Let’s Go Right to Dessert!

Today’s post comes to us from Steve.

I have spoken critically in this forum about my mother’s cooking. She was a typical 1950s Midwestern housewife cook, and I fear that isn’t a flattering standard. Unlike my classmates at college, many of whom grumbled bitterly about the food service, I thought I’d never eaten so well. But my mother took desserts seriously. I can forgive her those Jello desserts she served so often, for her cakes and pies were tasty. Relative to other areas of cooking, she did desserts well.

Her social world was centered on bridge clubs. The hostess of a bridge club meeting was expected to serve a dessert so special that club members would be talking about it for days. At one bridge club meeting, Mom’s chocolate devil’s food cake was a huge hit. Someone called out, “Charmion, this cake is wonderful! You have to share your recipe!” Mom didn’t have the nerve to admit that the cake began life as a Duncan Hines box mix. Her embarrassment doomed her to spend many hours one week researching library books for made-from-scratch chocolate cake recipes. She had to find a recipe that was both tasty and credible as the source of the cake she had served.

Each member of my family had a strong dessert preference. Dad thought nothing on earth could be better than apple pie. My mother loved her Graham Cracker Pie, a simple dish made from Eagle Brand Condensed Cream mixed with eggs and lemon, served in a crust that was smooshed graham crackers. My sister came to favor French silk chocolate pie. On my birthdays I always requested a white angle food cake that was heavily frosted with chocolate-flavored whipped cream.

When I tried to teach myself to cook I thought the logical thing would be to collect recipes. When a recipe appealed to me, I’d type it out and add it to my personal recipe book, kept on my computer’s hard drive. I see now that I collected about a hundred dessert recipes, of which I only ever used two. I’m actually not much of a dessert person. The really big sections of my cookbook are salads, chicken and soup dishes. My erstwife was a fine cook, but she too cared more about main dishes than desserts, so I failed to learn how to make good desserts from her.

While I’ve mostly ignored desserts most of my adult life, now and then something catches my fancy. When my erstwife and I traveled in the UK, we discovered a tiny London cafe that served crème brûlée, and I was totally smitten. Still am. I once won a writing contest whose reward was a free trip to the Florida Keys to flyfish for tarpon. While I never caught a tarpon, I sure made a pig of myself with Key Lime Pie, something I’d never encountered before. The dessert I’d now request on my birthday would be pecan pie served with a generous scoop of cinnamon ice cream.

What’s your favorite dessert? Which desserts do you remember most fondly? Do you have a recipe to share?

89 thoughts on “Let’s Go Right to Dessert!”

  1. I see the Creme Brulee in the header photo. I have lots of favorite desserts. I will have to think on this. I am in the Bismarck airport right now.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I’m not much of a dessert person; I’ve said that before.
    I do like a good fruit pie, if the fruit inside is in season and the right sort. My mother made excellent pies, mostly apple, and by the time I went away to college I was capable of making pies myself and did so from time to time.

    Watching The Great British Baking Show, one can’t help noticing that in the UK, pie means something entirely different from the pie I favor. I’ve never tried a British pie but they look, well, stodgy to me. In general I have to say, and Robin agrees, very little of the things they make are things I’d be tempted to eat.

    I do like creme brulee and custards in general, in part because they tend to be not over sweet. I’ve made creme brulee a few times and I even have a culinary torch mainly for that purpose but I don’t often think of them.

    When people ask me what Kind of dessert I want for my birthday it can be awkward and uncomfortable because I really don’t care and know I will be obliged to eat a little of whatever it is. Most of the time when I am asked that, the person already has something in mind, something like a chocolate cake. I’d be satisfied with a small dish of ice cream.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Ice cream is probably the major reason I’m not a fan of prepared deserts. I’ve always loved it. When premium ice cream brands appeared in grocery stores–Haagen Daz or Ben and Jerry’s–they became the default choice for desert in our family.

      I’ve been lucky enough to avoid institutional food most of my life, never having eaten a single school lunch. Now I’m in a place where almost nobody cooks, so we all eat institutional food. As you might expect, the only thing everyone agrees upon here is that our kitchen is awful. And yet the kitchen staff staves off most criticism with a clever tactic: they serve awful food, mostly, but each meal comes with a tasty desert. My choice, like Bill’s, would always be a small dish of ice cream.

