This recipe and photography was provided courtesy of local cookbook author and chef, Carla Snyder. Learn more about Carla and discover her recipes at Ravenouskitchen.com.
No holiday meal is complete without a fantastic dessert to make the celebration even more glorious. Easter is a time for light but big-flavored desserts. I can’t think of anything tastier or more spring-like than a combination of berries and lemon. Whether you celebrate with lunch, brunch or dinner, one of these simple but spectacular desserts is sure to add that WOW factor to the end of your meal.
One of the easiest and most delicious desserts I know is an icebox cake. Never heard of it? The word “icebox” just might tip you off that this dessert is from another lifetime. It was first introduced to the United States in the 1930s when companies were beginning to promote the icebox as a kitchen appliance. The icebox cake is derived from similar desserts like the charlotte and the trifle, but it was created to be more accessible for housewives to prepare. It’s basically a combination of crunchy cookies or crackers and airy, sweetened whipped cream. When left to sit in the fridge overnight, the cream softens the cookies so they become cakelike. While the liquid in the cream softens the cookies, the cream becomes firmer, which also contributes to the cakey texture. As desserts go, it doesn’t get much easier than this. You don’t even have to turn on the oven. My grandma used to make an icebox cake using chocolate wafer cookies and whipped cream layered in a metal ice cube tray, the ice cube tray being yet another nod to times gone by.
Maybe, just maybe, the fact that this dessert hails from another century is what makes it perfect to bring back onto our dinner tables in 2020. Today, we need easy-to-make and serve desserts more than ever. My updated version is a Lemon and Ginger Icebox Cake which features spicy ginger cookies and whipped cream blended with sweet and tart lemon curd and fresh berries. I especially like using the ginger cookies for this dessert, but if you prefer, you can use graham crackers or crumbled chocolate or vanilla wafers. I direct you to layer cookies, cream and berries in a plastic-lined loaf pan for easy unmolding and slicing. A garnish of berries, candied ginger and lemon make for a colorful and festive, holiday dessert. Do you really even need a recipe for this dish? I don’t think so.
The second dessert is an equally impressive oldie but goodie. Your guests will happily dig into Lemon Curd Napoleons with Berries and Raspberry Coulis. The Napoleon is everything I love about most French pastries – it’s rich and delicate, not too sweet and filled with lemon curd and berries. It sounds really fancy, but I call it an assembly dessert as it has a few moving parts to it, though all of them are very simple. Thanks to purchased frozen puff pastry and purchased lemon curd (isn’t modern life wonderful?!) desserts of this caliber are fast and easy to make at home. That little fact makes this show-stoppingly gorgeous classic French pastry SO simple you’ll wonder why you’ve never made it before. I like how all the parts can be brought together and then, like on an assembly line, the dessert can be pulled together for service. It consists of puff pastry that has been cut into squares and quickly baked. The crispy layers are then topped with purchased lemon curd and berries, then another pastry layer, curd, berries and finally topped with the third pastry layer and powdered sugar. You can bake the pastry a day ahead and assemble the napoleons up to a few hours before serving. The assembly can even be a good job for the kids, with a little assistance of course.
The coulis (cool-ee), which accompanies this dessert is nothing more than a fruit puree made from frozen raspberries, sugar and lemon juice. A quick whiz in a food processor breaks the berries down to a liquid and a quick strain through a sieve removes the seeds. It creates a stunning presentation with that magenta pool of tart liquid and crispy, fruity pastry on top.
When I’m hosting or even just responsible for bringing a dessert to a holiday gathering, I really appreciate it when just a couple of ingredients can become impressive, easy to make treats. With zero to minimal cooking, quick assembly, make-ahead options and beautiful presentation, these desserts will make for happy faces around your Easter table… no Easter egg hunt required.