How do I make dessert go to eleven?
November 17, 2012 1:52 PM   Subscribe

Throw me some dessert recipes or ideas that are not only delicious, but involved to make - lots of time required, or lots of steps, or lots of ingredients, whatever. As long as they're yummy and a bit out of the ordinary.

I find myself with a Thanksgiving in which I will not be running around keeping several people happy and fed and entertained, so I will have time to indulge myself in some really excellent dessert-making. Something more interesting/involved/complicated than yet another pumpkin cheesecake.

I'm a really good baker if a bit iffy on pie crusts, and have a wide variety of dessert-making-related kitchen tools at my disposal. I don't care a bit about the dessert being traditionally Thanksgiving-y, or healthy, or using or not using any particular ingredients. I just want to make the dessert-making itself be a fun event for me, not just the eating.

So what should I make? Specific recipes are great, just plain ideas are fine too.
posted by Stacey to Food & Drink (40 answers total) 56 users marked this as a favorite
posted by mynameisluka at 1:59 PM on November 17, 2012

I'm going to try this crepe cake this year!
posted by hannahelastic at 1:59 PM on November 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

I am always surprised at how making Jeni's lemon frozen yogurt always manages to dirty every bowl in the kitchen, and then equally surprised when its shockingly velvet texture makes all the washing worthwhile.
posted by wnissen at 2:08 PM on November 17, 2012

Is it too early for a Buche de Noel? It could be modified to appear more autumny, perhaps with white chocolate leaves colored appropriately as garnish.
posted by TedW at 2:10 PM on November 17, 2012

My first idea was baklava.
Also strudel.
posted by travelwithcats at 2:19 PM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I always make baked red bean buns when I have some time on my hands and want a cooking project. You can make the bean paste from scratch, too, but it's hard to make it smooth.

More ideas: cinnamon rolls for Thanksgiving morning (let them rise in the fridge overnight), tiramisu with ladyfingers made from scratch
posted by asphericalcow at 2:22 PM on November 17, 2012

I believe macarons are quite fiddly to make, although they're probably the most ordinary thing around right now.

I quite like the above strudel idea.
posted by elizardbits at 2:26 PM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

saved in my bookmarks for a mythical time when I'm not swamped with work: The Heaven and Hell Cake.
posted by dnesan at 2:38 PM on November 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

Alice Medrich's Raspberry Chocolate Ruffle Cake from Baking with Julia.
posted by gimli at 2:40 PM on November 17, 2012

I'd like to suggest a Croquembouche - I was planning to make one this year until I got guilt tripped into doing yet more pies.

Essentially, it is a conical tower of cream puffs (or profiteroles, if you're snooty), that is glued together with sugar and decorated with sugar and chocolate. I haven't used the above recipe, it just has a nice picture and how to. Obviously you can fill them with whatever kind of pastry cream or pudding or whatever you like.

Disclaimer: if you make it, be careful, as always, when cooking sugar. :)
posted by firei at 2:55 PM on November 17, 2012 [8 favorites]

Chocolate Peanut Butter Joconde Imprime Entremet - 7 different layers, not including the patterned sponge.
posted by missmagenta at 2:56 PM on November 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

Croquembouche and video.
posted by shoesietart at 2:57 PM on November 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've always wanted to make a St. Honore cake.

Bonus points for making homemade puff pastry.

Good luck!
posted by guster4lovers at 2:59 PM on November 17, 2012

I see firei beat me to the croquembouche.
posted by shoesietart at 3:04 PM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

How about a big Paris-Brest pastry? Cook's Illustrated had a recipe last year that looked like fun but was also really involved.
posted by xil at 3:08 PM on November 17, 2012

The SO is making Baklava again this year. Whoa, time-consuming if you do it right. But wow. :)
(as mentioned above)
posted by Glinn at 3:17 PM on November 17, 2012

I was going to make this rich condensed milk layer cake til I got to the point in the recipe where it said... "divide the dough into 20 equal portions" - but it still looks good!

here's the recipe
posted by lemniskate at 3:30 PM on November 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Any kind of laminated dough (puff pastry, baklava, sweet filled croissants!!, danishes... the possibilities are endless).
posted by anaelith at 3:48 PM on November 17, 2012

Oh, forgot: Also, any kind of crazy decorating.

Cake pops.

Turkey cookies. Acorn and pumpkin cookies.

Cupcake cookies!

Anything with marbled icing.

Gingerbread house?

Surprise inside cake!
posted by anaelith at 4:04 PM on November 17, 2012

Dobos torte from Smitten Kitchen!
So good!!
posted by blacktshirtandjeans at 4:08 PM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can't link because I'm on my phone, but Epicurious has a brilliant chocolate souffle with a caramel cream sauce and chocolate whiskey truffles. It's so complicated and so immensely delicious (though you can do two parts of it beforehand, and it makes loads of extra truffles!)
posted by jetlagaddict at 4:51 PM on November 17, 2012

Anything like Viennoisserie would fit the bill. You have to like recipes where you make a cake to destroy into crumbs to use as an ingredient in a torte. Another involved recipe was the Martha Stewart wedding cake involving dacquoise, and marzipan fruit (part 1) (part2). If you want to add even more steps you can make your own almond paste. I am horrible with marzipan so that was the hard part for me.

Now, if you want to have more involved steps then you have to make your own puff pastry or phyllo dough. Many recipes have been simplified with the availability of pre-made puff and phyllo dough. Croissants or really any laminated dough takes a certain amount of finesse to do well and are an option as well. I fully admit that I am lazy and buy my puff and phyllo doughs.
posted by jadepearl at 4:55 PM on November 17, 2012

I make this Spiced Pumpkin Pear Tart every year for Thanksgiving - it's time-consuming and delicious.