      Liked by 4 people

    2. There is a legend in this family that I’m mad about chocolate cake. It’s a bit late to tell the truth now, so I have to try and do the things people do when eating something delicious. I too, like ice cream.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. I own four cookbooks in which each recipe starts with either a cake mix or a brownie mix. And then adorns them from there. I actually use them quite a bit. I wish your mother were around still so I could share them with her.

    It’s hard to say what my favorite dessert is because I’ve had three desserts during my travels that have never been equaled. Sticky toffee putting in the Caribbean, tiramisu outside Rome, , cannoli in Sicily. But while these were magnificent and I don’t expect to ever have their like again, I wouldn’t say they are my go to desserts. Left my own devices, warm chocolate chip cookies and iced brownies are some of my favorites.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. You like brownies? I said I’ve only cooked two of all the desert recipes I’ve collected. One of them was “Kate Hepburn’s Brownies.” I loved the result, but suspect this is an average or typical sort of recipe. Still, I can recommend it.

    Kate Hepburn’s Brownies
    2 ounces (2 squares) unsweetened chocolate
    1/2 c unsalted butter
    1 c sugar
    2 large eggs, lightly beaten
    1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    1/4 c all-purpose flour
    1/4 tsp salt
    1/2 c coarsely chopped walnuts

    Preheat oven to 325 F. Butter and flour an 8-inch square baking pan. Melt the chocolate with the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar. Stir in the eggs and vanilla and mix until smooth. Add the flour, salt and nuts and stir until smooth. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean from the center, about 40 minutes. (Really rich and chewy; one is a whole desert.)

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I’ve said before that my erstwife and I toured the UK in the mid-1970s. She and I have never been particularly interested in deserts, and yet that sure changed when we met something new (to us): the desert trolley.

    After a meal, when we were feeling full and dull, the server would show up at our table with a desert trolley. And there the irresistible deserts would be on display: tiramisu, clafoutis, truffle layer cakes, chocolate mousse cakes with fresh fruit, Caribbean rum cakes, cakes with frosting flowers that looked far too good to destroy by eating them. The desert trolley always got us with some delight we could not decline. We’d stumble out of the restaurant with sweet breath and too-tight pants.

    Liked by 5 people

      1. I might know an aspect of England better than you, dear Fenton. Two years in a row, other people paid my way for extravagant vacations in England. And we mostly traveled like normal people, part of the time we pretended to be toffs. I was surprised at how easy it was to pass myself off as an upper class twit.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Somehow I’ve only just spotted this comment. I suppose we serfs don’t dare to question someone who even only appears to be our master.

          Liked by 2 people

    1. When we were in Scotland, I never encountered a dessert trolley, but then only rarely were we in what would legitimately be termed a restaurant. Most of the time we headed for local pub where we could cozy up in the inglenook and have a simple meal of Cockaleekie Soup or a Ploughman’s Lunch.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. In the very few days I spent in Scotland, I don’t remember eating anything anywhere. I don’t think I realised food was available.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Rise and Feed Your Sweet Tooth, Baboons,

    I AM a dessert person. I come from a family of skilled cooks, especially my grandmothers and my sister. Pie is the family dessert, with the exception being my late dad’s favorite birthday cake, homemade German’s Sweet Chocolate Cake. Not any dessert will meet the need. It has to be worth the calories, filled with flavor, and not overwhelmingly sweet. It is hard to choose one, but the thing I would choose over any other would be Cherry Pie made with the cherries from my own tree. With real whipped cream. Preferably rum flavored whipped cream. Last week we picked 4 gallons of cherries which will translate to pies and jams, 8 possible batches of those. They are tucked into the freezer in quarts. Right now I am working on removing my COVID-10 pounds. I am stuck at 4 pounds off with 6 left to go. When I achieve that there is a Cherry Pie with homemade crust and Rum-flavored Whipped Cream waiting for me.

