Lighter American Desserts

Some things in life should be anticipated, and dessert is definitely one of them. These recipes are every bit as indulgent as their high-fat counterparts; they just won’t blow your calorie budget.

Blue-Ribbon Apple Pie

Photo: Oxmoor House

Lighten Up, Desserts!

Now this is what we call a sweet ending! We triple-tested and triple-tasted every single one of these lighter dessert recipes to give you the great texture, quality, and flavor you expect from your favorite treats.

It can't get any more all-American than our first dessert—Blue-Ribbon Apple Pie!

This recipe was inspired by the version that won Pam Brunet a blue ribbon at the LaFayette Apple Festival in New York. She layers a flour-and-cinnamon-sugar mixture with apples to create a dense, rich layer of fruit. Pam credits this recipe to her mother-in-law, Grandma Brunet.

View Recipe: Blue-Ribbon Apple Pie

Roasted Banana Pudding

Photo: Oxmoor House

Roasted Banana Pudding

The genius in this recipe is that the bananas are cooked two ways: Some are partially roasted and sliced, so you get sweet bananas that keep their shape. The rest are fully roasted, almost caramelized, so you get bananas with rich, sweet flavor. For a fun presentation, scoop the pudding mixture into pretty ramekins.

View Recipe: Roasted Banana Pudding

Pound Cake with Brown Butter Glaze

Photo: Oxmoor House

Pound Cake with Brown Butter Glaze

Heart-healthy canola oil replaces a good bit of the butter traditionally used to make this dessert. Soaking a vanilla bean in the oil adds deep, rich flavor  ; you’ll never miss the butter.

View Recipe: Pound Cake with Brown Butter Glaze

Ohio Buckeyes

Photo: Helene Dujardin

Ohio Buckeyes

In this classic confection from the Buckeye State, peanut butter and chocolate combine to create an adorable replica of an Ohio tree nut.

View Recipe: Ohio Buckeyes

Classic Fudge-Walnut Brownies

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Classic Fudge-Walnut Brownies

Brownies were created in Chicago’s Palmer House hotel in 1893. Bertha Palmer, a socialite and philanthropist, requested a dessert to be served in an upscale boxed lunch that would be easier to eat than a piece of pie and smaller than a layer cake. It wasn't until the early 1900s that the dessert was popularized by home cooks.

View Recipe: Classic Fudge-Walnut Brownies

Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies

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Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies

You’ll find that this recipe is very similar to the famous recipe on the Quaker Oats package—only lighter. We cut the original amount of butter almost in half and added molasses to bump up the flavor.

View Recipe: Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies

Pumpkin Pie with Vanilla Whipped Cream

Photo: Oxmoor House

Pumpkin Pie with Vanilla Whipped Cream

This is the pie you remember from many Thanksgivings, made better for you. Instead of using a can of regular evaporated milk, we swapped in a fat-free version.

View Recipe: Pumpkin Pie with Vanilla Whipped Cream

Cranberry Crunch

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Cranberry Crunch

Cranberries, blueberries, and Concord grapes are the only berries native to America that are commercially grown. Cranberries were first used by Native Americans, who valued them as a food, fabric dye, and healing agent. American farmers now harvest over 40,000 acres of cranberries a year, meaning you can find them fresh over the fall and winter months. This recipe highlights their fresh natural flavor while adding a little oat-enhanced crunch for interest.

View Recipe: Cranberry Crunch

How are Cranberries Harvested?

Texas Sheet Cake

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Texas Sheet Cake

Toasty nuts and fudgy cake topped with a thin, crackly glaze make this a deliciously moist, irresistible dessert.

View Recipe: Texas Sheet Cake

Watch the Video: How to Make Texas Sheet Cake

See More of America's Favorite Baked Goods

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Red Velvet Cupcakes

The frosting takes this red velvet cupcake recipe from great to fantastic. The secret here: real butter and full-fat cream cheese—just less of it. The results are mouthwateringly good.

View Recipe: Red Velvet Cupcakes

Butter-Crunch Lemon Bars

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Butter-Crunch Lemon Bars

A buttery, crunchy pastry crust forms the base for a tangy lemon filling. You can substitute fresh orange juice and grated orange rind for lemon, if you wish. These are best served chilled.

View Recipe: Butter-Crunch Lemon Bars

Trifle

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Trifle

Trifle dishes are a popular wedding gift, but, sadly, many of them go unused. Pull yours out of storage and fill it, as intended, with pound cake, fruit, and whipped cream.

View Recipe: Trifle

Key Lime Pie

Photo: Oxmoor House

Key Lime Pie

The small, pale green Key lime is prized for its almost herbal aroma and pronounced acidity. The compact fruits are tart, sharp, and memorably sour—some might say borderline bitter. It’s a taste sensation that works particularly well in baking and in beverages.

View Recipe: Key Lime Pie

Vanilla Cheesecake with Cherry Topping

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Vanilla Cheesecake with Cherry Topping

You can make both the cheesecake and the topping up to three days ahead and store them separately in the refrigerator. Or chill the cooled cheesecake in the pan for two hours, then wrap in heavy-duty plastic wrap and freeze for up to two months. Thaw the cheesecake in the refrigerator.

