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Fast but fabulous desserts for busy cooks

May 2, 2012
By ESTHER MCCOY - Food editor , The Herald-Star

When time is short, most cooks scrap even the tiniest idea of making a dessert. There is usually the creaming of sugar and butter or shortening, the addition of flour, baking soda, salt and liquid in small increments and mixing the batter until it is creamy and smooth. And if it's cookies being made, it involves putting each tablespoon of dough or batter onto a baking sheet. Then there aredishes to wash.

The thinking is buying a bakery product is easier than going to all that trouble.

But that's not so with these fast and easy recipes. Try them to see if you agree.

Article Photos

A?FAST?SWEET TREAT — Adylin Moore, 9, granddaughter of Dorothy “Suzie” Barthel of the Navarre area, shows off a plate of Lemon Lace Cookies that are easy enough for a 9-year-old to make. When time is short, a fast dessert is a life saver.
-- Esther McCoy


My cousin, Missy Kollar, made these for my aunt Victoria Kollar's 90th birthday that we attended. It was there that I met some new little relatives, including Adylin Moore, granddaughter of my cousin Dorothy "Suzie Barthel, who showed off the cookies with pride.

Lemon Lace Cookies

Box of yellow cake mix

1 egg

1 cup shredded flake coconut

2 cups whipped topping

4 tablespoons lemon juice

Mix the egg, cake mix, coconut, whipped topping and lemon juice together until blended. Make balls of dough from about 1 tablespoonful of dough. Roll balls in powdered sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for between 12 and 13 minutes, until browned around the edges.


Jeremy Kins made this dessert for the Herald-Star Christmas party, and I begged for the recipe. I made it while vacationing with Florence and Bruce Turnbull in Lakeland, Fla., and it was a big hit. And besides, it is a Weight Watchers dessert, and that makes it all the better.

Butterfinger Dessert

1 prepared angel food cake

1 large size package fat-free sugar-free instant vanilla pudding mix

Two 8-ounce containers fat-free whipped topping

4 Butterfinger candy bars, 2 1/8-ounce size

1 1/2 cups skim milk

Spray a 9-by-13-inch pan with cooking spray. Tear angel food cake into bite-size pieces. Prepare pudding with 1 1/2 cups skim milk and combine with the whipped topping. Crush candy bars. Layer half of the cake, half of the pudding mixture and half of the crushed Butterfingers. Repeat the layer, ending with the crushed Butterfingers. Chill for at least two hours before serving.


This is a recipe that was in Ann Kennedy's column in 1980. Young people will not recognize the name, but Ann was the Herald-Star lifestyles editor for many years. She is now retired and living the kind of life that she has always dreamed would be ideal. Believe it or not, this cake was quite popular back in that time, and you can't taste the tomato soup. It just gives the cake a rosy look.

Quick Tomato Spice Cake

18.25-ounce package spice cake mix, dry

10 3/4-ounce can condensed tomato soup

1/2 cup water

2 eggs

Mix above ingredients using the directions for combining and beating the batter that is on the package. If desired, fold in a cup of chopped walnuts. Bake as directed on the cake mix box in a 13- by-9-inch baking pan. To make it even easier, use a canned of cream cheese frosting and sprinkle the top with chopped walnuts when it has cooled.


This is a quick and easy way to make these delicious lemony dessert squares. The original recipe was from the "Best of 50 Years Pillsbury Bake-Off Recipes Cookbook." This does take more cleaning afterwards than the rest of the desserts, but it is still easy and looks like it took hours to make.

Lemon Meringue Dessert Squares


18.25-ounce package yellow cake mix

1/2 cup margarine or butter

2 egg yolks


Box of lemon pudding mix for pies


4 egg whites

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 cup sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13-by- 9-inch pan. In large bowl, combine all crust ingredients; mix at low speed until crumbly. Press mixture in bottom of greased pan.

Prepare the lemon pudding mix as directed on the box for making a pie but use 2 egg yolks and 2 tablespoons less water. When it is completely cooked, pour into crust while still extremely hot. In a small bowl, beat the 4 egg whites and the cream of tartar. Beat at medium speed until soft peaks form, about 1 minute. Add sugar, one tablespoon at a time, beating at high speed until stiff peaks form and sugar is dissolved. Spread over hot filling. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until meringue is golden brown. Cool 30 minutes. Refrigerate at least an hour before serving. Cut into 12 squares.


Here is another fast dessert. The "Best of 50 Years Pillsbury Bake-Off Recipes Cookbook" notes that it takes less than 15 minutes to prepare the batter and 30 minutes or less to bake.

Chocolate Cherry Bars

18.25-ounce package devils food cake mix

21-ounce can cherry pie filling

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 eggs, beaten

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 15-by-10-inch or a 13-by-9-inch baking pan. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients; stir until well blended. Spread in the greased pan. Bake at 350 degrees until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. For the 15-by-10-inch pan, bake 20 to 30 minutes. For the 13-by-9-inch pan, bake 25 to 30 minutes. It can be frosted with a can of chocolate icing or left plain and served with ice cream. Makes 48 bars.


If you have any extra plain rice from dinner, you can make this in a hurry. It is from a very old recipe.

Whipped Rice


1 1/2 cups cooked rice

1 1/2 cups small marshmallows or big ones that are diced

1/2 cup well-drained crushed pineapple

1/4 cup crushed nuts

1/4 cup chopped, well-drained maraschino cherries

2 cups whipped topping, or more can be added to make it even fluffier

Combine all ingredients, except whipped topping until well mixed. Fold in the whipped topping gently.

Store in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving. Makes six servings. Can be garnished with more pineapple and maraschino cherries.

Note: The old-time recipe called for whipping cream and 1/4 cup sugar after it has reached a high volume. I made it easier by using whipped topping, but the whipped cream can be used instead. I know that it always tastes richer when cream is used.


This is a quick and moist cake given to me by my aunt, Victoria Kollar. It is one they make at the Navarre Assisted Living Facility when they have covered-dish dinners.

Hawaiian Cake

18.25-ounce box yellow cake mix

4 eggs

1/2 cup oil

Small can mandarin oranges with juice

Combine all ingredients and beat for 2 minutes or until well mixed. Pour into a 9-by-13-inch greased and floured baking pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

These are the baking directions given, but after 20 minutes, you should start checking with the toothpick. Cool cake and frost with the following: No. 2 can crushed pineapple with juice, large box instant vanilla or French vanilla pudding. Beat until pudding has thickened. Fold in an 8-ounce container of whipped topping and spread on cake.

(McCoy can be contacted at

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