Spring has officially sprung — at least, everyone is hoping it has. For many Americans, it’s been a long winter, and snow day after snow day has not only put a damper on our moods, but also on many of our clean eating plans. But that’s okay, because Spring is a time to reset and reexamine our goals. Before we know it, we’ll be back on our outdoor exercise grind, and those stress-induced nights of brownie sundaes will be a thing of the past.
Now that spring is here, we need to start thinking refreshing desserts, because we’re surely not going to give up our favorite after dinner treat — we might just want to lighten it up a bit. Comfort foods are for winter; refreshing foods are for spring. Here are 6 dessert recipes that will boost your spirits without boosting your waistline. This year especially, everyone needs a little more sugar and Vitamin D in their blood.
1. Fruit Salad With Cannoli Cream
We’ll start off with Giada De Laurentiis’s recipe for Fruit Salad with Cannoli Cream, because dessert doesn’t need to always involve chocolate, although some believe that it does need to involve cream. This recipe is the perfect example of a dessert that is appetizing and satisfying, but also not a wrecking ball for your summer bikini plans. The fruit is finally getting fresher and more delectable in grocery markets, and it’s time to pair it with some cream.
- 1/3 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
- 2 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup whipping cream
- 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
- Pinch ground cinnamon
- 12 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled, quartered (about 2 1/2 cups)
- 1/2 dry pint fresh raspberries (about 1 1/4 cups)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 kiwi, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 3 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
Directions: Stir the ricotta and 2 tablespoons of cream in a medium bowl to blend. Using an electric mixer, beat the remaining 1/3 cup of cream, powdered sugar, and cinnamon in a large bowl until semi-firm peaks form. Fold the ricotta into the whipped cream. Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to stiffen and yield a creamier filling. (Can be prepared 4 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
Toss the strawberries, raspberries, sugar, and lemon juice in a medium bowl to combine. Let stand until juices form, tossing occasionally, about 15 minutes. Add the kiwi. Spoon the fruit mixture into 4 dessert bowls. Dollop the ricotta cream atop the fruit. Sprinkle with the almonds and serve.
2. Lemon and Lime Bars
Lemon and Lime Bars like these from Better Homes and Gardens are always a good idea, because not only are they refreshing, they’re also easy to make and relatively light on calories. The pungent taste of citrus in this dessert is enough to evoke feelings of springtime happiness on its own, and thanks to the lemons and limes now readily available in grocery stores, you won’t even have to break the bank to make it.
- 2/3 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
- 4 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel, divided
- 6 eggs
- 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon finely shredded lime peel
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan with heavy foil; set aside. For crust, in large mixing bowl beat butter on medium to high 30 seconds. Add brown sugar; beat until combined. Beat in 2 cups of the flour until crumbly. Stir in 2 teaspoons of the lemon peel. Evenly press on bottom of prepared pan. Bake 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, for filling, in medium bowl combine eggs, granulated sugar, remaining 1/2 cup flour, lemon juice, baking powder, and nutmeg. Beat on medium 2 minutes. Stir in remaining lemon peel and the lime peel. Pour over hot crust. Bake 20 minutes more or until edges are browned and center appears set. Remove to rack; cool 1 hour. Refrigerate, covered, 2 hours.
To serve, sprinkle evenly with powdered sugar. Lift from pan using foil; cut into bars.
3. Waffle and Strawberry Trifle
Or, you can take a page from Martha Stewart’s book and make her mouthwatering Waffle and Strawberry Trifle. This light dessert screams spring and is the perfect after dinner treat to welcome the shorter, warmer nights. Go easy on yourself with this recipe and get some frozen waffles, then all you have to do is quickly whip up the creamy pudding. This dessert takes the cake.
- 1/3 cup plus 3/4 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/8 teaspoon fine salt
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 pounds strawberries, hulled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 8 ounces frozen Belgian waffles, toasted and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
Directions: Place a fine mesh sieve over a medium heatproof bowl. In a medium saucepan, whisk together 1/3 cup sugar, cornstarch, salt, milk, 1/2 cup cream, and egg yolks. Cook over medium-high, whisking constantly, until thickened and bubbling, 6 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, whisking, 1 minute. Pour through sieve into bowl. Stir in butter and vanilla until combined. Press plastic wrap against surface of pudding to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate 3 hours (or up to 3 days.)
Toss strawberries with 1/2 cup sugar; let sit until fruit has released some juice, 20 minutes. Using an electric mixer, beat 1 1/2 cups cream and 1/4 cup sugar on medium-high until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes. In a large bowl or trifle dish, layer 1/2 the waffles, strawberries, pudding, and whipped cream; repeat. Cover trifle with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours (or up to 1 day.)
