When I first started having dinner parties for friends as a young adult, I really wanted everything to be homemade. After all, that’s what my Mom always did, so why wouldn’t I do that too? I always made a plan for the dinner ahead of time, writing down what I was going to make and always starting the prep with dishes that took the longest to make. That was usually the dessert. So, I would take a few hours early in the morning or the night before the dinner to make one of Mom’s famous desserts or to make a new recipe I found. Once the dessert was done, I’d start on the rest of the meal prep. It was many hours of cooking and preparing and it was always well received, so I enjoyed doing it.
As years went on and life got more complicated, there was a need to make some changes. I still wanted to be a great host and offer my guests an excellent meal, but I needed to streamline things to make it sustainable. All these years and hundreds of dinners later, I have developed systems that are different from those early years, and certainly just as good! (It helps that my husband is an eager and capable sous chef!) . I should mention that I’d rather eat savory food than sweets, but I know that most people like to end the meal with something sweet, so I am happy to provide that!
I know that there are many wonderful store-bought cakes and desserts available for us these days and I do use those occasionally and try to add my own spin when serving them. As a diner myself, I get a bit overwhelmed when I’m served a giant piece of cake on a plate. I much prefer smaller bites of things to choose from, which makes me think that there are probably other people who feel this way too. So here are a few suggestions I have for no-bake desserts that can satisfy the sweet tooth and avoid overwhelming the meal.
- Always have some gourmet chocolates on hand (preferably individually wrapped so you can put them in a lovely bowl on the table)
- Have some small, gourmet cookies on hand. Served on a plate beside the bowl of chocolates, they can be a satisfying, last minute dessert when people pop in
- Keep some frozen mini eclairs or cream puffs on hand. Serve them on a plate with berries and drizzle them with caramel or chocolate sauce for a visually pleasing and satisfyingly sweet end to the meal
- Hollow the core out of apples (one per person). Fill and drizzle them with a mixture of raisins, nuts, brown sugar, and melted butter. (Add a little rum, if you like!) Bake for about an hour and serve warm, with or without whipped cream on the side. (Yes, I realize I said this post was “no bake” – however, I consider this no-bake because there is no measuring of ingredients and cleaning of extra bowls – just throw it in the oven).
- Remember, yogurt and berries can be a dessert. I put this one together on a day when we were in a vacation rental and had limited availability of ingredients and kitchenware. So, I used what was on hand… non-fat Greek yogurt, honey, cinnamon, and berries. I used the nicest glasses that were in the kitchen and used them to serve individual portions. As a bonus, this is also a gluten-free dessert! Next time, I would add a fancy cookie to this (gluten-free if needed!)
- If you have a favourite cake recipe, bake it in a small loaf pan baking tin and then you can ice and freeze the individual loaves to slice later. Serve the slices on a beautiful platter and have guests help themselves to as much or as little as they like. I did this with my Mom’s carrot cake recipe and it was a big hit. You can also serve a fruit and nut platter with this. In these times, so many people are trying to eat healthier and limit sugar, so giving them an option to have just a few bites of something sweet can satisfy the craving and be very much appreciated.
- Sliced bananas with brown sugar and orange liqueur sauce on pound cake. Make the sauce ahead by melting butter and brown sugar, then add a few slices of your favourite liqueur. Set aside to heat up just before serving. Add sliced bananas and serve on a slice of pound cake or scoop of ice cream or frozen yogurt. (Gluten free without the cake)
- Canned (or fresh) peach halves, served with yogurt flavoured with honey and cinnamon, nuts and caramel drizzle in the space where the pit would be. (I got this idea from The Canadian Living Rush Hour Cookbook many years ago). It’s a light and fresh tasting sweet treat – also gluten-free
- No Bake Ice Cream Cake is a summer favourite in my house. Only 3 ingredients and it looks so fancy. You can make it ahead – big or small – and keep it in the freezer for whenever you need it. Go to recipes and scroll down to get the instructions
- Grilled peaches served with frozen yogurt are great in the summer. You can grill the peaches before the guests arrive and set aside for later. Serve at room temperature or heat them in the oven for a few minutes. Add some frozen vanilla yogurt, and a few mint leaves and you have a sweet, fancy plate that didn’t require hours of baking and clean up. If you’ve got some chocolate or caramel sauce, give it a little drizzle. This is another gluten-free treat.
I hope these ideas help you create a delicious treat at the end of your meal with little fuss and preparation. As always, drop me a note to let me know how you like these ideas and please share any that you have that work for you.
Happy cooking, friends!