You may argue that desserts aren’t necessarily frugal or good for you. I’ll argue that sometimes you need a little something to feed the soul as well as the body. I’ll be adding to my collection of family favorites over time.
Brownies & Bars
Blueberry Custard Pie Bars: I had something like this years ago and have never forgotten them – here’s a lovely version of this classic, built on a short bread crust. Creamy and delish!
Chocolate Chip Double Decker Brownies: The best of both worlds, rich chocolate chip batter on the top and a fudgy, chocolate brownie on the bottom~very sweet, very good!
Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars: Rich little bars of caremelly cheesecake topped with Dulce de Leche and a sprinkle of Fleur de Sel to sparkle them up. Quicker than cheesecake with a shorter cooling time.
Healthy Energy Bars: Appalled at the additive filled, calorie ridden and awful tasting bars available, I came up with these – you won’t even know they’re good for you.
Hershey’s Ultimate Double Chocolate Brownie: Deep, dark chocolate, with or without additional chocolate chunks. They make up what they lack in looks by their intensely chocolate taste.
Shortbread Crust: You’ll find all kinds of ways to use this perfectly moist, perfectly sturdy short bread crust for a 9 x 13 pan. Lemon Bars nor maybe my Blueberry Pie bar!
Aunt Mary’s Angel Food Cake: Simply sublime, this is the cake that transformed me into an Angel Food lover. Light, gorgeous, ethereal – and luscious all at the same time.
Applesauce Cupcakes, My Grandmother’s: When I remade this old family recipe, I wondered if they were as good as I remembered. They are: moist, delish, substantial. Frosting optional.
Apple Cake with Rum Sauce: My Grand Mother’s recipe, like a Sticky Toffee Pudding, the top is a little crunchy, the inside moist, dense. The sauce soaks into the top and pools on the plate.
Apple Pie Cake. Irish: A quick, simple cake formed from one batter. The bottom is cake like, the middle is moist and the top is like a sweet pie crust or cobbler. Serve with a caramel or custard sauce.
Banana Sheet Cake: A sheet cake has a charm of its own, but even better, this old-fashioned Banana cake has the perfect proportion of cake to frosting! Moist, Delicious. Sublime!
Basic Betty Crocker White Cake: While I don’t think it quite stands on it’s own, it’s fast, easy, sturdy and cheap – and the perfect foil to be dressed up for trifle or Boston Cream.
Buche de Noel: A showstopper of a dessert for the Holiday season, this is white chocolate mousse wrapped in a dark chocolate cake accented by truffles and meringue mushrooms.
Black Bottom Cupcakes: Easy, but they taste like a dream. I love that this recipe makes 18 – a dozen to take to an event and a few for home! Wait – maybe that should be all of them for home…
Boston Cream Pie: A childhood fave all grown up. Layers of cake and custard! Seriously, look at that Pastry Cream! Look at that Ganache Icing. There’s really no need to say anything more.
Cafe Latte’s Turtle Cake: Three layers of extravagance – Cake, Ganache & Caramel topped off with pecans. It looks a bit of a mess but if you’re a chocolate lover like me, you’ll go wild!
Classic Yellow Cupcakes: An adaptation of an Ina Garten Cupcake I pulled this recipe from a blogger who baked a whole slew of yellow cupcakes to get the best. And I concur! Perfect dome & crumb.
Chocolate Banana Bundt Cake: Dreamed up for fall, adapted from Bon Appetit, this bundt cake has the classic cream cheese tunnel & an out of this world banana chocolate flavor – and a few surprises.
Chocolate Cake, My Mother’s: A light, airy and beautiful cake, this was originally published in 1959 McCalls. Our family has made it ever since! Frost with Ermine Frosting.
Coconut Tres Leches Cake: This creamy, dreamy cake is accompanied by carmelized bananas and has a definite island flair with the coconut. Make ahead – seriously – two or three days. It just gets better!
Guinness Cake: An easy recipe, adapted from Nigella Lawson, this is one tasty cake. The stout gives it a certain “sumpin” and the cloud of whipped cream cheese frosting sets it all off.
Inner Sanctum Flourless Chocolate Cake: Don’t let the looks of this cake deceive you – this is by far one of the most decadent (and easy) chocolate cakes you’ll ever make. This is our family’s go to cake.
Molten Lava Cake: If you think this recipe has been overdone, you’ll change your mind when you have a bite. These have a small ball of chocolate ganache tucked inside. Guaranteed ooze!