4. Hummingbird Banana Bread
Next up: Hummingbird Banana Bread from Beth Cakes. Quick breads are the perfect snack or dessert for spring — fun, easy, and light — and this version incorporates all of our favorite flavors from Hummingbird Cake into Banana Bread. Are we dreaming? Luckily, we’re not, and as long as you have some Greek yogurt, ripe bananas, pineapple, and other baking staples on your hands, you can see just how serious we are. Back away from the cake plate and pick up your loaf pan. It’s time to make some bread.
- 3/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup butter, room temp
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups mashed ripe bananas (2 cups of sliced bananas, then mashed)
- 1 6 ounce Greek yogurt
- 1 8 ounce crushed pineapple
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 3/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)
For Cinnamon Cream Cheese Glaze
- 2 ounce cream cheese, room temperature
- 4 tablespoons heavy cream or milk
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
Directions for bread: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a 9×5-inch loaf pan with foil. Spray with nonstick spray. In a large bowl with a handheld mixer, cream butter and sugar until combined and fluffy. Add eggs and mix well. Add the mashed bananas, yogurt, and crushed pineapple. Mix until just incorporated.
Next, add the cinnamon, baking soda, and half of the flour. Mix until just combined. Repeat with the second half of the flour. Stir in chopped pecans if you want to include them. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick/wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Directions for glaze: Cream the cream cheese with a handheld mixer on medium speed until smooth and there are no lumps. Add heavy cream, cinnamon, and powdered sugar. Mix on low speed until just incorporated, then mix on medium speed until completely combined. Use a spoon or a squeeze bottle to drizzle cream cheese glaze over the bread. (Best is bread is just slightly warm.) Sprinkle with chopped pecans.
5. Angel Food Cake
Up at No. 5 is a delicious one. The idea of an Angel Food Cake usually gets pushed to the back of people’s minds when the indulgent holidays come around, but once spring has sprung, it’s back in the grocery store and in the forefront of our minds. Good news, people — it’s April, therefore it is officially Angel Food Cake season. You can always pick one of these babies up in the supermarket, but then again, you can always impress your guests and whip up your own. If that is the case, pick this recipe from Alton Brown himself. The secret to Angel Food Cake is all in the egg whites, and this recipe will show you how it’s done.
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup cake flour, sifted
- 12 egg whites (the closer to room temperature the better)
- 1/3 cup warm water
- 1 teaspoon orange extract, or extract of your choice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a food processor spin sugar about 2 minutes until it is superfine. Sift half of the sugar with the salt the cake flour, setting the remaining sugar aside.
In a large bowl, use a balloon whisk to thoroughly combine egg whites, water, orange extract, and cream of tartar. After 2 minutes, switch to a hand mixer. Slowly sift the reserved sugar, beating continuously at medium speed. Once you have achieved medium peaks, sift enough of the flour mixture in to dust the top of the foam. Using a spatula fold in gently. Continue until all of the flour mixture is incorporated. Carefully spoon mixture into an ungreased tube pan. Bake for 35 minutes before checking for doneness with wooden skewer. (When inserted halfway between the inner and outer wall, the skewer should come out dry.)
Cool upside down on cooling rack for at least an hour before removing from pan.
6. Shortcake With Peaches and Cream
Last up: Shortcake With Peaches and Cream from Delish.com. In an effort not to sugarcoat things, we’ll admit our recognition that shortcake isn’t exactly health food, but if it doesn’t scream springtime dessert then what does? Practice portion control with this delicacy and you can still show off in your bikini come summer. Or, take one bite, and realize that shortcake tastes much better than skinny feels. Just sayin’.
- 2 cup(s) biscuit mix, such as Bisquick
- 1/3 cup(s) sugar
- 1/2 vanilla bean seeds
- 1/3 cup(s) heavy cream
- 1/3 cup(s) cold water
For Peaches and Cream
- 4 medium peaches
- 2 tablespoon(s) sugar
- 1/2 vanilla bean seeds
- 1/2 cup(s) heavy cream
Directions: Prepare the shortcake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix biscuit mix with sugar and seeds from half of a vanilla bean in a medium bowl. Stir in heavy cream and water. Transfer batter to lightly oiled 8-inch cake pan and bake until a skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Set pan on a wire rack and cool for 15 minutes. Release cake from pan and cool completely.
Meanwhile, peel, pit, and slice 4 medium peaches. Toss with 2 tablespoons sugar and seeds from remaining half of vanilla bean in medium bowl; let sit 15 minutes to allow peach juices to release. For whipped cream, beat heavy cream to soft peaks. Chill both peaches and cream.
Cut cake into wedges. Split each piece, spoon peaches onto bottom halves, cover with top halves, and drizzle with juice. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.