    Last night we met my son for ice cream at Pump House Creamery on Chicago Ave in S. Mpls. I had one small dip of Salted Caramel Praliine Pecan. It was so satisfying. The store was doing a brisk neighborhood business in the heat. It is a spot with the very best people and dog watching ever.

    When my sister and I made wedding pies for my niece 4 years ago, the biggest favorite was the Lemon Meringue, (made with Limoncella), which the Groom’s Grandmother and Aunt offered to buy, should there have been leftovers. There were several pieces left that we packed up for them for free. They left feeling pleased. That also is a favorite of mine.

    But then so many desserts are a favorite of mine.

    Liked by 6 people

  7. Check out black bottom pudding from Gourmet. It is lovely with a layer of chocolate pudding under a layer of caramel pudding and topped with a dollop of whipped cream.

    Liked by 5 people

  8. As soon as I saw that title, I knew pretty much what the question would be. One that I could answer with the benefit of experience and knowledge, from my freewheeling, devil may care life! My two favourite desserts during my adolescent years, and the ones I would hope for every day, were jam roly poly and fruit salad, which was heavy on the juice. Both served in our school canteen.

    Liked by 4 people

        1. Well, as I recall, Tom Kitten got rolled up in a rolypoly pastry by Annamaria, the nasty old rat’s wife, saved only in time by John the Joiner, who took up the floor boards before she baked him.

          Liked by 2 people

    1. This modern world! I’ve just been informed I got a like. And who it was from!
      Honestly, those were the first two things I thought of.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Nadia, from that British baking show, has a Roly Poly recipe in her new cookbook which I am currently awaiting from the library. I didn’t watch the whole season that she was in but I didn’t see the last couple of shows. I like her but it didn’t inspire me to watch more seasons.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That show seems to employ more lame humour every year, and the “terribly English” characters that present it get on my nerves more every year, as I see disjointed bits of it over Jane’s shoulder. And the contrived stuff that they make seems to get more outlandish, in the eternal effort to keep people watching. Which Jane and her parents do,they lap it up. I just keep eating the ice cream while no one’s looking.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Pretty much everyone I know tells me that I will love the British baking show. But I have a fairly strict rule about not watching shows in which people get kicked off.

          Liked by 2 people

        1. I was already a bit self conscious about the cowboy hat I’ve been wearing against the sun. It’s really time it went, I think.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Sherrilee, actually, you don’t have to explain things now. WordPress now tells me what all y’all are thinking, before you write it. It’s their Machiavellian little plan to play on my conscience.

          Liked by 2 people

      1. The image of Bismarck businessmen dressing up like movie cowboys strikes me as particularly amusing because I happen to be reading a book titled He Was Some Kind of a Man: Masculinities in the B Western. It’s about the myth of the cowboy as portrayed in low budget movies from the 1930s to the 1950s and how masculinity, as delineated in those movies still influences modern notions of manhood. The movie cowboy is a boy’s fantasy of manhood, not an adult one.

        I often find that things I’m reading have unexpected resonance. Our son-in-law convinced us to start watching The Mandalorian on Disney. I immediately recognized it as The Lone Ranger in space, even to the extent that the Mandalorian’s voice sounds exactly like Clayton Moore.

        Liked by 4 people

  9. As you all know by now, I’m not a huge fan of sweets. A good Creme Brulee or a plain ol’ Flan would be my choice for dessert. Or perhaps a Danish dessert called Citron Fromage, light, fresh and not too sweet.

    While I enjoy a small slice of a good home-made pie, I don’t think of it as a dessert, i.e., something I’d eat following a meal. I think of pie as an accompaniment to a cup of afternoon coffee (or tea). Following a meal I’d rather have some fresh fruit and an assortment of cheeses to nibble on.

    I think I know what Fenton is referring to when he says Jam Roly-Poly. In my teens that was a favorite of mine, and I even learned how to make it.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. PJ’s comment reminds me that my erstwife loved Devonshire cream when we were in England. I think it is a sort of sweet, thick cream served with or on fresh fruit. She tried to duplicate that when we got home, and she could never get suitable cream.