Old Fashioned Texas Sheet Cake: You know this cake, a classic! Sturdy enough to pick up and eat out of hand, this is the cake you want to tote for a party, a potluck, a picnic! It’s easy, quick and absolutely charming!
Orange Apricot Snack Cake: The description just doesn’t give justice to this little cake packed with flavor – the texture is gorgeous, the apricots turn into a jammy goodness.
Rhubarb Pistachio Cake: This is a gorgeous cake; the pistachios are ground and mixed in, the rhubarb sprinkled over the top and it’s served with a creamy yogurt rhubarb topping.
S’more’s Cupcakes: An extravaganza of a cupcake with a graham cracker crust, truffle filling all topped off with a toasted Swiss Meringue topping. Don’t forget to add the cute little Hershey’s section!
Spider Cake – A delicious corn bread with a creamy custard center, great as a savory bread on a special occasion, but its slight sweetness lends itself well to a brunch dish or even a casual dessert.
Wayside Inn Carrot Cake: This especially fine textured cake uses a carrot that is almost a puree; a favorite of the family, passed to me by my stepmom – everyone will rave!
Classic Coffee Cake: The coffee cake of my dreams (and yours, too?) It has an amazing amount of crumb topping over a gorgeous cake – and the crumbs are well behaved! Yes, they stay on!
Rhubarb Streusel Coffee Cake with Vanilla Sauce: A rather dainty cake that packs a serious flavor punch, the creamy sauce sets it up beautifully. I like serving this one for a brunch or a shower.
Sour Cream Rhubarb Coffee Cake: This is a family fave for sure! Moist, fluffy with a vanilla streusel topping. It’s out of this world delicious! Super easy recipe, I’m sure it will be a fave at your house, too.
Almond Praline: A small amount as a component of my Roasted Pears, double or triple for a wonderful take on a brittle. Super easy and no thermometer needed, this would make a wonderful gift.
Candied Citrus Peel: Lemon makes some of the most gorgeous decorations, orange is wonderful dipped in chocolate but almost any flavor can be eaten as candy or chopped and added to desserts.
Candied Pecans: While these were originally posted as a salad “add-in” they deserve a place here in desserts. Center one in each square of a bar or brownie, or along the border of a cake.
Chocolate Truffles: These easy, old-fashioned truffles are rolled in cocoa or powdered sugar so there’s no fussiness, just pure chocolate. I use these on Buche de Noel, but they’re just good anytime.
Chocolate Truffles, Rustic: A little booze adds a ton of flavor and the bit of corn syrup in the ganache adds a bit of sweet magic. Then the ganache is whipped before being piped and dipped.
English Toffee, Aunt Ginny’s: Toffee is so simple and an absolutely delicious crunchy, buttery and chocolate covered treat. Minutes to make, if you’ve never tried it home-made, you’re missing out!
Cheesecake, Toffee Caramel: With variations to design your own flavor combos! I’m sending you off to Go Bake Yourself to my guest post there! While you’re there, check out Uru’s blog!
Black & White Biscotti: Half chocolate, half vanilla…Biscotti are frugal by nature, but so delicious. They’re perfect for someone who wants just a bit of something sweet. They make a great gift!
Classic Tea Cookies: These are very simple short bread cookies, sometimes known as “Thumb-Print” cookies. Fill with Jam, Jelly or an assortment of other fillings of your choice. A family favorite & fun to make.
Date Pinwheels: My Grandmother’s recipe for these old-fashioned ice-box cookies, these taste just as I remember (and just as they should, imho!) They make a lot so it’s perfect for the holidays.
Molasses Spice Cookies: The texture is incredible; a little crispness on the outside, soft and fragrant in, these are the best I’ve ever had – beautifully spiced and addictive, it’s a good thing they make a lot!
Crêpes: A fantastic recipe for this basic building block to so many dishes, make them sweet or savory. Easier than you’d think to make, considering all the mystique around them. They freeze beautifully.
Austrian Crepes with Apricot Caramel Sauce: This is simply a showstopper of a dessert, absolutely fantastic. Filled crepes stacked and bakes with custard, the Caramel Sauce puts if over the top.
Crisps, Cobblers & Fruits
Apple Crisp, Dulce de Leche & Streusel: A step up from the classic Apple Crisp and just as easy, but with a few twists and a little surprise or two! Portable, too, if you’d like to sneak one away.
