This is the time of year when desserts are colorful with fruit or light and fluffy, just like the puffy clouds that hover in a blue, sunny sky during these spring months.
Winter is gone and so are the heavy desserts such as two-crust apple pie, pumpkin pie and very moist pound cakes.
At many graduations, celebration dinners, showers and weddings you will see desserts topped with fresh fruit or incorporating it in the filling or topping.
COLORFUL, EASY DESSERT — A tube of sugar cookies; a combination of cream cheese, sugar and lemon juice; and bright fruit can make a bright and colorful dessert for these spring days when graduations, showers and weddings are popular.
-- Esther McCoy
So after you glance at the way to make fast and fanciful fruity cheesecake cookies, why not get on the bandwagon and try some of these desserts featured in the Great American Menus Cookbook?
Many require cake mixes to make the preparation much easier.
My daughter-in-law, Margaret, made these Fruity Cheesecake Cookies for Amber's graduation last year.
Fruity Cheesecake Cookies
1 tube refrigerated sugar cookies
8-ounce package cream cheese, can be regular, light or fat-free or even one of the whipped ones
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon real lemon juice
Dash of vanilla
Neatly sliced fresh fruit, such as strawberries, kiwi, and blueberries
1/4 cup apricot or peach jelly, or any yellow-color jelly to brush over the top of the fruit, if desired
Cut and bake the cookies as directed and cool. Whip the cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla together and spread on cookies as you would frosting. Place the fruit on top, no sooner than 2 hours before serving. If desired, heat the jelly and brush it lightly over the fruit.
Note: Margaret did not do that step.
This is an easy dessert, once the 9-inch pie crust is prepared and baked. It calls for cream cheese again, a great standby dessert maker; whole fresh strawberries; and cherry pie filling.
9-inch baked pie shell
8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
2 cups whole strawberries 1 pint
21-ounce can cherry pie filling
In a small bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and lemon peel; beat until smooth and well blended. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly in baked pie crust. Lightly press strawberries into cream cheese mixture. Spoon cherries on top. Refrigerate several hours before serving. Garnish with whipped topping if desired. Serves eight.
Orange Crunch Cake
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup margarine or butter, melted
Package yellow cake mix
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup orange juice
1/3 cup oil
2 tablespoons grated orange peel
Can vanilla frosting
1 cup frozen whipped topping, thawed
3 tablespoons grated orange peel
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
11-ounce can mandarin oranges, drained or 1 orange sectioned, drained
Mint leaves to garnish if desired.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8-or 9-inch round cake pans. In small bowl, combine crunch layer ingredients until crumbly. Press half of crunch mixture into each prepared pan.
Cake: In large bowl, blend cake ingredients at low speed until moistened. Beat 2 minutes at highest speed. Pour batter evenly over crunch layer. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes, remove from pans and cool completely.
Frosting: In a small bowl, beat frosting until fluffy; add whipped topping and continue beating until light and fluffy. Fold in grated orange and lemon peel. Place 1 layer crunch-side up on serving plate; spread with one-fourth of frosting. Top with remaining layer, crunchy side up. Spread top and sides with remaining frosting. Arrange orange sections, placed on a double fold of paper towel to drain completely first, on top. Garnish with mint leaves, if desired. Store in refrigerator. Makes 16 servings at 470 calories each.
This is a no-bake fruit dessert that would look elegant in parfait glasses.
Sliced Oranges in Strawberry Sauce
3 to 4 large seedless oranges
2 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur
2 cups, 1 pint, fresh strawberries that have been hulled and sliced
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup currant or raspberry jelly
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
Peel oranges; cut each into four or five round slices. Place in parfait glasses and drizzle with liqueur. Refrigerate. In a small bowl, combine the strawberries and sugar. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Melt the jelly and add lemon juice. Stir until combined. Pour over strawberries and mix well. Spoon strawberries over oranges. Refrigerate at least an hour or until serving time. Makes six to eight servings at 140 calories each.
The vanilla ice cream and orange sherbet are said to evoke the nostalgia of a Gay Nineties ice cream social. Of course, the ice cream was home-made then. With this chocolatey cake, also homemade then, this dessert will have all-American appeal.
Frosty Ice Cream Dessert
Package dark chocolate cake mix
3/4 cup ready-to- spread milk chocolate frosting.
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup oil
1 quart or 4 cups vanilla ice cream, slightly softened
1 pint, or 2 cups orange sherbet, slightly softened
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease bottom and sides of a 13-by-9-inch pan. In large bowl, blend all cake ingredients at low speed until moistened. Beat 2 minutes at highest speed. Spread batter in bottom of prepared pan. Do not spread up sides of pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. Do not overbake. Cake will collapse to form a shell, and this is what you want. Cool completely. Alternately spoon ice cream and sherbet into cooled crust. Press down lightly. If desired, heat remaining frosting just until softened. Drop by spoonfuls on top of ice cream and swirl with a knife. Freeze at least 2 hours. Store in freezer. Wrap frozen dessert air tight to avoid freezer burn. Cut into squares. Makes 12 servings at 430 calories with the softened frosting on top.
Note: Raspberry sherbet would be nice to use instead of orange sherbet also.
This recipe calls for marinating three kinds of melon in a rum sauce than adding sliced peaches or nectarines and serving in glass dessert dishes.
Marinated Melon Melange
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup light rum
1 cup watermelon balls or cubes
1 cup cantaloupe balls or cubes
1 cup honeydew balls or cubes
2 nectarines or peaches, peeled and sliced
In a small saucepan, combine honey and water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in lime juice and rum. Cool. In large bowl, combine watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew. Pour cooled marinade over fruit. Cover and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours. Just before serving, add nectarines. Makes eight 1/2 cup servings at 130 calories each.
Everybody knows about Black Forest Cake, but here is a pie of the same name. It is a chocolate pie filling mixed with some of the cherry pie filling, layered with whipped cream or whipped topping overall, topped with the rest of the cherry filling and more whipped topping. You can grate unsweetened chocolate on top if you wish.
Black Forest Pie
9-inch pie shell, baked
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup margarine or butter
1/3 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
21-ounce can cherry pie filling
Small container frozen, whipped topping thawed
1 ounce, 1 square unsweetened chocolate, coarsely grated
Prepare pie crust and cool. In medium saucepan, combine sugar, cocoa and flour. Stir in margarine and milk. Cook over medium heat until mixture begins to boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Blend small amount of hot mixture into eggs. Return to saucepan; blend well.
Fold half a can of the cherry pie filling into the chocolate mixture. Reserve remaining filling for topping. Pour chocolate mixture into pie crust-lined pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes or until center is set but still shiny. Combine 2 cups whipped topping and grated chocolate; spread over cooled pie. Top with reserved cherry pie filling and remainder of whipped topping. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving. Makes eight to 10 servings at 450 calories for each serving.
(McCoy can be contacted at email@example.com.)