.

Prepare a ganache (same weight - about 1/2 a pound each - of ground bitter chocolate and cream) bring the cream to a boil, add the chocolate, mix thoroughly until the chocolate is completely molten), keep warm half of the ganache, which will be used to cover the cake. Whip the other half to a stiff cream.

Work a loaf of marzipan (you'll need about 1/4 of a pound) with your hands until soft and pliable. You can add some drops of water to soften it a bit. Cut in three parts and with a rolling pin roll the marzipan in thin discs the size of the cake (rolling it between two sheets of cling film helps a lot).

Now, assemble one cake layer, generously spray with good, aged rum, cover with a marzipan sheet, a layer of whipped chocolate ganache, and repeat until you finish with the cake top.

Cool the ganache you had set apart until still fluid but not runny (you want it to stay ON the cake... unlike my first attempt), and carefully coat the cake with a nice layer (1/8", minimum) of ganache. Let rest in a cool place for a few hours. Goes awesomely well with dark coffee.
posted by _dario at 9:13 PM on December 7, 2008

I made raspberry creme brulees this weekend, and adding a little cardamom to the custard gave it a lemony zing.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:26 PM on December 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Avoid the thousand layer crepe thingie - fun to make, but it's not stable and tends to slide. Bad bad bad.

An amazingly impressive, to-die-for-delicious and fun (for cooks) dessert is a dacquoise - meringue and buttercream and ganache. So amazing. You can find many recipes but the bottom line is make nice meringue layers and a real buttercream, ideally Italian not Swiss. (I like this recipe mainly because the author is so bad tempered about it.)

I usually make it with chocolate ganache and nut-flavored buttercream, but am mulling a walnut meringue layered with ginger and lemon buttercreams.
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:56 PM on December 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hands down, Lemon Delicious

Doesn't look so pretty once served but it tastes fantastic - you can make it as lemony and tart as you want, just play around with the quantities and serve it with the best vanilla icecream you can find. My roomies are always requesting this one.

Oh, it's easy as well so anyone can make it!
posted by latch24 at 10:47 PM on December 7, 2008

Baklava tastes delicious, impresses people and is surprisingly easy to make. This recipe is the one I use - it comes out nice and rich, not too dry.
posted by lorimt at 10:56 PM on December 7, 2008

The Dessert Bible has some excellent recipes. The Boston Cream Pie and Fallen Chocolate Cakes pretty consistently blow people away.
posted by aubilenon at 11:29 PM on December 7, 2008

This New York cheesecake recipe, except use seven (7) cream cheeses (not five (5)) and bake it for about 1:45 hours (not 1 hour). Make sure it refrigerates for about a day. Double the crumb crust. It'll have the dense consistency of fancy restaurant cheesecake, but it'll taste much, much better.

And if they're into pumpkin pie, maybe this pumpkin cheesecake, which has the taste of pumpkin pie but the richness and consistency of cheesecake. (Make sure it's refrigerated for about a day, also.)
posted by jabberjaw at 12:21 AM on December 8, 2008

If you like chocolate make Molten Chocolate Babycakes. I also like the presentation - you bake them in little custard cups so each guest gets their own gooey chocolate cake. And you can make the batter ahead of time and pop them in the oven just before you want to serve (they bake for less than 15 minutes). I made them out of Nigella Lawson's How To Be A Domestic Goddess but this livejournal post turned up a google search and has the recipe
posted by radiomayonnaise at 6:31 AM on December 8, 2008

Whenever there's a potluck, I am usually asked to bring Chocolate Peanut Brownies. Every time I make these I get complimented like crazy and asked for the recipe. Caveat: You must like peanut butter. These are pretty rich and incredibly sweet.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies

6 tablespoons butter or margarine, just barely melted (do not overheat)
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
3 eggs, divided
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup Cocoa Powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
1/2 cup Creamy Peanut Butter
1/2 (11 ounce) package Peanut Butter Chips, divided
1/2 (11 ounce) package Milk Chocolate Chips, divided
3/4 teaspoon shortening

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 13x9x2-inch baking pan.
Stir together butter, sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla in large bowl. Add 2 eggs; stir until blended. Stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Add to egg mixture, stirring until blended. Spread in prepared pan. Bake 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir together sweetened condensed milk, peanut butter, remaining egg and remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. When the 20 minutes are up for your baked brownie, remove it from the oven and very lightly and sparingly score it (over-scoring will make the brownie fall). Pour the peanut buttler mixture evenly over hot brownie. Set aside 2 tablespoons chips (one of each flavor); sprinkle remaining chips over peanut butter mixture. Return to oven; continue baking 20 to 25 minutes or until peanut butter layer is set and edges begin to brown. Cool completely in pan on wire rack.