Bosc Pears with Balsamic Reduction: Here’s a dessert one doesn’t have to feel too guilty about! Use the best Balsamic and you won’t be disappointed – but good even with a grocery store one.
Fruit Crisp, any kind: While apple is the classic, crisps can be made with many fruits and berries. Change it up with the seasons and enjoy this homey, simple pleasure more often.
Grilled Plums with Mascarpone & Balsamic Gastrique: Very unusual and just a whisper of sweet. You’d never guess how easy these classy little plums are to make. Shortcut the gastrique by using honey instead.
Roasted Pears with Lemon Cream & Maple Caramel Syrup: This is a showstopper of a dessert, but can easily be broken down into make ahead components – Make it, just make it I tell you!!
Custards, Puddings & Souffles
Best Home-Made Chocolate Pudding: Rich, silky, very chocolately – comfort food! If you don’t love pudding, perhaps you’ve never tried home-made? Simply a world of difference.
Bananas Foster Bread Pudding: Slightly adapted from a New York Times Recipe, you’ll love this combo of two cherished desserts. The sauce alone will send you! Be sure to try a Banana Rum…
Chocolate Pots de Creme: These little custard like puddings are extremely rich and a perfect ending to an elegant meal. Just don’t tell anyone how easy this blender recipe is.
Chocolate Souffles – Individual: What every you call them, these light, airy chocolate souffles with an ooey, gooey center are always a perfect dessert! These freeze beautifully to be baked later.
Cranberry Bread Pudding: Lifted off of Emeril; after all, who knows bread pudding better than a New Orlean’s Chef. Easy and startling delicious. Serve warm or cool, just serve it!
Irish Bread & Butter Pudding: A homey, simple dish with a long history, this is different from the New Orleans’ style. Serve as is or with a sauce. Great use of stale bread.
Lemon Curd: A beautiful curd to use as a filling, part of a dessert or a spread on English Muffins, Scones or Shortbread. Adapted from Martha Stewart, this is a keeper!
Lemon Curd Mousse Cake: A special occasion dessert for sure, this is one impressive spring extravaganza. I make it every year at Easter. Light, airy, sweet & tart it is a fave & well worth the work.
Polenta Budino with Plum Marmelatta: I almost passed this by and am so glad I didn’t. This is a must make – sweet, creamy Italian pudding topped by a jammy plum sauce.
White Chocolate Bread Pudding with Amaretto White Chocolate Sauce: Seriously, you’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven! Easy & make ahead, this is absolutely divine!
Cracked Black Pepper & Honeydew Sorbet: Make as a sorbet or popsicles, this guilt free treat is perfect all summer. Easy to make. Pepper may sound strange but cuts the sweet & dances off the tongue!
Frozen Lemonade Pie: Four store-bought ingredients – this pie doesn’t seem like it should taste so very good. Set aside any food snobbiness and just go for it! So simple and so delish!
Frozen Lemon Meringue Cake: If there was ever a better dessert for a summer party, I don’t know what it could be. Layers of ice-cream, lemon curd & meringue are delish and showy.
Lemon Buttermilk Popsicles: Long a family favorite, this little recipe makes the creamiest, dreamiest popsicle with only four ingredients. The thyme is more suited for adults, so leave it out if you’re in doubt.
Frostings & Fillings
Bailey’s Irish Cream Buttercream: A substantial amount of Bailey’s goes into the rich chocolate ganache that is the base for this buttercream. Rich, creamy and absolutely scrumptious!
Cream Cheese Frosting: From Ina Garten, this lovely, creamy, dreamy frosting has just the right consistency to top cupcakes or cakes. 4 ingredients, it couldn’t be simpler when done right.
Ermine or Boiled Frosting: This is an old fashioned buttercream with a bit of flour in the base. Not as sweet as some frostings, it’s creamy and delish. Use it wherever you might use cream cheese frosting.
Mock Mascarpone Filling: When you can’t use real Mascarpone, this recipe comes close. It whips up beautifully; such a nice change and so much more luscious than whipped cream.
Swiss Meringue Frosting: This is the silkiest, airiest frosting perfect for my S’more Cupcakes but would be beautiful, too, on Angel Food or another dessert. The whites are cooked so you know it’s safe.
Eton Mess: First you bake the Meringue Nests or any other meringue, then you break it up and go to town with whipped cream (or yogurt) & berries, just like at Oxford. I can’t wait for dessert!
