Best WOW dessert recipe
September 29, 2016 8:46 AM   Subscribe

My friends and I are having a friendly dessert-off, where we will bring fancy-ish desserts that we have made. I'm now shorter on time than I thought, what should I make? (more inside)

The party time got moved up to 1pm on Saturday. I will have a couple hours on Friday night and then Saturday morning to pull this together. The dessert should be something with a WOW factor, but hopefully not one that requires several long periods of time to set or that is very temperamental. On the flip side, it can't be a box cake mix poke cake or anything either. I was originally aiming for this salted caramel chocolate tart but am now panicking a little about the caramel being too soft (not terrible) or too hard (bad) per readers' comments and the required time for the caramel and ganache to set. I can't get 8 hours into a recipe to find out I screwed it up because I won't have time for a do-over. One more caveat, nothing frozen since it will have to travel in the car (so no baked Alaska type things).

Impressive, a bit original, not overly time-consuming, delicious. Thanks!
posted by LKWorking to Food & Drink (33 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
So easy you can't believe it, almost impossible to mess up, and looks like a million bucks: Tarte Tatin
posted by Ausamor at 8:49 AM on September 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

I've gotten plenty of WOW reactions when I make Bobby Flay's pineapple upside down cake recipe, which I usually add an extra wrinkle to by making as cupcakes.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:54 AM on September 29, 2016

Make them with goat cheese.
posted by phunniemee at 8:55 AM on September 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Incredibly easy, delicious, and interesting if only because Americans don't tend to have had it before: Banoffee Pie!

Graham cracker crust, layer of dulce de leche, layer of banana, topped with freshly whipped cream, chocolate shavings on top
posted by themadthinker at 8:55 AM on September 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

potato chip cookies.
posted by INFJ at 8:59 AM on September 29, 2016

You may want to check out the answers to a question I asked a while back: A dessert to remember
posted by rachaelfaith at 9:10 AM on September 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I like Eclair cake. Very simple and also very tasty:

Make a box of instant pudding and gently fold in a tub of cool whip.
Melt a stick of butter and half a cup of sugar together and add in two to three tablespoons of cocoa powder.
While stirring heat to a boil for 1 minute then let cool for 5 minutes.
Layer a square dish with a single layer of graham crackers and put half the pudding/coolwhip mix on top.
Add another layer of graham crackers then the rest of the pudding mix.
Add a final layer of graham then thinly spread the chocolate mix over the top.

It is best when left in the fridge overnight, so the graham softens, but can be eaten after only an hours or so wait at room temp.

Essentially something like this:
posted by koolkat at 9:12 AM on September 29, 2016

These brownies are really good.
posted by k5.user at 9:15 AM on September 29, 2016

Omg, this, this, this lemon crêpe layer cake from Jamie Oliver! It looks amazing and unusual, tastes great, and you can choose to take as many or as few shortcuts as you want to do it quickly and change up tastes. Don't want to make the crêpes? Buy them. Want to make the crêpes but not the lemon curd? Buy the lemon curd. Want to make an orange mascarpone filling and not curd? Go for it. Want to use flowers on top instead of candied lemons? Ok.

The only tip I have is to have 1.5x to 2x the amount of crepes on hand in case you want a taller cake.

I've made this for several fancy dinners where I'm visiting and might not have dependable access to baking basics or cooking gear, and it's always a stunner.
posted by cocoagirl at 9:23 AM on September 29, 2016 [12 favorites]

Saltine Toffee Cookies. Freaking amazing.
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:33 AM on September 29, 2016

Easiest, nost delicious dessert in the world -- but only if you like chocolate and whipped cream!

When I make this I leave out the sugar, and just whip the cream and vanilla. I save and crush a few of the wafers and sprinkle crushed wafers on top of the finished log. It always gets rave reviews, and really couldn't be simpler.

Bonus - no baking! It needs to chill in the fridge at least a day, so make it Friday.
posted by Dolley at 10:34 AM on September 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oreo Delight.
It's like the much less complicated little brother of what you were planning on making originally.
posted by and her eyes were wild. at 10:55 AM on September 29, 2016

I like the idea of the salted caramel chocolate tart, but it does look complicated. Here's a proposal for similar but simpler:
Make a Sweetheart Fudge Pie which is one of my favorite recipes, and basically can't go wrong just following the instructions, it's not sensitive.
So take a good pie and add a caramel topping layer (make sure your crust edge is high enough to catch the pool). Make the fancy salted caramel sauce from your other recipe on Friday night, put it in the fridge in a bowl. On Saturday morning, poke at the texture. If it's too firm, warm it up and stir in a tablespoon of cream. If it's too loose, you're kind of screwed, just buy a jar of the best looking caramel sauce you can find, pour it on there. Sprinkle with fleur de sel and pretend you made it from scratch. Also, the density of the caramel sauce can just be the determining factor as to whether you pour on in advance and declare it should be served chilled or that you warm the sauce in the microwave and pour it over on-site for people to eat before it sets up.

posted by aimedwander at 10:57 AM on September 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Lemon posset -- fairly quick to make, it'll set up in the fridge overnight, you won't need to do anything to it in the AM besides maybe adding a tiny bit of grated zest/dusting of vanilla sugar/fresh raspberries.
posted by kmennie at 11:44 AM on September 29, 2016

