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HELP a horrible baker for Easter dessert

So I want to make a simple, elegant and most of all delicious dessert for Easter - but I really cannot bake fancy things. I can make decent cookies & brownies from scratch, but other than that I'm SOL.

Please help and give me suggestions on something that I can make that is super impressive but hot horribly difficult. I have NO idea how to make pie crusts / pastry / biscuit dough and I don't have a stand mixer. I have a handheld one though :)

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  1. How about a meringue, that you make overnight in the oven with the oven turned off! All you do is beat egg white - it's so easy. Then top with sliced fresh fruit, like berries, and whipped cream. I'll send a recipe if you're interested or I'm sure there are lots on the internet. It is foolproof.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Susan627

      I've tried this before. I don't know what happened, but they came out a little... chewy. Maybe it was the weather that day. Also, I don't have a piping bag or tips, and I don't think meringue looks great unless I can pipe them down.

      Would definitely try this idea again, just don't want to for the occasion in case I mess it up.

      1. re: jessicatl

        Jessicatl - just FYI, I am super lazy and make it all in a baking pan! Then just cut it like big brownie squares. Usually when I make this I have so much going on I wouldn't want to mess with a pastry bag, etc.

        1. re: Susan627

          Or just pile it up on a piece of parchment in the middle of a baking sheet, hollow out the center like a bowl, bake it, and fill with fresh fruit and whipped cream = Pavlova!

    2. What about a trifle? There are so many variations of them and they're so pretty. You can use a variety of cakes, home made or not, even brownies. The custard is easy to make and nothing beats fresh fruit and strawberries are just coming into season, depending on where you live. I've never done the one w/ brownies, heath toffee bits, pudding and whipped cream but everyone I know who has had it has raved about it. I prefer the traditional strawberries and sponge cake.

      Other easy ones that look good--panna cotta (make individual servings in little glasses, top w/ fruit) or lemon mousse. There's a good one cimui posted here for meyer lemon mascarpone mousse that is excellent.

      6 Replies
      1. re: chowser

        I agree with the trifle idea; it's one of my go to desserts because of the many variations that can be done with it like Chowser said. Another thing I always bring up is Ina Garten's Lime Meringue tart. The pastry is easy to make and everything else is super easy also. Best part of that is that you can make it a day or two ahead.

        1. re: chowser

          Was going to suggest Trifle as well, as it's really not possible to screw it up :-) Maybe use pound cake or angel food cake or even ladyfingers. Sprinkle your cake/cookie selection with Cointreau or Limoncello. Layer in some custard and whatever fruits are fresh near you; Layer layer then finish with whipped cream and shaved white chocolate and mint... You could also do individual ones in parfait glasses.

          1. re: chowser

            ...or Italian trifle... Tiramisu. You don't have to actually bake anything with Trifles, and everyone loves them. Or you could poach some fruit and serve it in pretty bowls with lime sabayon.

            1. re: ChefJune

              Yes, it would bother purists but I think of tiramisu as another type of trifle, just as I do w/ the brownies one. I love the idea of a lime sabayon one. I'll have to try it this summer w/ good fresh fruit. I don't know why it never occurred to me to do a citrus one. Sounds perfect.

              1. re: chowser

                i thought about tiramisu, but for some reason, was thinking kids were involved, and the alcohol taste not being so palatable nor... appropriate... but a great idea if kids aren't involved :-)

              2. re: ChefJune

                I like the poached fruit idea. I have a poached pear recipe from Chocolatier magazine that is really great. You combine white wine, sugar and water, bring to a simmer, then add peeled, cored Bosc pears, and poach them till they are tender. Serve with chocolate sauce (chocolate and whipping cream) - you gotta have chocolate at Easter. The original recipe is complicated, using chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, and mascarpone sauce, but I keep it simple.

                I hear that the poaching liquid can be later used to make a sorbet.

            2. Do you have a microwave to melt chocolate or a double boiler or a bowl you can set in simmering water? If so, make oreo truffles (google it...) but roll them into egg shapes rather than balls. When the chocolate is dry, pipe on some store bought decorative icings, etc and you've got cute little truffle eggs. adam

              1. How about dipping things in chocolate? Strawberry, pretzels, dried fruit, cookies, marshmallows.
                I would totally dip Peeps for Easter. :)

                1 Reply
                1. re: funniduck

                  Too late! THere are chocolate-covered peeps available this year.

                2. I was going to suggest this tart:

                  You can press the dough into muffin tins to make small tarts, or even cook it in a pie pan. We liked it equally well without the port glaze, so you could leave that out, too.

