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Cheap, easy, really good dessert to bring to a dinner party -- does it exist?

I'm looking for a signature dessert -- something to bring to dinner parties that is really good. The catch: it has to be (reasonably) cheap and easy. Any ideas?

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    1. re: jaykayen

      Ditto on the flan. Make one with cream or half-and-half, and all yolks, and you'll be surprised how many people prefer it to a fancier dessert.

    2. Hi John,

      Cheesecake. Lemon Vanilla is a classic. I can post a recipe if you don't have one.


      1. I always fall back on a really good pound cake. Drizzled with chocolate or lemon glaze, or just plated with fresh berries & a dollop of freshly whipped cream.

        1 Reply
        1. re: tall sarah

          Or turn the pound cake into a trifle...

        2. arroz con leche, or one of any number of rice pudding variations. Use real whole milk [I have used an organic 'amish' milk sold at the local farmer's market], the right kind of rice [soft, plump shorter grains - I think I use arborio, but don't remember!] cane sugar, good, fresh cinnamon, and lime zest [the latin touch that really helps make it]. My stove-top version takes a little care watching and stirring, but well worth the effort. Very cheap, easy, great comfort food dessert. You will remind every lovely latina you meet of their abuela [but in a good way .....]

          1. Either individual pavlovas or one big one. Profiteroles are very inexpensive to make as well. I always recommend Eton Mess which is crushed meringue with fresh fruit (traditionally raspberries) and whipped cream - lots of crunchiness, pillowy clouds of cream and tart fruit. Oh, and drizzle on top with raspberry coulis.

            Panna cotta is another easy inexpensive dessert. Oh, and so is semi-freddo. Both incredibly simple but delicious.

            1 Reply
            1. re: chefathome

              I'd agree with pavlova - so easy and very impressive, not to mention delicious.

            2. "Cheap" and "Easy" are relative terms. But "really good" says only one thing to me:
              Trifle ....
              Here's a beauty that will make you the star of the show:

              1 Reply
              1. re: todao

                That's what I thought of, looks great, tastes great, wish I had some now.

                  1. Homemade chocolate pudding using cocoa, cornstarch and cream. Very nostaligc and good with a nice dollop of freshly whipped cream and a shaking of cocoa..

                    1. A late friend's special pot luck contribution was Orange Bavarian. It was great - I wish I had gotten the recipe.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: greygarious

                        Orange Bavarian Cream (Bavarois a l'orange) is in Mastering the Art, v.1, p.596.

                        1. re: Jay F

                          Thanks - MtAoFC was the type of cookbook this lady would have used so that is very likely the recipe.

                          1. re: greygarious

                            Even if it's not the same, it's really, really good. I used to make it from time to time and people really liked it. Instead of using a mold, I'd make it and serve it in a souffle dish.

                            All this talk, I think I'll make it soon. I've been making panna cotta, so I have gelatin in the house.

                        1. a dessert from costco - they sell excellent desserts at prices I cannot even buy the ingredients for

                          1. Baked apples topped with a streusel & vanilla bean whipped cream...apples are seasonal and relatively inexpensive

                            1. I brought something called Banana Split Cake once and have never topped it from the feedback. It's a layered dessert, not really a cake; nor is there any real ice cream. First layer's a graham or butter cookie crust, followed by the "ice cream" filling made with butter, eggs, vanilla and confectioners sugar. Then, of course, all the toppings - bananas, pineapple, whipped topping or stabilized whipped cream, shaved chocolate, nuts, and a few maraschino cherries for color. Retro but yummy.

                              1. Without time or inclination to make a dessert from scratch, cheap & easy around here means doctored up quality store bought.

                                Any given week you can find a special on pound cake, cheesecake, chocolate cake, cream puffs, puff pastry and with fresh fruit on special or a drizzle of melted quality chips, freshly whipped cream make the "signature" your own.

                                1. I would've thought a tarte tatin with store bought puff pastry. The recipe I use requires a 10" cast iron skillet, but there are so many variations, some recipes don't require it. Very nice with creme fraiche but not needed if you want to keep the cost down.

                                  1. Very casual but definitely signature: Big peanut butter or oatmeal cookies sandwiched with ice cream (assemble at site.) and half-dipped into chocolate coating. And if your supermarket has a day-old or reduced pastry shelf, you can make marvelous bread pudding w/ croissants or half- raisin bread combined with half- cheese danish; bind with custard.

                                    1. Panna cotta. You can dress it up by making them in individual glass containers, add fruit, compote or serve plan. Use different molds, add different flavors. Cream, sugar, vanilla, gelatin.

                                      1. This is more easy than cheap. I have a recipe for a bittersweet chocolate pate with zinfandel. It's made in a loaf pan & then sliced and I usually top w/ a few raspberries. The chocolate is expensive but it is so rich that a small slice is enough.

                                        1. Chocolate pudding. Fast to make and so cheap that you can splurge on "name" chocolate or booze. People love pudding.

                                          1. Pie! You can change the fruit filling with the season, which would keep costs down. Plus you can always ramp up or down the complexity of your filling recipe depending on how much time you have.

                                            1. Apple dumplings. Peel and quarter granny smith apples. Wrap each quarter in a canned crescent roll and place in a large casserole dish. If you're taking to a dinner party, you probably want to get three cans, or 24. Melt two sticks of butter and combine with two cups sugar and 20 ounces Mountain Dew or Mello Yello. Pour this mixture over the top, sprinkle with a little bit of cinnamon, and bake at 350 for 45 minutes. People are always asking for the recipe, and it is so easy, I hate to give it to them!

                                              1. I love guiness chocolate cake(from epicurious and it only has cocoa powder) no icing with whipped cream on the side. It is light, airy and not too sweet and Everyone loves it!