Oh, it's on now! Give me your best dessert recipes, please.
April 17, 2011 7:48 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for the very best, "I've never tasted anything so good," melt in your mouth, dessert recipes I can find.

Okay, I attend a weekly potluck with a lot of international people and there's a good friend of mine who likes to impress everyone with his cooking prowess. I'm not too shabby in the kitchen myself but this past Friday he brought in some crème brûlée and now it's on - especially since he said (and I quote), "you cannot compete with me." Okay, he said it with a smile, and this is a very friendly competition, but the line has been drawn and I must cross it.

I've looked at the other dessert threads but most of them are particular to one ingredient or asking for low sugar/sugar free recipes. I'm not looking for a million ways to cook a particular ingredient, nor do I want sugar free. I want to blow people away with fantastic desserts. This next week I'm making a lemon meringue pie or possibly a key lime pie, but with finals and other school stresses that's all I've got.

So, lay it on me, what desserts do y'all bring out to show off your shine?
posted by patheral to Food & Drink (53 answers total) 154 users marked this as a favorite
Tarte Tatin with home-made ice cream. (And you can probably get away with frozen puff pastry, too)
posted by Ideefixe at 7:54 AM on April 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

From Ms. Vegetable:
Homemade English trifle. And by homemade, I mean homemade white/yellow cake (Martha Stewart style), homemade custard, and homemade jam, complete with homemade right-then whipped cream.
Never fails to get an "Oh my god this is good" from my guests.
The key is every single ingredient needs to be the BEST you can make it. Use real vanilla. Use butter, not oil. Use the full-fat stuff for everything.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:55 AM on April 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh, the America's Test Kitchen homemade cinnamon buns are also fantastic, but in a different way.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:58 AM on April 17, 2011

Cloud Cake is always a hit when my husband takes it to parties. He just whips the cream for the top right before cutting it.
posted by Swisstine at 8:02 AM on April 17, 2011

Brown Sugar Pavlova. Holy mother of desserts, it is the most delicious thing in existence, and damn impressive looking to boot. Also, easy.
posted by apparently at 8:02 AM on April 17, 2011 [11 favorites]

Tiramisu. It's easy to make and it never, ever fails to please.
posted by fire&wings at 8:14 AM on April 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

On the simpler but still delicious side of the spectrum, the Gourmet recipe for triple fudge brownies. Ever since I first made these for a potluck at lunch, I am no longer allowed to bake anything else because everyone is completely obsessed with these brownies. New people get told about them, and people who have left the office come back sometimes if they know there's a potluck just to get a brownie.

I make the recipe pretty much exactly as-is. One time I did half the chocolate chips dark chocolate, but quadruple wasn't all that much more exciting than triple chocolate. There might possibly (hard though it is to imagine) be some limit on how many different chocolates should be in one dish.
posted by Stacey at 8:24 AM on April 17, 2011 [6 favorites]

I have nothing to contribute except to agree and say that yes, pavlova is indeed the best thing in the world, and (at least in these parts) its not that well known, so there's the element of "OMG what is this? It's amazing..."
posted by cgg at 8:29 AM on April 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

You may want to consider Bailey's Irish Cream Brownies - they're pretty easy to make, but they are really impressive. You won't be sorry.
posted by aelish at 8:35 AM on April 17, 2011

Does it matter if it's horrifically ugly? Because Nigella Lawson's Dense Chocolate Loaf is amazingly delicious, but it wouldn't win a beauty contest.

Note: There are recipes out there that have converted to non-weighted measures but I find they don't work as well.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:36 AM on April 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

How about a Princess Cake?
posted by simulacra at 8:37 AM on April 17, 2011

Ooh, the Bailey's Irish Cream Brownies above made me think of the Car Bomb Cupcakes that one of my friends made for St. Paddy's. Delicious!!
posted by cider at 8:37 AM on April 17, 2011

I love allrecipes.com and have found a lot of awesome stuff on there. A random sampling of sweetness from my recipe box on that site:

Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting -- delicious on chocolate sour cream cake or red velvet. Only make half the recipe if you're doing a 9 x 13 sheet cake.

Award Winning Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies
-- Delicious with miniature M&Ms. Also try other varieties of pudding. I've made them with Cheesecake pudding and with Banana pudding instead of vanilla, and both give an interesting twist.

