I have dinner parties down pat. But when it comes to hosting a big brunch party, that's when things in my kitchen can go awry.
I always mean to wake at dawn, to give myself the time to execute whatever elaborate menu I've planned with the precision and efficiency of a brain surgeon. But bed is the best—and when coupled with a gentle breeze drifting in through open windows, and the light of a weekend morning flickering across my comforter? Early rising stands no chance.
The first brunch–menu victim is always, always dessert. When it's almost noon and I've only just put a pork shoulder in the oven, you can bet I'm scrapping the triple-decker pavlova I'd ambitiously sketched on the back of a bar napkin days earlier. This is where my most-trusted shortcut desserts come into play.
I'm talking about cookies that require little more than stirring and scooping, or cakes that bake up in a flash (seemingly through sheer force of will). Each is as impressive and delicious as something from the fancy bakery below my apartment—but comes together with ease and speed, right at home.
This tangy, chocolatey "pudding" takes five minutes to make, and about one minute to devour. It scales like a dream, so you don't have to stress about proportions when making it for a big crowd. Dress it up with whatever garnishes you like—berries, crumbled cookies, chocolate shavings, and maple-sweetened Greek yogurt all make for an impressive flourish.
Meet the dead-simple molasses cookies that are somehow simultaneously cozy and refreshing. Add your favorite spice (like cinnamon) for extra depth, or let the buttery molasses flavor reign supreme—either will be perfect.
This extra-fudgy chocolate cake comes together in just 20 minutes, and requires only that you know how to stir. And lift a fork to your mouth.
Good luck keeping your guests away from these slightly tangy, perfectly chewy cream cheese cookies while they cool. Perhaps you can distract them with this bombshell: They require only four ingredients (butter, cream cheese, sugar, flour), plus a big pinch of salt.
Our co-founder and CEO Amanda Hesser writes that this is "the dessert that you want in your back pocket, ready for guests at a moment's notice." Hear, hear.
These molten chocolate cakes have a surprise twist: just the right amount of clementine zest. They bake for just 10 minutes, and taste like something you'd buy a plane ticket to try in Paris. (For bigger groups, double—or triple—the recipe and ramekin count.)
Olive oil and maple syrup join forces in these chubby, tender, crackly-edged chocolate chip cookies. You wouldn't regret making a double batch.
How could something so deeply simple—broiled bananas, brown sugar, cream, and salt—taste so decadent? (That was rhetorical. Pass me the skillet and a spoon, please.)
Fair warning: If you make your guests this swirly peanut-butter chocolate mousse, they may never want to leave.
These cookies are basically magic. The only thing they could possibly need, for serving? A glass of milk. Kisses fingers.
What's your go-to shortcut dessert, fit for company? Spill all the details in the comments, please!
Ella Quittner is a contributing writer and the Absolute Best Tests
columnist at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.
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