Easy Independence Day Dessert

When I was young, my mom used to make a dessert every Fourth of July. Or better put, she bought the ingredients and let us make our own according to our liking. It was a very simple but delicious treat consisting of a few scoops of vanilla ice cream topped with blueberry and cherry pie filling, which we then topped with a generous dollop of whipped cream.

As big ice cream fans on a hot, summer day, we really enjoyed this cold treat each year. It became one of our beloved traditions.

Several years ago, I decided to introduce this dessert to JJ one Fourth of July. He also likes ice cream, and summers here are hotter than anything either of us experienced growing up, so I was pretty sure he would enjoy it as much as I do. Since then, we have made it a regular part of our own Independence Day celebration, and our son loves it as much as we do.

This year, I decided I wanted to make a spin-off of this dessert—something a little more elegant with more measurable portions, so I present to you these fruit-flavored ice cream pie bites. This dessert combines a buttery, crisp graham cracker crust with all the flavors reminiscent of my childhood—creamy ice cream; sweet, slightly tart fruit topping; and a frothy dollop of whipped cream.

My husband and I are not big fans of cherry filling, so we almost always opt to use strawberry fruit filling instead, but cherry or raspberry filling work just as well. Alternatively, if you are not concerned about using traditional colors for this dessert, you could use apple, peach, or any other fruit filling you desire.

Although this dessert is easy to make, it does require some time, so feel free to skip the graham cracker crust and make it the way my mother did if you would rather enjoy a dessert without any time restraints. Your guests will love it just as much! Otherwise, pull out your apron and let’s get to making this delicious, elegant ice cream dessert! And to my American friends, Happy 4th of July in advance!

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

John 8:36 ESV

EASY INDEPENDENCE DAY DESSERT (FRUIT FLAVORED ICE CREAM PIE BITES)

Ingredients:

  • Parchment paper or sturdy muffin liners (I used aluminum liners)
  • 3 c vanilla ice cream, divided
  • 1 sleeve graham crackers
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • ¼ c granulated sugar
  • ½ c salted butter, melted
  • 21 oz can blueberry pie filling or topping, divided
  • 21 oz can strawberry pie filling or topping OR other red fruit filling of choice (I used strawberry rhubarb filling)
  • Whipped cream of choice (I used Reddi Whip)

Instructions:

Line a muffin tin with 12 sturdy muffin liners or parchment paper, then scoop ¼ c of vanilla ice cream into each muffin cup, using a spoon to smooth the ice cream into each cup. Set in the freezer to chill for two hours.

Meanwhile, make the graham cracker crust. Crush the graham crackers in a food processor or by hand until finely ground. Mix the crumbs in a bowl with the cinnamon and salt, then pour the butter of the mixture and mix well.

After the ice cream has chilled, take out of the freezer and put 2 tablespoons of the graham cracker mixture over each ice cream cup, making sure to firmly pack the graham cracker mixture over the ice cream so that the surface is covered. Place back into the freezer for an additional 10 to 15 minutes.

Before taking the ice cream cups out of the freezer, open the cans of fruit filling and remove the top to the whipped topping, then remove the muffin tin from the freezer, gently extracting each ice cream cup from the tin (if needed, wedge a butter knife on the side of the muffin tin to help remove each ice cream cup).

Invert each cup onto individual serving plates or bowls so that the graham cracker crust is on the bottom, then add one to two tablespoons of each fruit filling on top of the ice cream, or according to preference. Top off with a dollop of whipped cream and enjoy! Makes 12 individual ice cream cups.

Sweetheart Cake

I apparently have a thing for decadent desserts as of late. This one is no exception. Inspired by a raspberry cake I recently saw online, I decided to make a similar cake for my birthday this year, but with strawberry compote instead of raspberry filling.

This cake is the perfect combination of moist, chocolate cake layered with creamy chocolate mousse and tangy, sweet cinnamon strawberry compote with a rich chocolate ganache to top it off.