Irish Cream Chocolate Cheesecake -- Just awesome as-is.
posted by wwartorff at 8:46 AM on April 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

This recipe for tiramisu. Use the nicest versions of everything. I make the espresso double-strength, because I love coffee. Let it age at least one day. I recommend baking your own ladyfingers, but I've good results with store-bought.

I am a picky tiramisu eater, and I made this for my friend's 5-year cancer-free party, and it is now known as ti-REMISSION-su, and deemed a worthy dessert for such a celebration.

I also do very well with almost all of the Pioneer Woman desserts.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 8:47 AM on April 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Mascarpone-Filled Cake with Sherried Berries is so very good, and easy to make.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:51 AM on April 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was part of a group that got competitive like this-the biggest hit ever was completely homemade s'mores-from scratch Graham crackers and marshmallows with a fabulous fudge sauce.

Pavlova is fabulous, esp when fresh berries are in season.

And my latest favorite is sticky toffee pudding cake with whiskey whipped cream. Think I found the recipe for the cake on epicurious.
posted by purenitrous at 8:59 AM on April 17, 2011

Response by poster: wow, I'm gaining weight just looking at all of these terrific recipes. :) They are all great. I will definitely start trying them out after next week. I already said I would be bringing the lemon meringue pie...
posted by patheral at 9:12 AM on April 17, 2011

Instead of lemon meringue, how about Key Lime? It's dead easy and it's SO GOOD. I've started keeping the ingredients on hand for when I need a quick dessert and everyone thinks I've slaved for hours.

(It was also my toddler's first dessert-related food words: "MOAR KEY PIE! MOAR KEY PIE!")

This is the recipe I use:
1 Graham Cracker Crust (buy 9" premade or see below)
4 eggs, separated
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
⅓ cup freshly-squeezed Key Lime juice (I cheat, I use bottled lime juice for everyday pies)
Pinch salt
Pinch cream of tartar
¼ cup confectioners' sugar

Prebake the crust. When the crust is done, leave the oven at 350°F and cool the crust slightly on a rack.

While the crust is baking, beat the egg yolks just until combined. Beat in the condensed milk, then the lime juice, a little at a time; the mixture will thicken. Place pie plate on a baking sheet. Pour the filling into the warm crust and bake until the filling is just firm, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove and cool on a rack for about 10 minutes.

While pie cools, beat the egg whites with salt and cream of tartar, until foamy. Keep beating, gradually adding the confectioners' sugar, until the mixture is shiny and holds fairly stiff peaks.

Cover the pie with the meringue, making sure the meringue comes into contact with the edges of the crust. The meringue should hold its shape, so it can be decorated. Bake until the meringue is lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Cool on a rack, then refrigerate; serve cool.

Graham Cracker Crust
6 T. unsalted butter
6 oz. graham cracker crumbs (1½ – 2 cups)
3 T. sugar

Gently melt the butter in a small saucepan.

Combine sugar with graham cracker crumbs in a bowl of food processor. Slowly add the butter, stirring or processing until well-blended. Press into bottom and sides of a 9” pie plate.

To prebake: Heat oven to 350°F. Bake crust for 8 to 10 minutes, just until it begins to brown. Cool on a rack before filling; the crust will harden as it cools.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:22 AM on April 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

You could try this Ask which I posted in 2008. This s'mores pie from Smitten Kitchen is fantastic, too. But you've gotta cut it in thin slices, because man, the ganache layer is RICH.

SK in general gets a lot of love around here; most of her dishes (and desserts in particular) are pretty fantastic.
posted by rachaelfaith at 9:34 AM on April 17, 2011

The greatest dessert is ice cream. The greatest ice cream is homemade ice cream. And the greatest homemade ice cream is salted butter caramel ice cream.
posted by madmethods at 9:42 AM on April 17, 2011

Chocolate Pots de Creme!

It's like a cross between creme brulee and chocolate pudding. Super rich and decadent.
posted by joeyjoejoejr at 9:44 AM on April 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Chocolate and Salted Caramel Bread Pudding.

Honestly, I don't like that particular version of the recipe as much as others... Make sure the bread soaks overnight. And, if you can serve it immediately, cooking bread pudding in a slow cooker is far superior to cooking it in the oven.

I particularly like the version of this recipe in this book. It involves a whiskey sauce that you drizzle over the finished bread pudding. In fact, you should just order this entire book, because it has just an amazing collection of wonderfully delicious recipes, and the "salt" aspect to them makes them pretty original.
posted by meese at 10:23 AM on April 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Fried bananas, with or without batter.

