We were invited to a dinner with some of TheRoomDad’s coworkers, and TheRoomDad offered to bring dessert. That is code for, “My wife will make something.” My first thought was to bring Banana Peanut Ice Cream Sundaes. The sundaes are always a crowd pleaser, and it is easy to assemble the dessert on site. Then, I remembered another group dessert recipe that my mom served when we were all visiting her awhile back.
I abandoned the ice cream sundae idea and decided to make a Cranberry Ice Box Dessert. It is made ahead of time and sits in the refrigerator overnight before serving. It works well for a crowd, and the flavor is a little different from the desserts I might typically have at a dinner party (no chocolate). The dinner guests loved it, and I had requests for the recipe, so here it is.
2 c. chopped fresh cranberries
1 large banana, diced
2/3 c. sugar
2 c. crushed vanilla wafers
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. confectioners’ sugar
1/2 c. chopped walnuts (or chopped pecans– or a combination)
1 c. heavy whipping cream, whipped
Mix together cranberries, banana, and sugar in a small bowl. Set aside.
Place 1/2 to 2/3 of the crushed wafers in the bottom of an 8″ x 8″ x 2″ pan.
Cream butter and confectioners’ sugar together and beat well.
Spread the butter mixture over the crumbs. This step is tricky! The crumbs move as you try to spread the frosting-like mixture. I drop little dabs around the pan and then use a spatula and my fingers to gently spread as evenly as possible. the crumbs will mix into the butter mixture a little.
Top the cookie crumb and butter spread with the cranberry and bananas mixture. Sprinkle the nuts over the fruit layer.
Spread the whipped cream over the fruit and nuts. Cover the whipped cream with the remaining cookie crumbs (and maybe a few more chopped nuts).
Chill in the refrigerator overnight or at least 8 hours.
It is hard to find fresh cranberries at the grocery store if it is not Thanksgiving. I bought a 10 oz. bag of frozen cranberries from the frozen fruit section at my grocery store. I chopped the cranberries in my Cuisinart after letting them thaw most of the way.
If you want to use a 9″ x 12″ dish, up the ingredient amounts a little. I needed the larger size for our group last night. I used the entire 10 oz. bag of cranberries, 2 medium bananas, 1 whole box Nilla wafers, a few extra tablespoons butter and ~1/3 c. more powdered sugar, 2/3 c. chopped nuts, and 2 c. whipping cream.
It was TheRoomDad’s birthday this weekend, and there were many little opinions about the birthday dessert he should have. TheRoomDad typically does not go old school like I do and want a yellow cake from the grocery store with butter cream frosting (my favorite birthday cake). So, I made the executive decision to serve strawberry shortcake. TheRoomDad loves fruit desserts, and we all thought this particular version of strawberry shortcake was delicious.
1/4 c. sugar
2 c. flour (plus more for rolling out dough)
1 T. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
6 T. cold butter cut into small pieces
1 large egg
1/2 c. plus 3 T. heavy cream (plus more cream for serving)
1 large egg yolk
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine 1/4 c. sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt. Use a fork (or a pastry cutter) to cut in butter until the dry ingredients resemble coarse meal.
Whisk together egg and 1/2 c. plus 2 T. heavy cream in a separate bowl. Slowly add the liquid to the dry ingredients. Mix with a fork until the dough comes together.
Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface. Pat the dough into a 6-in. square, 1-in. thick. Cut 4 rounds using a 2 1/2 in. cookie cutter. Place shortcakes on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Whisk together egg yolk and 1 T. cream in a small bowl; brush over the tops of the biscuits.
Bake until golden brown, ~25 minutes. Remove from the cookie sheet immediately and cool on a wire rack for ~15 minutes.
Cut ~16 oz. of strawberries (the standard container size, about 2 cups) into quarters/bite sized pieces and put in a bowl.
Top with 3 T. fresh lemon juice and 1/4 c. sugar. Stir gently without crushing the strawberries.
Let stand about 1 hour.
Cut shortcake biscuits in half like a hamburger bun.
Place biscuit halves in the bottom of a bowl. Top with sweetened strawberries making sure to get a little strawberry juice on there too.
Drizzle heavy cream over the top.
You can serve the shortcake with whipped cream rather than the liquid heavy cream.
Use a glass with a thin rim to cut the biscuits if you do not have a round cookie cutter.
Trying not to overknead the shortcake dough, keep reshaping leftover dough and cutting more biscuits until the dough is used. The final biscuit can be formed by hand rather than using a cutter.
The first time I made chocolate sheet cake for TheRoomDad, I brought it with us to tailgate at a college football game. When TheRoomDad’s friend took his first bite, his knees got weak. Since that tasting, I have shared the cake at many group events. Last year, I brought the cake to the retirement party of the beloved receptionist at our school. I originally baked a glazed lemon cake for the event, but this happened.
So, I baked the chocolate sheet cake as a back up. People again had to grab onto something for support after the first bite hit their lips. It’s that good. There are many recipes available for chocolate sheet cake. I checked. The Pioneer Woman has a no-fail version that uses butter. My recipe uses margarine. You may also see versions of something called Texas sheet cake that are basically the same thing. I have not compared the recipe I currently use to the one my mom always used, but I am sure they would be close– fudgy cake, frosting that absorbs into the top layer while the cake is hot, a little pecan crunch to balance the moistness of the cake. Heaven. We had friends join us for Easter dinner last weekend, and I dusted off the recipe and served a slice of sheet cake to everyone with a scoop of vanilla or coffee ice cream. It did not disappoint.