If you want to make a semi-complicated cookie, these Cappuccino Flats are great.
posted by k8lin at 4:59 PM on November 17, 2012

Sorry I have no recipe to link, but how about petits fours? Petits fours is a term that covers a lot of territory, I guess, but I'm thinking specifically of the little cube-shaped layer cakes coated in icing. My aunt once tried to talk us into helping her follow a recipe for these little confections that covered four densely typed pages and took something like three days, all told. Make the different kinds of cake, make the fillings, cut cakes into thin layers, assemble, make the icing and carefully pour it over each individual petit four, and THEN decorate them all in different appropriate patterns.
posted by fermion at 5:03 PM on November 17, 2012


Here's a (untested) recipe for Pumpkin-Gingerbread-Trifle that sounds awesome.
posted by leahwrenn at 5:15 PM on November 17, 2012

Someone beat me to saying trifle, but I will say that the great thing about trifle is how fast and loose you can be with the overall recipe, as long as each of the components is there.

You will need to make:
a pound cake or other heavy, absorbent sort of cake (from scratch using good ingredients)
a custard or pudding, also from scratch
a LOT of hand-whipped cream
lemon curd, or jam, or BOTH (can be from scratch for maximum complexity)
a lot of fruit

I made homemade vanilla poundcake (with real vanilla beans), a vanilla-ginger custard, and orange-scented whipped cream. Then I layered pound cake, drizzled it with a generous amount of blackberry brandy, put on some blackberry jam, put on all sorts of fresh berries, poured custard over that, ladled whipped cream on THAT, and then began the process over again. It has been declared my finest culinary triumph.

A word of warning: it's easy to start making trifle and then not realize quite how much you're going to make, because you're bebopping along just trying to make everything turn out evenly. I had a real 2-gallon trifle bowl borrowed from a friend, who uses it for Hallowe'en punch, and I was just trying to make it look nice. And when I was finished I had used a dozen eggs, a gallon of heavy whipping cream, two huge cakes and several pounds of berries-- and made, I shit you not, 17 POUNDS of trifle.

We ate until we were sick, got up again on Boxing Day, ate until we were sick again (all five of us), and then looked at the trifle, which barely had a dent in it, and promptly packaged it up and started depositing it on friends' doorsteps, ringing the bell and running away.
posted by WidgetAlley at 5:29 PM on November 17, 2012 [10 favorites]

Oh, or, a recipe I've never tried myself, but which is quite charming: Quercyan apple cake, courtesy of Two Fat Ladies.
posted by WidgetAlley at 5:46 PM on November 17, 2012

I wanted to do the same thing one Thanksgiving and chose this Pecan Pie Cake from Southern Living, complete with the maple leaf pie crust garnish. Took all day for me to make and it was so worth it! It came out looking just like the photo and tasted as delicious as it looked.
posted by ourroute at 6:19 PM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have not had Rigo Jancsi since a café that made it in my old neighbourhood closed down and I am never going to attempt to make it, because recipes tend to warn you how difficult it is and I'm no pastry chef.

So I don't have a recipe for you, only an idea and implied challenge. It's amazingly good.
posted by zadcat at 6:30 PM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Smitten Kitchen has a whole section of crazy-elaborate cake recipes, and if I were in your position I'd take advantage of the opportunity to make something off the list. For example, you might commemorate the liquidation of Hostess with the Hostess cake, make your own chocolate wafers for an icebox cake, or make the delicious tiramisu cake I had for my last birthday.
posted by willbaude at 7:07 PM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

There's this almond praline cake at epicurious which is delicious and sort of a pain to make. (I recommend switching the mascarpone icing to almond buttercream.) And it looks fantastic.
posted by jeather at 7:24 PM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Macarons are delicious, time consuming, and fiddly. This is my favorite recipe.
posted by gregr at 7:54 PM on November 17, 2012

You might find some good recipes in this thread. I know I did.
posted by patheral at 8:15 PM on November 17, 2012

I will second jeather's suggestion, I've made that cake a few times, but I think the mascarpone frosting is fabulous, and I'd rather skip the praline instead.
posted by tatiana131 at 10:41 PM on November 17, 2012

I have always wanted to make the Exotic Orange Cake from egullet. Here's a photo of what mine would never ever look like. There are lots of beautiful ideas in this thread but being as it is some 193 pages now it might take you through thanksgiving just to go through it.
posted by tinamonster at 1:05 PM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

So many great ideas! I came in to suggest Pavlova, but you'd be a star with most of these choices.
posted by batmonkey at 3:06 PM on November 18, 2012

Don't skip the praline! The praline is (a) the most delicious part and (b) what makes the cake so spectacular looking.
posted by jeather at 6:37 PM on November 18, 2012

This German chocolate cake is the single most complicated thing I have ever baked. It took me half a day, but is absolutely stunning when it's finished: dense and rich and moist and almost-overpoweringly-chocolate-y (you might want to halve or 3/4 the amount of chocolate glaze, since it's so dense that it stops you from eating a full slice) and everything you would ever want in a heavy dessert. If you have any icing piping expertise, it also looks really impressive.
posted by Mayor West at 7:33 AM on November 19, 2012

I also came in to suggest baklava. (Send me some!)
posted by deborah at 5:37 PM on November 19, 2012

What did you make?!
posted by batmonkey at 7:15 PM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

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