Perfect for any strawberry and chocolate lovers, this cake would make a scrumptious addition to any Valentine’s Day celebration. Add freeze dried strawberries to top it off, if desired, or simply enjoy it plain. Either way, it is sure to be a show-stopper that everyone will enjoy.

As always, let me know if you make this dessert and tell me what you think! I hope you enjoy it as much as we have! Happy Valentine’s Day in advance!

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

1 Corinthians 13:7

SWEETHEART CAKE

Chocolate Cake Ingredients

  • 2 ½ c cake flour
  • ¾ c cacao powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 c granulated sugar
  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 1 c milk (minus 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 T white vinegar*
  • ½ c vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c boiling water

Chocolate Mousse Ingredients

  • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate baking bar (I used a 60% cacao Ghiradelli bar)
  • 1 c heavy whipping cream
  • ½ c powdered sugar
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened (I used 1/3 less fat)
  • 1 t vanilla

Cinnamon Strawberry Compote Ingredients

  • 16 oz strawberries, diced
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 1 lemon, juice of (divided)
  • 1 ½ t cinnamon
  • ¼ t cloves (scant quarter teaspoon)
  • 2 T cornstarch

Chocolate Ganache Ingredients

  • 8 oz semi-sweet chocolate*
  • 1 c heavy whipping cream

For the Chocolate Cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small ball, combine the milk and vinegar in a small bowl and set aside. Meanwhile, mix together the flour, cacao powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, and eggs and beat together with an electric beater. Add the milk mixture and blend, then add the hot water and blend with the beater to combine. Evenly distribute between two 9 inch greased and floured cake pans, then bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool in pans.

For the Chocolate Mousse:

Break the chocolate bar into pieces and melt over the stove on medium low heat until completely melted. Set aside to cool slightly. In a mixing bowl, beat the whipping cream with an electric beater until peaks form, then gradually add the powdered sugar and continue to beat until well incorporated.

In a separate bowl, beat the softened cream cheese with an electric beater until smooth, then add the chocolate and vanilla and beat until combined. Add the whipping cream to the cream cheese mixture and beat together. Set aside in the refrigerator until ready to be used.

For the Cinnamon Strawberry Compote:

Follow recipe as found here: https://anticipatingadventure.com/2021/02/10/cinnamon-strawberry-compote/. Cool completely before using.

For the Chocolate Ganache:

Heat the heavy whipping cream over the stove on medium heat until small bubbles begin to form. Remove from heat and add the chocolate chips, making sure that each are covered by the heavy whipping cream. Cover the mixture with a lid and let sit for five minutes, then stir together to combine well. It will take several minutes to mix together and get a smooth consistency. Once combined, let sit an additional ten to fifteen minutes before pouring over the assembled cake.

For the Cake Assembly:

Cut each cake lengthwise to form four circles. On the first circle, spread a third of the mousse evenly over the top, then gently spread the compote on top, forming a slightly smaller circle over the compote. Repeat each step with the second and third cakes, then top with the final cake. Spoon the ganache over the top and sides of cake until the cake is covered in ganache. Top with freeze dried strawberries, if desired, and enjoy. Refrigerate any leftovers.

*If desired, use 1 c buttermilk instead of the milk and vinegar.

*The 8 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate should be measured according to weight and not by a cup. If you are not able to measure the chocolate, I suggest using the entire 12 oz bag of semi-sweet chocolate with 1 ½ c heavy whipping cream.

Double Decker Butterscotch Bars with Eggnog Cream Cheese Frosting

Chewy butterscotch chip bars with a rich butterscotch candy layer and creamy eggnog cream cheese frosting

If you’d like a delicious yet distinct dessert this Christmas season, I highly recommend these Double Decker Butterscotch Bars with Eggnog Cream Cheese Frosting. Made from an adaptation of a recipe a former roommate gave me years ago for the actual cookie, the first level consists of a chewy butterscotch-chip bar, which is then covered with a rich butterscotch candy layer and topped by creamy, eggnog cream cheese frosting.