View Recipe: Vanilla Cheesecake with Cherry Topping

Triple-Chocolate Cake

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Triple-Chocolate Cake

Chocolate lovers rejoice! This rich cake gives you a hit of chocolate in each element—the batter, filling, and glaze. And three kinds of chocolate are used: cocoa, bittersweet chocolate, and milk chocolate.

View Recipe: Triple-Chocolate Cake

Peach Pie

Photo: Oxmoor House

Peach Pie

Peach pie isn’t that difficult to make in the summer, especially when you use a store-bought crust instead of one that's homemade. Make the process even quicker by adding peaches with the skins on, lending their bright color to the pie. And on a beautiful summer day, wouldn't you rather skip the step that has you standing over a pot of steaming hot water blanching peaches to remove their skins?

View Recipe: Peach Pie

Lemon-Poppy Seed Bundt Cake

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Lemon-Poppy Seed Bundt Cake

A favorite flavor combination—lemon and poppy seeds—enhances this version of the classic Bundt cake.

View Recipe: Lemon-Poppy Seed Bundt Cake

Apple Crisp

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Apple Crisp

This is apple pie’s less-fussy but just-as-tasty little sister.

View Recipe: Apple Crisp

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream with Fresh Strawberries

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Vanilla Bean Ice Cream with Fresh Strawberries

This recipe was inspired by Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home, by Ohio-based ice cream maker Jeni Britton Bauer.

View Recipe: Vanilla Bean Ice Cream with Fresh Strawberries

Birthday Cake

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Birthday Cake

Buttery yellow cake with creamy chocolate frosting—what could be better on a birthday? Use baking spray with flour to prevent the cake layers from sticking to the pans.

View Recipe: Birthday Cake

Southern Fruitcake

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Southern Fruitcake

Ideally, fruitcake should be made at least a month before you plan to serve it, but it will last for several months when stored tightly wrapped in the fridge.

View Recipe: Southern Fruitcake

Magic Cookie Bars

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Magic Cookie Bars

These are also known as seven-layer or Hello Dolly bars. They take 30 minutes of hands-on prep and call for just eight ingredients, making them the perfect dessert for taking, well, just about anywhere!

View Recipe: Magic Cookie Bars

St. Louis Butter Cake

Photo: Oxmoor House

St. Louis Butter Cake

A beloved St. Louis dessert whose very name includes “butter” with fewer than 200 calories and 4 grams of saturated fat per luscious serving? Yes!

View Recipe: St. Louis Butter Cake

No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Drops

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No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Drops

No-bake cookies make even the most oven-shy baker look like a hero. You’ll see them at bake sales, fundraisers, and in millions of homes across the country as an after-school snack. We've cut out a lot of the unnecessary butter and added chocolate chips, providing firmness, texture, and a great gloss to these cookies.

View Recipe: No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Drops

Shoofly Pie

Photo: Oxmoor House

Shoofly Pie

The name for this Pennsylvania Dutch treat likely came from the flies it attracts when it's pulled from the oven and left to cool on a breezy windowsill.

View Recipe: Shoofly Pie

Double-Coconut Cake

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Double-Coconut Cake

The light coconut milk in this recipe delivers richness, flavor, and moisture without all the extra saturated fat found in regular coconut milk.

View Recipe: Double-Coconut Cake

Vanilla Cupcakes with Creamy Vanilla Buttercream

Photo: Oxmoor House

Vanilla Cupcakes with Creamy Vanilla Buttercream

Cupcakes of every imaginable flavor are all the rage these days, but it’s hard to beat the rich simplicity of vanilla. 

View Recipe: Vanilla Cupcakes with Creamy Vanilla Buttercream

Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies

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Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies

This dough will work for slice-and-bake cookies or as a rolled dough for your favorite cookie cutters.

View Recipe: Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Bars

Photo: Oxmoor House

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Bars

These bars are a classic of kids' cooking adventures and home economics classes. Try this updated version of the bars, fit for modern palates, with your own young chef. Substitute light brown sugar for the dark if you are looking for a milder bar.

View Recipe: Chocolate-Peanut Butter Bars

Hoosier Pie

Photo: Oxmoor House

Hoosier Pie

This simple custard pie originated in the 1800s as a way to use ingredients typically on hand: butter, flour, and sugar or maple syrup. Similar to the Hoosier Pie is the Pennsylvania Chess Pie; both were created, it's believed, by Shaker and Amish cooks.

View Recipe: Hoosier Pie

Carrot Cake

Photo: Oxmoor House

Carrot Cake

Warm spices and brown sugar add rich, caramelized flavors to this carrot cake. If you can’t find fromage blanc, use more cream cheese.

View Recipe: Carrot Cake

Peanut Butter Cookies

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Peanut Butter Cookies

These are just like Grandma made, complete with the crosshatch pattern on top. It’s easier than you think to make that pattern; just crisscross the tines of a fork and press gently into the top of each cookie before you bake.

View Recipe: Peanut Butter Cookies

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