Make It Yourself: Birthday Cake
Sure, you can make a cake from a box, but once you know how easy and delicious the real deal is, it’ll be hard to turn back. Instead of creaming butter and sugar together, this cake uses a mixture of vegetable oil and melted butter, which means it comes together quickly. Not to mention, the crumb is rich and dense with classic yellow cake flavor. And, it wouldn't be a classic birthday cake without fudgy frosting. This one uses both semisweet and milk chocolate to create a rich ganache-style frosting. Spread over the cooled cake in generous swoops using an offset spatula.
This would be the perfect dessert to serve on the first cool night of fall. Generally, coffee is the only deep flavor balancing tiramisu, but here, molasses does double-duty: adding both complex sweetness and a spicy depth. To make the tiramisu, you beat the molasses with mascarpone and heavy cream and layer it with coffee-soaked ladyfingers. For an even coating of cocoa powder on top, use a fine-mesh strainer. It’ll help you sift evenly and avoid clumps. Enjoy with coffee alongside—but keep it decaf if you’re serving after dinner.
Molasses-Spiced Spiked Cider
If you’ve ever wondered what fall would taste like in a glass, then here’s your answer. Molasses adds dark-sweet undertones to apple cider, and fresh ginger adds a spicy heat. You might see molasses labeled “unsulphured” or “blackstrap” at the grocery store. Either will work well here, but blackstrap tends to be more bitter. Rum is a perfect pairing since it’s made from sugarcane—just like molasses. Adding the rum at the end ensures the alcohol doesn’t burn off during cooking.
Molasses-and-Chile Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Earthy molasses is an ideal partner for naturally sugary sweet potatoes while spicy jalapeño and mustard add balance. When you toss the sweet potatoes, make sure to reserve the molasses mixture—you’ll drizzle that over the sweet potatoes once they’re roasted. Stone-ground mustard refers to the method of using a stone to pulverize mustard seeds. But, if you can’t find it, a sharp mustard like Dijon will work, too.
Lemon-Hibiscus Italian Ice
All you need is a freezer and a food processor to make these 3-ingredient frozen treats. You start by making a lemony simple syrup. Freeze half in glass baking dish to create the lemon Italian ice, and infuse the other half with hibiscus tea bags. It’s fun to watch the tea turn the simple syrup a gorgeous saturated fuchsia color. Once the mixtures freeze, all it takes is a few pulses in the food processor to turn them into nostalgic carnival-worthy desserts. Scoop them into Dixie cups and stash them in the freezer until you’re ready to delight your guests.
Cast-Iron S’mores Calzone
There’s nothing better than a classic s’mores, but we love coming up with ways you can enjoy the tasty treat sans firepit. To mimic the graham cracker part of the summer staple, we combined graham cracker crumbs with melted butter and salt and brushed it all over a chocolate and marshmallow-filled calzone. As it bakes, the mixture creates a salty graham cracker crust for the calzone, adding delicious crunch. Piling the fillings up high ensures that every bite oozes with melted milk chocolate and marshmallow. Be sure to let the pizza dough come to room temperature before stretching it into the skillet, which will make it easier to work with.
Frozen Fruit Skewers
Few treats could be simpler, healthier, or more delicious. These kid friendly snacks use up a whole pineapple and will feed a big crowd. They’re a great poolside dessert that will eventually thaw, yes, but won’t melt all over the flagstones. After you cube the pineapple, put little ones to work by asking them to thread the fruit onto the skewers (we like to use disposable wooden ones which aren’t as pointy as their metal counterparts). Pull them from the freezer a few minutes before serving (about 15 or 20) so they won’t give you brain freezer and they’re easier to sink your teeth into.