Much like the cookies I posted about last year (found here: https://anticipatingadventure.com/2020/12/02/almond-cherry-chocolate-chip-cookies/), these cookies came about thanks to an annual Christmas cookie competition that I entered this fall. Also much like last year’s recipe, these cookies did not win a prize. These bars are too good to keep to myself, however, so I wanted to share this tasty treat with you all this Christmas season.

The cookie bar and frosting come together fairly quickly and easily, with the butterscotch candy layer requiring a bit more work and concentration. Nonetheless, these bars are so good (and quite addictive!) that the extra effort is worth it. Below I’ve included a few tips for this recipe, including some comments that should make the butterscotch candy layer a bit simpler.

As always, please leave a comment if you make this recipe to let me know what you think. I hope you enjoy these bars as much as I do! Now please excuse me as I make my way to the fridge to eat another…

DOUBLE DECKER BUTTERSCOTCH BARS WITH EGGNOG CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

Ingredients:

For the Cookie Bar:

  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 1 box (3.5 oz) vanilla instant pudding and pie filling mix*
  • 2 T flour
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • ½ t nutmeg
  • ¼ t cloves
  • ½ c oil
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ c butterscotch chips

For the Butterscotch Candy Layer

  • 3 T butter
  • 3 T heavy whipping cream
  • 15 butterscotch disks, crushed

For the Eggnog Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • ¼ c heavy whipping cream
  • ½ c and 1 T powdered sugar, divided
  • ¼ c eggnog
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • ½ t cinnamon
  • ¼ t nutmeg
  • A pinch of cloves

Optional Toppings

Additional crushed butterscotch pieces, finely chopped nuts, or ground cinnamon

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9×13 baking sheet and set aside.

Mix the cake mix, pudding and pie filling mix, flour, 1 t cinnamon, ½ t nutmeg, and ¼ t cloves together, then add the eggs and oil and mix well until combined. Mix in the butterscotch chips, then spread the mixture over the baking sheet, patting it down and into the edges until the bottom of the baking sheet is covered by the dough. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until done.

While the cookie bar is baking, make the candy butterscotch layer. Crush the butterscotch candy into smaller pieces** and set aside. Heat butter over the stove on medium low heat until melted. Add the 3 T heavy whipping cream and stir to combine, then slowly add the butterscotch pieces, stirring constantly. Use an additional spoon alongside the stirring spoon to try to separate the candy pieces as they try to stick together again. USE CAUTION! The candy and butter-cream mixture will be very hot! Continue stirring over medium low heat until the butterscotch dissolves completely into the mix, roughly 7-10 minutes. Immediately spread over the baked cookie bars as the butterscotch mixture will begin to harden once allowed to cool. Set aside to cool completely before adding the frosting layer.

For the frosting, whip the ¼ c heavy whipping cream with a beater until peaks start to form, then beat in the 1 T powdered sugar. Once combined, slowly add the eggnog, beating continually, until left with a thick mixture (the peaks will become softer once the eggnog is completely added).  Set aside.

In a separate mixing bowl, thoroughly beat the softened cream cheese with a hand beater, then add the ½ c powdered sugar, ½ t cinnamon, ¼ t nutmeg, and a pinch of cloves and beat until combined. Combine the eggnog mixture with the cream cheese mixture and beat together to blend. Spread over the butterscotch candy layer of the cooled cookie bars and serve immediately. Refrigerate any leftovers. Makes 16 bars.

TIPS:

*For a richer butterscotch flavor, substitute the vanilla instant pudding and pie filling mix with butterscotch instant pudding and pie filling mix.

**To make the butterscotch candy easier to crush, drop each one to the floor a few times in their individual wrappers, then carefully open over a resealable gallon storage bag and roll over the crushed candies on a flat surface with a rolling pin (I suggest rolling over the candy on a cutting board to avoid damage to any other surface due to possible jagged pieces of candy).

No Bake Pumpkin Cheesecake with Cinnamon and Caramel Swirl

Around this time last year, I dreamed about creating a pumpkin cheesecake with cinnamon and caramel swirl. The days quickly turned into weeks, however, and I never got around to it. Soon Thanksgiving had come and gone, and the opportunity seemed lost.

