One of the biggest trends of 2021 is nostalgia. Experts — or at least the folks who get paid to forecast such things — suggest that nostalgia will continue to be a major theme of the coming year. We’ve rediscovered the joys of classic cocktails (thanks Stanley Tucci), breakfast quiches, and canned foods, but I’m here today to campaign for classic no-bake desserts. (And, yes, that includes Ambrosia.)
No-bake dessert recipes from the ‘60s and ‘70s are mainly edible horror shows, but there are some gems in there. Baked Alaska and pineapple upside-down cake are not only clear gold medal winners, they’re legends.
But as some of us are still enjoying Hot Planet Summer, I’m steering away from anything that requires cooking and sharing five of my favourite no-bake desserts, all of which are best served cold. I’ve updated each of these icons in one way or another, whether by using dairy-free alternatives or by incorporating time-saving hacks.
Save the groans and grow up! I’m not sure what happened, but Ambrosia has gotten an undeserved bad rap, much like the Paltrow/Applegate/Bergen “classic” View From The Top. Ambrosia is ridiculously easy and delicious, actually. Creamy whipped cream is punctuated by hunks of tropical fruit; crunchy, desiccated coconut; and pillowy mini marshmallows. Speaking of marshmallows, one way I think the original recipes went wrong was an ingredient imbalance; I like a lot of marshmallows.
There are no rules as to what fruit you can use, but all must be enrobed in velvety sweet whipped cream, which can also be flavored if desired. Ambrosia is (quite literally) the food of the gods. It’s common to use canned fruit to make the dish, but with summer’s bounty still available at farmers’ markets, I’m using fresh, very ripe fruit. (Except for the oranges — who has time to suprême citrus?)
- 2 cups shredded coconut, divided into 1½ and 1/2 cup portions
- 2 cups ½-inch pineapple chunks
- 2 cups quartered strawberries
- 2 cups ½-inch apricot chunks
- 2 cups peeled, ½-inch kiwi chunks
- 2 cups peeled, ½-inch mango chunks
- 1 400g can of mandarin orange slices, drained (approximately 2 cups)
- Zest of one lemon
- 2 tablespoons Malibu rum
- 1½ cups heavy whipping cream (for a vegan option, use coconut whipping cream)
- 2 tablespoons powdered (icing) sugar
- 1 teaspoon powdered ginger
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt (trust me)
- 2 cups mini marshmallows (for a vegan option, use gelatin-free marshmallows)
Toast ½ cup of the shredded coconut in a skillet over medium heat. Set aside to cool.
Wash fresh fruit, peel where necessary, cut, and place in a large mixing bowl. Add drained mandarin orange slices, lemon zest, and Malibu rum. Toss and set aside.
Using a stand or hand mixer, whip cream for about three minutes until the consistency resembles foam. Then add the powdered ginger, sugar, vanilla, and pinch of salt, and continue whipping until stiff peaks form (another two to three minutes). Do not over mix.
Place the fruit, whipped cream, and marshmallows in a large bowl and gently fold until the fruit is enrobed in the whipped cream mixture.
Pop it in the fridge to get nice and cold before serving.
Quick Banana Pudding
Just when you thought banana wouldn’t make this list. Ha! Traditional banana pudding requires a cooked custard, but this recipe skips that step by using a grocery store hack. Who wants to cook custard and bake wafers in this heat? Not I. (Yes, you can have Magnolia Bakery’s famous banana pudding shipped to you, but some of us aren’t Scrooge McDuck.)
- 1 80g package of instant vanilla pudding mix
- ½ 80g package of instant banana cream pudding mix
- ½ 80g package of instant caramel (or butterscotch) pudding mix
- 3 cups cold milk
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons brandy
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 6-8 ripe bananas (Some folks, like me, love banana in every bite. Others not so much)
- 1 300g box of Vanilla wafers
Combine the pudding mixes and milk in a bowl and follow the instructions on the package. Place in the refrigerator.
Whip the heavy cream for about three minutes until the consistency resembles foam. Add the powdered sugar, brandy, and vanilla, and continue whipping until stiff peaks form. Place in the refrigerator.
Thinly slice bananas and get ready to build the pudding.
Remove pudding mixture and whipped cream from the fridge, and combine.
Unbox the Nilla wafers.
In a serving dish, place one layer of cookies, followed by a layer of bananas, then a layer of the pudding mixture. Repeat this process until you’ve used all the bananas. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge until set — approximately four hours, but better to let it sit overnight. Before serving, crumble the remaining cookies on top.
Eat your booze with this gussied up Jell-O shot.
- 2 80g packages of black cherry, raspberry, or strawberry flavoured gelatin mix
- 1 cup hot water
- 1 cup raspberries
- 1 cup blackberries
- 1 bottle (750 ml) sparkling wine, cold
- 1 cup lemon-lime soda, cold
Dissolve the flavored gelatin packets in hot water, and set aside to come to room temperature.
Rinse berries and pat dry with paper towels.
In a mixing bowl, combine gelatin mixture with cold soda and sparkling wine. Place in a serving dish and pop into the refrigerator. Chill until the mixture takes on a goop consistency that slightly resembles melted cheese. Mix in berries, then return to the fridge until completely set. Serve in coupe glasses.
The addition of rosewater and fresh mint makes this classic British recipe so delicious, you’ll be able to ignore the silly name. Fun fact: Fool is derived from the French word fouler, meaning “to compress” — aka “mash” or “puree” — which is what you’ll be doing with the fruit.
- 700g of fresh strawberries
- 6 mint leaves, finely chopped
- 1½ teaspoons rosewater
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
Wash the strawberries, ensuring to remove the leaves and stems, then cut a 200g of berries into eighths and place in a bowl. Add chopped mint, rosewater, and 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Mix and place in the fridge for at least two hours.
Strain the liquid away from the strawberry and rosewater mixture and set aside. Puree the rest of the strawberries with a 1/4 cup of sugar and the liquid. If the strawberries aren’t fully liquefied, add the juice of one lemon or two tablespoons of water.
In a mixing bowl, whip together the heavy cream and the remaining sugar until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the pureed strawberries into the whipped cream, ensuring that ribbons of strawberry puree are visible. Do not thoroughly combine. Refrigerate for at least two hours.
Top with rosewater-mint strawberry segments before serving.
Frozen Yogurt Bark
This may be a recipe for babies, but my word, it’s delicious!
- 2 ½ cups of your favourite fruit (mango, berries, or stone fruit work best)
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 cups plain Greek yogurt
Puree the fruit with sugar. Mix into yogurt. Spread on a nonstick 13×9 cookie sheet and place in the freezer overnight. Break into pieces before serving.