                  Although, when I saw the suggestions for trifle I thought shoot! That's a better (or maybe I should say *easier*) idea! My mom would layer store-bought angel food cake with berries and vanilla pudding--always a hit in the spring!

                  1. For me it would be:

                    1) a layered carrot cake with pineapple on a cake stand edged in toasted pecans or macadamia. Bunnies and carrots what can I say.

                    2) Strawberry shortcake using the biscuit/scone and lovely whipped heavy cream.

                    3) Parfaits with fresh berries. I would probably use the filling for my moms refrigerator cheese cake ( 8oz cream cheese (softened) + 1 can sweet and condensed milk + 1/3C fresh lemon juice *or* 1/4C bottled + 1tsp vanilla, blended) layered with whatever cake or cookie or shortbread. My mother pours the filling into a pre-made pie crust and tops it most often with sliced strawberries or other berry drizzled with warmed jam, then refrigerated for at least four hours. It's so good, and dead easy. A tart with this filling and spiraled fruit would be lovely too.

                    1. If you can make brownies, you can probably make lemon squares which would be delicious served with fresh berries. Or, riffing on the meringue theme, you can probably find a bakery that sells meringue shells, and you can fill them with fresh berries (do this just before serving), and top with a dollop whipped cream.

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: roxlet

                        Okay, I think I might do this.


                        Is there a way to tell how my crust turned out before making my filling?!?!

                        1. re: jessicatl

                          I am currently obsessed with this recipe:


                          You can sub some blood orange juice for part of the lime, if you like. They look SO good.

                          1. re: ChristinaMason

                            I made the bars, and they are excellent. Like a key-lime pie tart. Put the crust in a 9" tart or springform pan, and it looks really elegant.

                            1. re: ChristinaMason

                              When changing the recipe to fit in to springform pan instead of 8 x 8 pan, would the baking time change?

                              1. re: shaebones

                                Not really. I think my oven is a little on the cool side, and it took about 18 or 19 minutes. Here's a full-write up the changes: http://culinspiration.wordpress.com/2...

                              2. re: ChristinaMason

                                Hey CM, would this dessert freeze well? Plan to make it in a spring form pan.

                                1. re: shaebones

                                  I haven't tried it, but I'd wager it would be OK, based on this recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/in...

                                  However, hers calls for many more egg yolks. I guess just give it a try and see?

                            2. re: jessicatl

                              I've made a number of lemon squares and bar cookies with a similar crust. I'd say this one (your LA Times link) is a pretty forgiving one, and any errors will be covered up by the filling.

                              It's a good pick...let us know how it comes out!

                              1. re: allgimbel

                                If you are going to make lemon squares make them tonight first to see how they turn out. My first time I screwed up the base and they were all crumbly. That would be so sad at easter to have crumbly bars.

                                I'm all over the trifle idea - I think its brilliant

                                Also I would consider key lime pie: store bought crust, sw con milk, eggs, lime juice and lime zest. Easy peasy.

                          2. I quintuple the trifle idea. I make mine with nice lady fingers from a bakery for the out side of the dish, then line it with thin layers of sara lee pound cake, whipped cream (not too sweet), custard with some preserves mixed with fresh berries. I have also drizzled rasberry liquor over it. The top layer should be whipped cream. It's kind of fun, because it's not to hard to do and you can be a bit creative.The idea is to accentuate the berries.

                            1. Howdy, experienced baker here :)
                              Don't stress about dessert. If you can brownies and cookies, you can make most any type of cake without breaking a sweat. Baking is just like a science experiment: make sure you follow the instructions carefully and you're pretty much guaranteed to get a good result.
                              A very 'grownup' dessert is a chocolate stout cake since it's rich without being overly sweet
                              http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo... (Check the number of reviews on this recipe, people love it
                              )Don't bother with the melting butter in the saucepan over simmering water - just do it in the microwave, and then add the stout and cocoa.
                              Could not get easier. I've made it before by forgoing the frosting and dumping a dark chocolate ganache over the top and it was incredible.
                              Don't diss your baking skills!

                              1. Limoncello tiramisu? Buy the ladyfingers, mix together the others parts, and layer together. :)

                                Raspberry-orange trifle? http://www.foodnetwork.com/videos/ras...

                                1. How about taking a ring mold and filling it with little scoops of different quality ice creams and sorbets. Like a really good vanilla, an orange and a lemon. Things that would go together flavorwise and look good together. Unmold just before dessert (dip in hot water briefly to warm). Fill the center with cut fruit, garnish with some mint. Serve with some nice cookies on the side, like a lemon cookie or something.

                                  I did something like this one really hot summer day when having people over and my plans for baking were derailed because of the heat. It looked really dramatic and springy and was really good.