Mangos with sticky rice.

And (guilty delight) dulce de leche, made in the can from sweetened condensed milk. (Actually, you can get away with a 90-min boil, and also with opening the can when it's warm to the touch - holdably warm - because it's soooo much better warm!)
posted by IAmBroom at 10:28 AM on April 17, 2011

Sex in a Pan

This "sinful" dessert is similar to Chocolate Delight and other layered desserts with pudding and whipped cream.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutesIngredients:
•1 cup flour
•1/2 cup butter or margarine
•3/4 cup chopped pecans
•1 (8oz) package cream cheese, softened
•1 cup confectioners' sugar
•1 tub whipped topping, 32 ounces
•1 package (4oz) vanilla instant pudding
•1 package (4oz) chocolate instant pudding
•3 cups cold milk, divided
•1 square semisweet chocolate, shaved, or mini semisweet chocolate chips
Combine flour, butter and pecans and press into a 9x13x2-inch baking pan. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes. Cool in pan on rack.
Combine cream cheese and confectioners' sugar and spread over pecan mixture. Spread half of the whipped topping over the cream cheese layer.

Mix package of vanilla pudding using 1-1/2 cups of milk. Spoon evenly over the whipped topping; spread until layer is even. Mix package of chocolate pudding using remaining 1-1/2 cups milk. Spread on top of vanilla pudding. Spread remaining whipped topping on top and sprinkle with shaved semisweet chocolate or mini chocolate chips.
posted by bjgeiger at 10:48 AM on April 17, 2011

NY Times Chocolate Chip cookies with sea salt.
posted by beepbeepboopboop at 11:34 AM on April 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh, I just remembered this one. I haven't tried it, but look at it! Homemade peanut butter cup chocolate cake cheesecake.
posted by meese at 11:36 AM on April 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake. It was at least as good as described if not better!
posted by grapesaresour at 12:24 PM on April 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Anything from the Joy of Baking website is amazing. The recipes tend to be a little more time consuming than average, but worth it. If you are looking for something particularly rich and decadent I would recomment the chocolate torte.
posted by metaname at 12:50 PM on April 17, 2011

I recently made the chocolate cake from this peanut butter-chocolate cake (which it itself an excellent and impressive dessert) along with the frosting from this espresso cake w/fudge frosting. A lot of people make chocolate-frosted chocolate cake, but few make it actually... you now, good. This was a showstopper for deliciousness. Also: dead simple. No problem between finals, etc., as long as you've made any kind of cake before. Using the food processor for frosting is a revelation.
posted by hansbrough at 1:31 PM on April 17, 2011

*know. Not know. You know. Good.
posted by hansbrough at 1:32 PM on April 17, 2011

Berghoff Flourless Chocolate Cake. The best dessert ever. (I wish they still made it at the restaurant!)
posted by SisterHavana at 1:42 PM on April 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Is there any rule against marking everything as best answer??? I've never seen so many delicious recipes in one spot. Thanks y'all, I can't wait to see more.
posted by patheral at 2:34 PM on April 17, 2011

Spotted dick with golden syrup.
posted by joannemullen at 3:46 PM on April 17, 2011

BBC Good Food's Ultimate chocolate cake.
posted by lioness at 3:57 PM on April 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Reading the key lime recipe above - I was reminded of this - I used to make them a lot, my parents have a place in key largo, so we would get fresh key limes. I had adapted the recipe a bit so that instead of using the beaten egg white on top as meringue, I would fold it into the pie filling, making a much lighter fluffier pie. I don't remember if this affected cooking times, so if you were to try it - be sure to do a test pie (and let me know how it turns out).
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 4:47 PM on April 17, 2011

You probably know this, but another key lime variation is to omit the meringue completely and just use fresh whipped cream instead. I think it's much lovelier! :)
posted by hansbrough at 4:56 PM on April 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Marjolaine, this recipe specifically. I make it just once per year, usually at Thanksgiving because of the availibility of hazelnuts. Serve it in small slices about 3/4 inch thick. People go nuts over this. It literaly does melt in your mouth, and it's pretty to boot. Be prepared that making the buttercream takes some skill. You would not want to serve this with bits of egg yolk in your layers. I use just regular instant coffee instead of what the recipe calls for. Also, I don't usually do the little chocolate triangles because they are a pain in the rear. I usually just put a ring of plain, toasted hazelnuts (I save out some of the prettiest ones) around the edge, and I press the chopped hazelnuts all the way up the sides. Good luck!
posted by sugarbiscuit at 6:31 PM on April 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