Meringue Nests: These little meringues are ideal for filling with berries or other little treats. A lemon or other curd make idea pairings – one uses the whites the other yolks. Easy to make, they do need time.F
Pies & Tarts
Blind Bake a Pie Crust: A rather utilitarian method for a dessert post, this method is one I use always to blind bake with beautiful results. Use it to partially bake for a custard pie or fully bake for cream.
French Silk Pie: My son’s most requested birthday dessert isn’t a cake and with good reason! The chocolate flavor is superb in this light, fluffy, airy dessert. It literally melts in your mouth!
Lemon Meringue Pie: An absolute classic, this Cook’s Illustrated recipe is perfect every time! Best of all, improved directions (by moi) help walk you through it with ease. Better than Mom’s, better than mine!
My Grandmother’s Pie Crust: Probably at least 100 years old, this has a bit of a shortbread feel, likely due to the egg. Beautifully flaky and tasty. Shown with Sour Cream Raisin Pie.
Pumpkin Pie: Classic American, this is a lovely pie by Pam Anderson – the custard is light and silky, the flavor lets the pumpkin shine through. No soggy crust here, either; your guests will take notice.
Old-Fashioned Sour Cream Raisin Pie: I know, right? But this is SO much better than it sounds. An amazing regional specialty, you’ll just have to try it to believe it.
Cream Puffs with Mascarpone Filling & Blueberry Compote: This easy and versatile dessert will just blow you away! Frugal by nature, easy to make and can be made mostly ahead. Gourmet on a budget!
Apricot Caramel Sauce: Developed for the crepes, below, this is a wonderful sauce, almost like a preserve. You might find yourself making this as a special touch to all kinds of dishes.
Butterscotch Sauce: Here I’ve culled two of my favorites, one a bit easier, the other more traditional, both simply delicious. Very close to a Caramel Sauce and using most of the same ingredients.
Custard Sauce: Known also as Creme Anglaise this rich, vanilla sauce is beautiful with chocolate or fruit desserts. Thick enough to nap and then pool, it makes a dessert!
Intensely Chocolate Syrup: Beautifully dark, sweet without being overwhelming, this is a wonderful dessert sauce. It also makes a wonderful chocolate milk or hot chocolate. Make it in minutes.
Rum, Whiskey or Vanilla Sauce: This rich, shiny sauce may be flavored any number of ways, alcoholic or not. Dried fruit may be added, too. How about Rum Raisin? Serve over desserts, pancakes or ice-cream.
Salted Caramel Sauce: Shown here on my Toffee Caramel Cheesecake, we keep on eating up every time I make it before I can get a “proper” photo on it’s own! Easy and Fool-proof.
Sour Cherry Compote: A little tart and not too sweet, this Sour Cherry Compote will make you rethink what Cherries are all about. Not only is this a fantastic dessert sauce, it is tart enough to go savory.
Shortcakes, Scones & Sweet Breads
Classic Banana Bread: I cannot tell you how many recipes I’ve made over the years until I settled on this one. It’s perfect in every way. Add a touch of Rum instead of vanilla to enhance the banana.
Pumpkin Bread: This is my Grandmother’s Pumpkin Bread, easy, simple and perfect, but sometimes we dress it up with a bit of sauce and a dab of whipped cream. Recipe makes two loaves, 1 to keep, 1 to give.
Dried Cranberry & Tea Infused Scones: These are really some of my favorite scones – they’re moist and delish and the tea adds just a faint sumpin’ flavor. They’ve stood the test of time at my house!
Shortcakes: These are simply lovely, almost a scone and close in taste to a “cream biscuit.” Do not confuse these with some Bisquick drop biscuit. These are absolutely divine.
Three Berry Shortcakes: This is our tried and true dessert for Independence Day…not only are they the perfect over the top dessert for a summer party, they are a festive red, white and blue.
Shakes & Malts
California Date Shake: These sound strange, I know, but they’ll rock your world. Dates & Pecans form the flavor base, boosted by ice-cream. You won’t even miss the chocolate!
Mascarpone Cheese: Who knew it was so easy to make your own? Seriously minutes hands on; just plan for overnight to strain it. Used in any number of recipes, it shines in desserts.
Miracle Goop Pan Release: Simplify your baking and avoid all those expensive sprays and concoctions and never have to grease and flour again! This truly is a small miracle.
Dulce de Leche in the Crockpot: Whether you use jars or just make in the can, this overnight crockpot method using condensed milk is really set it and forget it. Rich & creamy and absolutely decadent.