Frozen (then defrosted) crepes
Chocolate syrup
Cookie butter

Spread the mascarpone, chocolate syrup, and cookie butter in a line down the middle of the crepe(s). (I find it easier to use two.) The amounts are roughly "some." Place the peeled bananas on top.
Roll it up like a long, skinny burrito.
Slice into coins.
posted by meemzi at 12:14 PM on September 29, 2016

Do not underestimate that eclair cake.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 12:17 PM on September 29, 2016

Double chocolate pavlova with mascarpone cream. So fudgy and creamy and delicious! It's fancy enough to look fussy, and the recipe is perfect as written. Just keep the toppings in a separate container for the trip, then assemble on site.
posted by specialagentwebb at 12:18 PM on September 29, 2016 [6 favorites]

The most impressive-looking and decadent-tasting thing I have ever baked is David Lebowitz's German chocolate cake. It looks intimidating because of all the ingredients, but it's really just a chocolate cake in multiple layers, with three types of icing that you alternate. I've put one together in about two hours, discounting baking time. It is obscenely good, and if you can devote a little bit of time to piping your fondant in frilly ways, you will blow everything else out of the water.
posted by Mayor West at 12:24 PM on September 29, 2016

Mousse. It's easy, and you can get insane with flavors.
posted by so fucking future at 12:25 PM on September 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Pavlova is beautiful and super easy, all you really need to do is make meringue and whipped cream.
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:33 PM on September 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

Another idea is panna cotta (David Lebovitz's recipe is straightforward). It's super easy, and you can make all kinds of fun or surprising flavors (I've made horchata, earl grey, and rose). To win the dessert-off with panna cotta, you can go the extra mile on presentation and serve them in something fancy.
posted by cocoagirl at 12:50 PM on September 29, 2016

This triple chocolate mousse cake is beautiful and so, so delicious. I make it for New Year's every year. It's not hard, just a little time-consuming. And it's originally a Cooks Illustrated recipe, so as long as you follow it exactly (no shortcuts or substitutions!) it is guaranteed to work.
posted by sideofwry at 1:55 PM on September 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

Pavlova is impressive and relatively quick. It's a baked meringue filled with homemade whip cream and fresh fruit. When making the whip cream, I would suggest orange flavoring and adding gelatin for stability.
posted by Gneisskate at 2:36 PM on September 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

Does it have to be ready-to-eat when you arrive? Because I have a killer peach cobbler that's dirt-simple to put together, but you really need to bake it on-site for full effect.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:49 PM on September 29, 2016

Nthing pavlova. Nigella Lawson's chocolate pavlova recipe is a go-to for me. Top it with whipped cream, berries, and raspberry sauce. Visually stunning and SO GOOD.
posted by delight at 3:59 PM on September 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

This pear & almond cheesecake torte looks impressive, is absolutely delicious, and surprisingly fast to make.
posted by lizbunny at 4:43 PM on September 29, 2016

It doesn't look all that special, but is WOW tasting: chocolate fondant cake.

I'd make it Friday night, as it's sometimes taken quite a bit longer than the recipe suggests to bake--I think 40 minutes max, though? Whipped cream to serve a must.
posted by snorkmaiden at 5:04 PM on September 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Make Boston cream pie! You can make the pastry cream (I prefer it lightened with whipped cream), ganache, and cake layers the night before -- if you do them all at once, it will only take you about two hours. The next morning you can assemble and decorate.
posted by chickenmagazine at 6:26 PM on September 29, 2016

I've made this chocolate caramel cheesecake about a dozen times, and it always goes over well. I use speculoos for the crumb crust (I think they're called biscoff in the US) instead of chocolate teddy grahams and I double the crust. But I like a lot of crust on cheesecake.
It's not hard to put together, but it does take about an hour or so, plus baking. It's even delicious at room temperature, so you wouldn't have to worry about chilling it if you don't want to.
posted by Karmeliet at 11:45 PM on September 29, 2016

I have found a pavlova to be visually very impressive and freeking delicious to boot. Great way to show off whatever fruit is in season (peaches, maybe?). There are also chocolate pavlovas, which I have made, which was EXTREMELY DELICIOUS. Extremely.

and pavlovas aren't hard or expensive to make. :)

and they aren't something that everyone has had a million times. It has a bit of a novelty factor that will play in your favour.

It would also transport very easily. You could assemble there. Bring the bottom crispy meringue on a cookie sheet or something, and then bring a big container of whipped cream and another container of your fruit. When you arrive, assemble! BAM!

So yes, agreeing with everyone else that said pavlova.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 5:04 AM on September 30, 2016

2nding sideofwry's triple chocolate mousse cake suggestion. A few steps, but not difficult, and so incredibly delicious.
posted by bookworm4125 at 6:12 AM on September 30, 2016

You all are amazing and my mouth is watering with all these ideas. Currently, I'm leaning towards the lemon crepe cake, which satisfies my desire to do something sort of complicated but not too difficult. I think my 8-year-old will bring something too and I am going to push the pavlova idea. Thank you!
posted by LKWorking at 8:42 AM on September 30, 2016

Update: the crepe cake was a huge hit! I ended up using this Martha Stewart recipe. I doubled it, but only needed maybe 1.5 recipes since I ended up with leftovers. Lots of oooos and aahhhs all around and it definitely appeared like it took more time than it actually did. I had 6 egg whites left over, which was perfect for making a chocolate pavlova the next day to take to Rosh Hashanah dinner. Everyone was also very impressed with this, so another great suggestion. Thanks, all!
posted by LKWorking at 8:29 AM on October 4, 2016

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