Ta-Da! Desserts Anyone Can Make
These sweets only look like they were created by professionals.
Photo: Christi Farr Johnstone
A Childhood Favorite with the Filling They Never Saw Coming
These ice cream cones don't require a freezer or even a scoop, since they only appear to be piled high with soft-serve. Instead, a small stack of chewy-style chocolate chip cookies piped with store-bought frosting takes their place. These tromp l'oeil treats from Christi Farr Johnstone's book Smart Cookie
also include a chocolate coating, sprinkles and a gumball. They're a snap to create, and if any chocolate runs down the sides of the cones, don't worry; it only makes them look more real.
Get the recipe: We All Scream for Ice Cream Cones
Photo: Liz and Max Haarala Hamilton and Phaidon
The Dark and Dreamy Party on a Plate
It's hard to go wrong with a spice cake; and this one, from What to Bake & How to Bake It
by Jane Hornby, is no exception. Like all great desserts of its kind, it includes molasses, which is one secret weapon for guaranteeing a deliciously dense and sticky cake that keeps very well in an airtight container for at least a week. After it's cooled, you drizzle a two-ingredient lemon glaze on top, and scatter it with chopped crystallized ginger, so it looks a bit like edible streamers and confetti.
Get the recipe: Lemon-Glazed Ginger Cake
An Impressive Transformation for a Grocery-Store Staple
doesn't exactly translate to "fussy," yet we often think of these tiny cakes as involving a significant amount of work. However, there's a surprisingly simple shortcut to making the classic French desserts: You trim the crust off store-bought pound cake; use petit four
(or, cookie) cutters to turn the cake into little diamonds, ovals and squares; drizzle a confectioners'-sugar glaze on top; and, finish with sprinkles.
Get the recipe: Diamonds and Pearls
The Fancy Dessert from the Most Humble Pan
A slightly pudding-like cake, this fruity treat is made in a serious-looking cast-iron or stainless-steel skillet. Despite the sturdy pan, though, the finished dish looks quite elegant, with thin slices of apple or pear fanning out to make a beautiful spiral pattern. The trick is to bake the cake until it's just barely done, because the heat from the pan will continue to cook it after you take it out of the oven. It's especially good warm from the pan with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Get the recipe: Ozark Pudding Cake
The Extravagant, Creamy European Dessert That's Secretly a Snap to Make
Pots de crème—which are basically individually portioned bowls or cups of loose custard with an impressive-sounding name—take just 20 minutes to prepare (plus chilling time). This recipe includes clementine zest, which is a bright complement to the rich chocolate; reserve some and slice it into thin strips for a "wow" garnish. And if you don't have ramekins, just use assorted wine or martini glasses.
Get the recipe: Clementine Pots de Crème