      Bonus points to PJ for saying Fenton, not Stewart.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’m getting my answers jumbled up. So this is answering Steve, about Devonshire cream. I always thought it was just thick cream, like you could get anywhere. It would be served with the famous Devonshire “Cream teas”, in cafes rather than restaurants, I suppose. Not sure I ever had a cream tea in my life. I must have, on reflection. It was probably something like scones with cream and plenty of jam, and a pot of tea. You would need the jam to bury the taste of the scone, I never understood those things. I hope Mum’s not reading this.

        Liked by 3 people

  10. Steve, the similarities between us continue to amaze me. Our birthday cake of choice for we three children was an angel food cake with chocolate-flavored whipped cream (and sprinkled with toasted slivered almonds). Once Mom made it for one of us, it quickly became “The Birthday Cake.” That tradition has continued for decades, although we rarely get together and celebrate birthdays. But Mom made it a few years ago.

    I’m also a huge fan of creme brulee. To me it’s nearly the perfect dessert. Light, creamy, sweet but not too, and the caramelized hardened sugar on top is “the icing on the cake.”

    I also love ice cream, but if you put a gun to my head and said choose one dessert, I’d say Black Forest Cherry Cake. (Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte), And of course, that makes me think of “Young Frankenstein.”

    Happy Fourth of July weekend, everyone.

    Chris in Owatonna

    Liked by 8 people

  11. I have never ever made myself a dessert so I have no recipes to share.
    I will always remember the cherries jubilee I shared with the ex-wife on our honeymoon. Too many if-only.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. OT. It seems sneaky to me that WordPress has suddenly started telling me who is giving me likes. I would never have dreamed of asking such a thing, but now at least I’m starting to find out which people feel sorry for me, with my inane stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. However. Every time I press “like,” a page comes up with what looks like more daunting hoops to jump through. WordPress is determined for me to do it, so perhaps I’ll finally try.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Well, I tried. But they want my password. I don’t suppose I told anybody what it is, and they remember it? Because I don’t.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. How many tries would I get with that password? I remember it roughly, but upper and lower case, I’m not sure about.

          Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m at the point that I fear I’ll jinx myself if I give any advice on WP. I never access the trail on anything but my MacBook Air, and so far that works just fine. If I recall correctly, I think Fenton is visiting the trail via his cellphone, and apparently that causes some issues. So far, I can barely make phone calls with my cell phone, so I have no idea what disasters he’s inviting by not knowing his password. My advice, as your twelve year old, I bet he knows what to do.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I realised in time, what hot water I could be heading for. I’ve more or less got the hang of email now. I somehow, by trial and error, signed myself up for this blog. None of this was with Isaac’s knowledge or permission. I really don’t know how to explain my recklessness without severe repercussions.

          Liked by 2 people

    1. Ha! That comment makes me wonder what happened at age 62 or 63, but I’d be willing to wager that no matter how much you’ve had of that particular delicacy, it doesn’t qualify as your favorite dessert.

      About “just desserts,” the correct term is actually “just deserts.” Check it out: https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/just-deserts-or-just-desserts. An interesting little tidbit of English language trivia. It’s a conversation we’ve actually had here on the trail once before, years ago.

      Liked by 4 people

  13. i am the opposite of a sweet tooth but i wasn’t always
    tin roof sunday was my go to as a kid
    coconut macaroons were a thing
    tiramisu and cannoli won me over a time or two bit maybe shortbread from scotland was the one that stuck
    my moms strawberry shortcake was special as a child and rhubarb sprinkled with a bit of sugar is the perfect combination
    you know all the new ice cream flavors like cookie dough and triple chocolate with chocolate chip ? you can just have cookie dough and a chocolate bar instead
    black raspberry jalapeño ice cream is pushing it in my book
    i have a cheesecake recipie somewhere i’ll post someday
    it’s not good it’s unbelievable

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Black raspberry jalapeño ice cream sounds about as iffy as the chocolate garlic brownies I made once. They were interesting, but not something I’d ever make again.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Not when a non-Dolly Parton can beat Dolly Parton in a Dolly Parton lookalike contest. But I suppose that one just depended on who spent the most money to look cheap.

      Liked by 1 person

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