I kept it in mind for this year, however, so I decided to try my hand at at it this month, and my family and I are equally delighted with the results.

This no-bake cheesecake is a luscious, elegant dessert worthy to be part of your Thanksgiving or a fall potluck or get together. Creamy, sweet pumpkin combines with morsels of warm cinnamon and swirls of creamy caramel in this rich dessert. The best part? It is so easy to make! If you want to make a dessert that requires minimal effort yet is sure to impress, then give this one a try! And as always, leave a comment in the comments section if you make it to let me know what you think!

NO BAKE PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE WITH CINNAMON AND CARAMEL SWIRL

Ingredients

  • 2 sleeves graham crackers (18 full graham crackers, equal to 3 cups finely crushed)
  • 2 T Saigon cinnamon, divided (or your preference of cinnamon)
  • 1/8 t salt
  • 1 c butter, melted
  • 2/3 c granulated sugar
  • 1 c brown sugar, divided
  • 1 c caramel sauce, store bought or homemade
  • 1 c heavy whipping cream
  • 2/3 c powdered sugar
  • 2 8-oz packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 c pumpkin puree
  • 1 T pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 t vanilla
  • Cooking spray

Instructions:

Spray a springform pan with cooking spray and set aside.

Crush the graham crackers in segments in a sealed plastic freezer bag using a rolling pin or drinking glass. Place the crumbs and granulated sugar in a mixing bowl and stir in 1 T cinnamon and salt, then add the melted butter and stir until combined. Set aside 1 cup of the mixture, then press the remaining mixture into the bottom of the spring form pan, pressing the edges up the side by a half inch. Place in the refrigerator to chill.

In the meantime, prepare the cinnamon swirl mixture. Add the remaining tablespoon of cinnamon and ½ c brown sugar to the remaining graham cracker crumb mixture and mix until combined. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the heavy whipping cream until peaks start to form, then add the powdered sugar and beat until combined. In a separate bowl, beat together the cream cheese, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, ½ c brown sugar, and vanilla, then add the whipping cream to the pumpkin mixture and mix until combined.

To assemble the cheesecake, spread 1/3 c of the caramel sauce over the center of the crust, then spread a half of the pumpkin cheesecake mixture over it. Add 6 spoonfuls of the cinnamon swirl mixture and caramel sauce to the top of the cheesecake mixture, alternating between the two, then use a butter knife and carefully slice through the cake to create swirls with the cinnamon mixture and caramel sauce. Next, spread the rest of the pumpkin cheesecake mixture over it, then drizzle the remaining 1/3 c caramel sauce over the top and slice through the top half again to form different patterns with the sauce. Spoon the remaining cinnamon mixture around the edges of the cheesecake to create a border. Chill 3-4 hours or until set before serving. Enjoy!

Take Me to the Tropics Cake

JJ and I celebrated five years of marriage over the weekend, and I decided to create a cake reminiscent of our honeymoon trip to the beach at that time. Unfortunately, the cake pictured above was not JJ’s favorite (I probably shouldn’t be admitting that, right?). My son and I loved it, however, and a good friend of mine graciously taste-tested a piece and really enjoyed it as well, so I’m sharing the recipe with you all anyway.

This dessert is undeniably tropical in taste, where fluffy coconut cake combines with tangy, mango lime sauce topped with creamy white chocolate mascarpone. I went the extra mile and toasted some shredded coconut for the sides of our cake and also dried some pineapple slices to look like flowers on top. It took a lot of work, but I was very pleased with the end result. This cake would look just as beautiful, however, with dried/fresh mango slices, nuts, or white chocolate shavings. A fuller list of ideas is included below.

The mango lime sauce does not thicken significantly, so the assembly for this cake can be a bit tricky. Some tips are included below in the “assembly” section to address this issue. Alternatively, this cake could be baked as a sheet pan poke cake, with the mango lime filling used to fill in the holes. Or, to keep the fluffy texture of the cake and its distinct flavors, cut the cake into individual or bite-sized pieces, then spoon the mango lime mixture over each serving, topping each one with a dollop of white chocolate mascarpone (JJ absolutely loved the dessert like this, which I was able to make from some extra cake we had). For this last option, I suggest storing the cake in an airtight container at room temperature to maintain its freshness longer. All other forms should be stored in the refrigerator.