                                  1. What about a lemon panna cotta with berries? You can't get much more spring than that. On the side, you can serve them with sugar cookies with lemon zest and a lemon icing.

                                    1. Tongue in cheek - You KNOW you want to do this dessert!


                                      It is really springy!

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. If you can make chocolate mousse, you can make this icebox cake. Fits the bill for the elegant/delicious requirements. http://leitesculinaria.com/21414/reci...

                                        1. You have had some great suggestions. I do cheesecake, strawberry shortcake and lemon squares every year or some conbination of two. Fresh strawberries go with all of them. Cheesecake and lemon squares are foolproof and the cake part of strawberry shortcake can also be poundcake rather than a biscuit.

                                          1. This Ina Garten couer a la creme recipe only requires mixing, then draining over night. It is delicious.

                                            1. David Lebovitz's chocolate idiot cake. Really. Add whipped cream and raspberries, and you're home free!

                                              1. A nice bread pudding -- let someone else do the heavy lifting of baking for you! You can top it with a meringue (think lemon meringue pie) and it's gorgeous.

                                                savour fare

                                                1. I am always recommending the Lemon Grove Cake -- delicious any time of year but it's our standard go-to Easter dessert.

                                                  It's easy. It's delicious. And if you use an interesting bundt pan it's extremely pretty. This year I cut these rabbits from paper to surround the cake under a dome. In the past I've filled the center with fresh raspberries at the last moment or placed the pale yellow cake on shiny dark lemon leaves or placed it on a wreath of candied lemon slices. It's just a sort of simple elegant.

                                                  You probably have all the ingredients on hand and there's still plenty of time to do one. The lemon flavor screams Spring. It can be made well ahead and improves over a couple days. And I don't think there's anything easier to bake. If you can do brownies, you can do a Lemon Grove!

                                                  Here's the recipe: http://www.paideiaschool.org/data/fil...

                                                  Here's the template for the rabbit chain: http://images.marthastewart.com/image...

                                                  Here's a pic of my cake for this year (sorry my photography sucks): http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2690/4...

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: rainey

                                                    I made this and completely love it. Great recipe. It's amazing to see how well it rises with only 1/2 tsp of baking soda in it (Shirley Corriher's remarks on its high leavening power are proved once again). I didn't have enough confectioner's sugar so I buzzed granulated in the FP to a powder - the icing is still gritty but somehow it emphasizes the lemon taste. (I like the grittiness of granulated sugar on berrries, it might not be to everyone's taste in an icing.)

                                                    1. re: buttertart

                                                      My husband has been enjoying this with frozen sour cherries from last summer. What a combo. I quite often give parts of big cakes to our neighbors but when I suggested it he said "let's wait and see" (i.e. no, I want the rest of it). I gave a piece to our French trainee at work this morning and he loves it too. Great recipe!

                                                      1. re: buttertart

                                                        So glad you guys tried it and are enjoying it. Sometimes simple things are tne best, no?

                                                        1. re: rainey

                                                          Yep, I've been making a very basic yogurt cake I got the recipe for out of the SF Chronicle in maybe 1975 ever since then. It's very plain but scrummy (and can be jazzed up with different flavorings but is best plain vanilla).

                                                  2. Forgot to say I am also making a pyramid of the frozen French macarons from Trader Joe's. Affordable. Really quite good and likely something all your guests won't already be saturated with.

                                                    1. Trifle is one of your best things to not screw up and its so decorative and damn good!
                                                      I use angel food cake or pound cake and layer it with vanilla pudding, fresh blueberries, blackberries and strawberries, and then top when ready to serve with freshly made whip cream.
                                                      I made a killer Grilled Pineapple with vanilla pudding and pound cake layered in a trifle dish that was a HUGE hit!
                                                      The pineapple cooked on the grill was so sweet and carmelized..
                                                      Banana creme pie is another out of the park home run that is easy peasy..
                                                      Happy Easter Jessica!

                                                      1. You could just bake your favorite brownies in a small springform or extremely well-greased and papered tall cake pan. Put some sort of topping on it (ganache glaze, caramel and a sprinkle of nuts, a layer of chocolate mousse, etc.) Put it on a cake stand, cut it in wedges, and call it chocolate torte. Serve a little whipped cream on the side.

                                                        i did that last week because I needed to make brownies for an event but also needed a dessert for a dinner guests. double batch!

                                                        1. Recommend the strawberry mascarpone tart from epicurious.com. Only the tart shell has to be baked....its similar to a cookie crust and did not require the use of an electric mixer. The filling has only a few ingredients and can be mixed/blended by hand as well...this was an impressive looking dessert that was simple to make and my guests loved it!