THE single most celebrated dessert we've ever served is Gordon Ramsay's No-Bake Cheesecake. It's dead easy to make, and always gets rave reviews.
posted by Cobalt at 6:35 PM on April 17, 2011

I know pulling out a Pioneer Woman recipe is not original (and she's mentioned above), but her pear crisp is always a huge hit with my friends. We're foodies, and this is pretty classic/traditional stuff, but it's terrific.

Here's the recipe.
posted by kostia at 9:26 PM on April 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

"you cannot compete with me."

Crème brûlée! Snort. You can clean his clock in no time. No shit a pot of cream, yolks, and sugar tastes good.

I would stay away from brownies and chocolate chip cookies, these don't have the same snob appeal as crème brûlée no matter how awesome they are. Panna cotta and flans will be too similar to distinguish themselves.

To continue the pear theme, two desserts I have made that have resulted in wide eyes and exclamations from ladies present were:

1) Tuaca zabaglione with vanilla poached pears. The hardest part of this is the "cooking over steam" procedure, which requires a bit of practice, so test out your procedure at least once without time constraints.
2) Pear clafouti. Easy to make - it's a crustless custard pear tart and looks way more impressive than a pot of burned cream (even though it's just another custard with fruit in it). I use brown bosc pears and leave the skin on for more flavor and texture. Use a good quality pear eau de vie (I like Clear Creek) rather than Poire Williams, which I am not a fan of.

In both, use good quality vanilla or actual beans. Both of these look impressive, taste light, and pack in a ton of calories without any weird or novel flavor pairings. If you want to win over a crowd you have to go for both the novelty seekers as well as the more conservative palates.

That said, if you think people are adventurous and you have a lot of time, try something like Peach and Pistachio Frangipane Tart - I substitute sweetened rosewater syrup for the apricot jam in this recipe. Pistachio frangipane has to be tasted to be believed. It takes the usual goodness of almond frangipane to a whole new level.
posted by benzenedream at 10:09 PM on April 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

Triple chocolate mousse cake. I'm not gonna lie - this is kind of a bitch to make, but it looks really impressive and tastes amazing. And it has 19 oz of chocolate in it; how can you go wrong?!

You can up the fancy factor by making chocolate squiggles for decoration - pipe some melted chocolate onto a wax paper-covered pan in random squiggly shapes and then stick the pan in the freezer for an hour or so until they set. Then stick the frozen squigglies around the edge of the cake, evenly spaced from each other.

As a random bonus, this cake happens to be gluten free (though I realize that's not one of your criteria!).
posted by just_ducky at 11:06 PM on April 17, 2011

I just made this tonight as dessert for friends of mine who are great cooks: avocado milkshakes topped with freshly made whipped cream. They couldn't stop raving over it! Perhaps its simplicity is what blew them away, not to mention it took all of 3 minutes to make.

In a blender, throw in a full cup of ice, 2 cups of 2% milk, 8 tablespoons of condensed milk, plus the "meat" of 2 ripe avocados, blend until creamy. Top with whipped cream made from scratch. The color is just gorgeous and it tastes amazing.
posted by HeyAllie at 11:24 PM on April 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

I was involved in a similar dessert arms race a few years back. I would recommend against the clafouti unless you can bake it immediately before serving. I made peach and strawberry versions the morning of our event, and by serving time in the early afternoon they looked just awful -- the moisture in the fruit sort of melted into the cakey part, so it looked all weepy and gross. The whole "serve at room temperature" thing made me think they would last until the afternoon, but I was wrong.

On the other hand, the best rave reviews I received from that group was for this "Chocolate Angel Food Dessert" that my mom made when we were kids. It's basically angel food cake bits in a cloud of chocolate mousse, but it firms up with chilling so you can cut defined pieces of it. Bake your own angel food cake or use a store bought one, either way it's awesome.