2 c. flour
4 T. cocoa
1 t. baking soda
1 c. water
1 c. margarine (2 sticks)
1 t. vanilla
1/2 c. buttermilk
2 c. granulated sugar
Sift together flour, sugar, and baking soda in a large mixing bowl.
Boil water, margarine, and cocoa until melted stirring to combine. Pour the liquid over the dry ingredients and mix well.
Add buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla. Mix well.
Place in a greased 10 x 15 in. sheet cake pan and bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes.
Prepare frosting while the cake is baking and pour the frosting over the cake while it is hot (important!).
1/2 c. margarine (1 stick)
6 T. buttermilk
4 T. cocoa
1 t. vanilla
1 c. chopped pecans
1 (1-lb) box powdered sugar
Bring margarine, buttermilk, and cocoa to a boil in a medium pan.
Add vanilla, nuts, and sifted powdered sugar. Mix well. It will seem to dry at first but keep mixing.
Pour over the hot cake. Gently spread close to the edges with a spatula. The heat of the cake will help the frosting spread to the edges.
Last weekend, Mr. Star Wars had his fall camping trip for Boy Scouts. TheRoomDad happened to have his annual guy golf trip planned for the same date (coincidence? perhaps not). I agreed to take Mr. Star Wars to the campout in TheRoomDad’s stead. Little did I know that the temperatures would drop to 37 degrees, and while that is not extreme cold for many parts of the country, it is arctic for us. We live in South Carolina y’all. I barely own mittens.
Mr. Star Wars and I negotiated a deal. We would spend the day at the campout and leave after dinner. Or more specifically, we would leave after dessert. Why dessert? The lure of the Dump Cake. What is Dump Cake? A fruit and boxed cake concoction that is the highlight of every campout (according to Mr. Star Wars). Basically, it is a poor man’s fruit crumble. By the time the sun went down, Mr. Star Wars eagerly accepted my offer to stop at the grocery store to purchase ingredients and make a Dump Cake just for us at home.
We opted for cherry and pineapple, but Mr. Star Wars did briefly consider a blueberry and peach combination. You can choose almost any fruit combination. I am including the recipe we used, but you can substitute any can of fruit pie filling and any can of chopped fruit of the same amounts.
21-oz. can cherry pie filling
15-oz. can crushed pineapple, undrained
1 box white cake mix (or yellow cake mix)
3/4 c. butter (12 T.)
vanilla ice cream to top (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Dump the cherry pie filling and crushed pineapple in a 9 x 13 in. baking dish and gently stir fruit together.
Sprinkle the cake mix evenly on top of the fruit and make sure it covers the fruit completely.
Sprinkle slices of butter on top of the cake mix.
Bake for 1 hour or until the top is golden and bubbly.
Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.
For those of you anticipating the arrival of many family members for Thanksgiving, you might want this recipe in your back pocket as a back up dessert plan. I am pretty sure it is fail proof. Have a great holiday!
First of all, let’s just clarify that this recipe is not for a real salad. It is for a dessert. It is called a salad in the sense that Jell-O with fruit or nut bits mixed in is known as a Jell-O salad, gelatin salad, or congealed salad (that name gives me the “no” feeling).
My grandmother had a whole box of these gelatin salad recipes. Some of the combinations made no sense to me like grated onion in lime Jell-O with a tuna topping. I am happy to report that there is nothing repulsive about this strawberry pretzel salad. It is delightful and delicious, and it was the perfect ending to our neighborhood 4th of July parade and feast.
2 c. crushed pretzels
10 T. butter, melted
1/4 c. + 1 c. sugar
16-oz cream cheese, softened
1 t. pure vanilla extract
8 oz. Cool Whip, thawed
1 6-oz pkg strawberry flavored Jell-O
2 c. boiling water
3 c. strawberries, sliced
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a bowl, pour the crushed pretzels and 1/4 cup sugar and stir to combine. Add the melted butter and stir again until mixed thoroughly.
Press the pretzel mixture on the bottom of a 9×13 pan and bake for ~8 minutes.
Remove pretzel crust from oven and let cool completely.
While the crust is baking, slice strawberries and put them in a bowl in the freezer. The cold strawberries will help the gelatin set up faster.
In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and 1 cup sugar, and stir until smooth. Add the Cool Whip and continuing stirring until cream cheese is combined, and the texture is smooth again.
Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly over the cooled pretzel crust. Make sure the cream mixture is against the edges of the pan to prevent the Jell-O mix from seeping through.
Place the pan with the crust and cream layers in the refrigerator while you mix the Jell-O.
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Remove from the stove and add strawberry Jell-O. Stir until Jell-O is dissolved. Let sit for a few minutes to cool. Add the strawberries from the freezer and let Jell-O cool a little more.
Remove the pan from the refrigerator and carefully poor the Jell-O mix over the cream layer.
Put pan back in the refrigerator until the Jell-O is set. It will take a minimum of 1 hour.
If the Jell-O is too hot when you pour over the cream layer, it will leak through. This will not ruin the taste of the dish, but it won’t look as pretty.
Skinny pretzel sticks or the tic-tac-toe board pretzel shapes work well. You can crush in a food processor or put the pretzels in a Ziploc bag and run a rolling pin over them. Pretzel crushing is a great job for littler helpers.
There are many versions of this dessert, and I compared several recipes. The ingredient list and amounts stay about the same. You may want to add a few more scoops of Cool Whip than what I listed or adjust sugar amounts.