However you decide to make this cake, I hope you will enjoy it as much as I have and that it will transport your taste buds to the tropics with each bite.

TAKE ME TO THE TROPICS CAKE

Coconut Cake:

  • 1 c milk, room temperature
  • 1 T white vinegar
  • ½ c cake flour
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • ¼ t salt
  • ½ c butter, room temperature
  • 1 ½ c granulated sugar
  • 2 t coconut extract
  • ½ c canned coconut milk
  • 5 egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 ½ c shredded coconut

Instructions:

In a small bowl, mix the milk and white vinegar together (or substitute the milk and vinegar for buttermilk at room temperature). Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray two 9-inch cake pans with oil, then dust each with flour, removing any excess flour from the pans.

In a medium sized bowl, stir together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat the butter, sugar, and coconut extract together with an electric mixer, then add the coconut milk until well combined. Next, incorporate the egg whites slowly while continuing to beat the mixture with the mixer. Once combined, add the flour mixture and milk in segments until well incorporated, then fold in the shredded coconut.

Bake for 27-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Set aside to cool before removing from the cake pans.

Mango Lime Filling:

  • 2 large mangoes (I used Ataulfo variety)
  • 2 large limes, juice of
  • ¼ c sugar
  • ¼ c canned coconut milk
  • 2 T cornstarch
  • 2 T water

Instructions:

Blend the mangoes, lime juice, sugar, and coconut milk together in a high-powered blender until smooth. Pour the mixture into a saucepan and heat over the stove on medium low heat. Meanwhile, mix the cornstarch and water together until smooth. Once combined, slowly add the sauce to the mango mixture, stirring constantly. Cook the mixture over the stove for 3-5 minutes, until heated through, then let cool slightly before transferring to a storage container. Chill for two hours, or until cold.

TIP: My friend suggested putting some lime zest in this filling to really bring out the lime flavor. I have yet to make it like this but imagine it would be tasty. Feel free to try this option, if you desire.

White Chocolate Mascarpone Frosting:

  • 4 oz. white chocolate baking bar*
  • 1 c heavy whipping cream, cold
  • 2 T powdered sugar
  • 8 oz. mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 t vanilla

Instructions:

Break the white chocolate into pieces and heat over the stove on medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Once melted, set aside to cool slightly. Meanwhile, beat together the whipping cream and powdered sugar with an electric mixer until the whipping cream begins to stiffen and form peaks. In a separate bowl, beat together the mascarpone, white chocolate, and vanilla, then add the whipping cream mixture and beat with the electric mixer until well incorporated.

*You can use 4 oz. white chocolate chips instead. However, make sure you buy a brand that does not include oil among the ingredients. This will cause the chocolate to harden and form little clumps throughout the frosting.

Optional Toppings:

Dried/fresh mango or pineapple, shredded toasted/untoasted coconut, macadamia nuts, and/or white chocolate shavings.

To Assemble the Cake:

Cut each cake in half horizontally to form four smaller cake rounds. Set the first cake round on a plate/cake platter, then pipe a line of frosting around the edge. This will help to keep the filling inside the cake. Cover the middle of the cake with the mango lime filling, then place the next cake round on top. Repeat until the last cake round is placed on the cake, then frost the cake with the remaining frosting.

TIP: I found the cake to be a bit difficult to frost at first. If this is a problem for you, I suggest placing the cake in the freezer for 10 minutes to allow the filling and frosting around the edge to slightly harden, which will in turn make the cake easier to frost. While chilling the cake, allow the remaining frosting to sit at room temperature so that it will be more easily spreadable. Stirring the frosting thoroughly will also help to soften it.

Lastly, garnish the cake with any optional toppings you desire and enjoy immediately! You deserve it after all that work! 😊 Store any leftover cake in the refrigerator.