Chocolate Angel Food Dessert

1 angel food cake
12 oz semi sweet chocolate chips
4 eggs, separated
1/2 t salt
2 T sugar
1 t vanilla
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1 c chopped walnuts (optional, adds a sort of 50s feel to the dessert)

Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave or in a double boiler. Beat the egg yolks and salt into the melted chocolate. In another bowl, mix the egg whites, sugar, and vanilla, and beat to stiff peaks. Fold the beaten whites into the chocolate mixture. Whip the cream to stiff peaks, then fold it into the chocolate mix. Fold in walnuts if using. Tear the cake into bite-sized pieces. In a large baking dish, layer pieces of cake and chocolate mixture. Cover and refrigerate at least 24 hours before serving.
posted by vytae at 11:35 PM on April 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Vytae: I've made the pear clafouti many times now and have never had problems with weepiness - I usually store it at room temp overnight after baking. Weepiness may depend on the fruit type and ripeness. I always buy fairly hard pears which might not melt as much, and add a handful more sugar into the batter to compensate. Here's an exhaustive thread on chowhound discussing problems with eggy and watery clafoutis.
posted by benzenedream at 12:09 AM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

At my friend's wedding in Barcelona last summer: their wedding cake was a white chocolate mousse cake with a layer of passion fruit somethingorother inside. I'm not a huge white chocolate or dessert fan, but it was the most amazing dessert I've ever tasted. I get kind of sad thinking how few times I might eat it again in my life.
posted by distorte at 3:26 AM on April 18, 2011

I once impressed a member of parliament with this fig galette.

nb: not a British MP.
posted by eulily at 6:34 AM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

French Apple cake

Momofuku's Crack Pie. Makes two pies
posted by JABof72 at 12:05 PM on April 18, 2011

This looks like a giant ho-ho (pictures), but it's really good and not as hard to make as I'd imagined: Aunt Gertrude's Chocolate Roll.
posted by MeiraV at 6:58 PM on April 18, 2011

Guinness-Gasm: Guinness-and-chocolate cupcakes with bittersweet chocolate filling and buttercream frosting made with Bailey's Irish Cream.
posted by exphysicist345 at 10:04 PM on April 18, 2011

Response by poster: I'm sure that I have enough recipes now to really stick it to him. Thanks AskMe for loading my arsenal with sweetness.
posted by patheral at 9:02 PM on April 19, 2011

I know you said you're done, but I'm piling on anyway. Maybe you can use this for a future potluck where you have to outdo him with hors d'oeuvres. This is f'ing delicious AND gorgeous, though it's more savory than sweet:

"Layer cake" of brie and figs with mascarpone

I saw it in the cheese case at Wegman's, asked them how they made it, and have since made it for lots of parties.

- 2 mini wheels of brie
- 1 tub of mascarpone (4ish ounces)
- dried figs in a glaze** (looks like chocolate sauce)
- 1 bamboo skewer cut into 3 pieces (used for anchoring layers together)

Remove several figs from glaze and slice them. You'll need about 30 slices. Place one wheel of brie onto the serving platter. "Frost" the layer with half the mascarpone. Add half the fig slices on top of the mascarpone. Place skewer pieces vertically into brie--evenly spaced--so that there's about an inch of skewer sticking up. Place second wheel of brie on top of skewers and push down gently so that it looks like a 2-layer cake. It's ok if things squish out the sides a little. "Frost" the top layer with the remainder of the mascarpone, and layer with the remainder of the figs. Using a spoon, drizzle glaze over the top of the cake and down the sides--use your judgment how much is needed. I prefer less rather than more, as the glaze is just for visual effect. For presentation, I like to slice out about 1/5 of the entire thing with a pie server and place it along side the main part of the cake; this lets people know that it's cheese, that it's ok to touch, and that the layer thing continues on the inside. Serve with slices of baguette and use a strong cheese knife!

**If no dried figs available, use sliced fresh figs or whole raspberries for the top of the "cake" and for the "frosted" layers use a blend of mixed-berry preserves (no sugar added!) and water, thinned enough to spread and also to drizzle over the top once it's assembled.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 10:57 AM on April 20, 2011 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh my goodness, ImproviseOrDie, I am going to try that as soon as I can! It looks divine.
posted by patheral at 5:22 PM on April 20, 2011

Response by poster: Just heard from the hostesses of this pot-luck that it's been put on hold for the summer. Oh well, now I have some dessert recipes to try out on friends. ^_^ Thanks again, y'all.
posted by patheral at 3:15 PM on April 25, 2011

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