No-Bake Desserts, All Dressed Up

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

When I was a kid, growing up in Ohio, the first in a simply enormous family, no-bake desserts were chief among my mother’s arsenal of treats. No-bake cookies — like the classic chocolate, oat, and peanut butter clusters — were the everyday sweet. I remember the face of a small neighbor boy, after polishing one off, being offered a glass of milk and, wide-eyed, saying, “No thank you! I don’t want to wash the taste out of my mouth!”

That’s what no-bake desserts offer, perhaps more than others — a simple, pure pleasure of sweetness. But you don’t have to be 6 years old to appreciate them. No-bake desserts can get all dressed up for the grown-up table, too, and today we have a collection that will make you and yours stand up and applaud, and yet secretly avoid that sip of milk — the taste is just too good to waste.

Counting the Pleasures of No-Bake Desserts

No-bake cakes, puddings, and jellies are some of the sweetest and most pleasant desserts to both make and eat. Why? Let’s count the ways.

First of all, no heat is required for most. Surely this is self-explanatory in late spring and early summer, as the thought of turning on the oven becomes a drag and a half.

Secondly, many no-bake desserts and puddings — which are thickened by gelatin or starch — are remarkably friendly to dietary needs. Most puddings are naturally gluten-free; panna cotta can be totally dairy-free. They are both easy and easy-pleasing.

And then there’s the ease: Anyone can whip some cream and stack it with crackers for a show-stopping icebox cake that looks like a Viennese dessert and tastes like a dream. It’s about as easy as making a sandwich. They sit in the fridge, made ahead of time, leaving dinnertime free for cooking and conversation — and make you look like the queen of dessert.

(In fact I believe so much in the power and pleasure of no-bake desserts I wrote a whole book on them, Bakeless Sweetspuddings and trifles galore!).

From the most decadent peanut butter icebox cake to Key lime cupcakes to coconut panna cotta — all so easy, all so dressed up — it’s time to let no-bake dessert show off its charms.