Place reserved chips and shortening in small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH (100%) 30 seconds; stir. If necessary, microwave at HIGH an additional 15 seconds at a time, stirring after each heating, until chips are melted and mixture is smooth when stirred. Drizzle over top of bars. When drizzle is firm, cut into large squares, then cut the squares in half diagonally so you have triangles (they just look the most attractive this way, but you can do squares if you'd rather). Store loosely covered at room temperature.
posted by Polychrome at 7:24 AM on December 8, 2008

I want to add to my the last comment--if anyone does make these, make sure that the peanut butter layer has indeed begun to brown on the edges before removing the brownies from the oven. For some ovens, this may take longer than 20-25 minutes. Also, these brownies are not at their best when warm, and really should not be eaten until they're completely cool.
posted by Polychrome at 7:30 AM on December 8, 2008

Make your favorite fudge recipe, and add some peppermint extract before pouring into a dish to cool. This works really well with any chocolate from dark to milk; you know your audience better than I do.

Make white chocolate fudge(use the above-mentioned favorite fudge recipe, but use white chocolate instead of bittersweet), add your favorite extract(peppermint or orange are the most requested), and swirl some appropriately colored food coloring onto the surface.

I have co-workers who literally count down from January 'til December waiting for me to bring holiday fudge.
posted by owtytrof at 8:02 AM on December 8, 2008

Email me a reminder to actually look up the recipe for you, but --

I made a chocolate hazelnut cake once that was on the whole okay -- two chocolate layers, with a hazelnut paste filling and iced with chocolate icing. It's the hazelnut paste filling, though, that really stood out -- the cake was only meh, but the paste was so good I wanted to climb into the mixing bowl. If memory serves, it was largely ground hazelnuts spiked with a good deal of brandy.

I've always meant to try to use it in a better cake. If you have a favorite cake recipe, make up a bunch of this, use it in between the layers and go nuts.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:26 AM on December 8, 2008

If you want to knock my socks off, make cheesecake. Traditional cheesecake with a variation, like pumpkin cheesecake on a gingersnap crust, with lemon topping. Don't make a fake, Jello-style cheesecake. Topping is essential; cheesecakes often crack on top, and it's nice to hide that.

My family likes homemade, healthy desserts, like apple pie, with ice cream to mitigate the healthfulness. Warm gingerbread with lemon glaze and real whipped cream, bread pudding with apricots instead of raisins, and bourbon sauce on top.

Now I want dessert.
posted by theora55 at 8:30 AM on December 8, 2008

Cupcakes stuffed with chocolate mousse and topped with ganache. I use Alton Brown recipes for the mousse and ganache, and whether I make the cupcakes or use a mix, etc., varies based on how much time I'm willing to spend with the whole endeavor.

I use panettone molds to make the cupcakes, and when they've cooled, I cut a cone out of the top of each using a paring knife. It takes a bit of practice to cut out just the right size, but nobody really cares. I trim the bottom of the cone so there's just a flat top plug, and drop it back on top of the cupcake. The mousse goes into a ziplock bag with the corner cut off and a little piping tip screwed on, though you can omit the piping tip if you don't have one. Squirt the mousse in, slap the lip back on each of them, and top with ganache.

I am popular at parties, and I find that I am particularly popular with pregnant women and nursing mothers, who find me at the party, confirm that I made the cupcakes, and usually hug me. Really.

Oh, and at the end of the process, you have a bunch of extra mousse in the bag, which you can pipe into your mouth, and then pipe into the mouth of a friend, but you give them way too much, and it's all kinds of funny.
posted by averyoldworld at 8:44 AM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

My favorite dessert (that I make) is apple cheese crisp.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 9:44 AM on December 8, 2008

Response by poster: Goodness, everyone! What an overload of desserty bliss. Everything sounds wonderful, so I will try to print out every recipe and attach your username- when I get around to testing it, I'll let you know. Thank you all so much!
posted by rachaelfaith at 12:01 PM on December 8, 2008

People love me for my pumpkin bars. I mean, people really love them. Which is funny because of all the things I bake, these are probably the easiest. My recipe is pretty close to this one. I skip the walnuts/raisins/other chunky things and am extremely generous with the cream cheese frosting.
posted by triggerfinger at 1:14 PM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

White Chocolate Bread Pudding
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:24 AM on December 9, 2008

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