Today it is all about desserts—most of them quick and easy! Those of you who know me, know that besides cooking another of my keen interests is reading, and I do a lot of “traveling” through the books I read. Something I like to do is when I am reading a book set in a particular place, I like to occasionally make a meal suited to that locale to help round out my “travel” experience. I’m reminded of this today with the Cannoli Poke Cake. Why not plan an evening in Italy with a good pasta dish, some candle light, maybe even a little vino and this delightful dessert!

Quite often I am asked about tea cakes. They are somewhat of an old-timey southern treat and in some ways a relic of slower simpler times. I bet many of you can remember someone who always seemed to have delicious tea cakes on hand for a quick treat and they always seemed to go well with anything. They are not hard to make, store easily, and everyone seems to like their classic taste. Why not make up a batch and share them! They make great gifts to lonely neighbors, too!

You will notice that several of the recipes today are “semi-homemade” because they start out with bought cakes or cake mixes. Sometimes this added convenience is just the ticket, particularly when you are pushed for time and want to put something good on the table for your family or friends to enjoy. There is always something nice about knowing that you have a good dessert or treat on hand, ready to make someone’s day!

Cannoli Poke Cake

Richard’s Note: This cake captures all the flavor of a classic Italian dessert!

1 box vanilla or choc. cake mix plus ingredients on box to prepare it

1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk

1 & 1/2 cups mini chocolate chips

16 oz cream cheese room temp

1/2 cup soft butter

1/2 cup ricotta

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup powdered sugar

1 cup broken cannoli shells or waffle cones.

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and flour a 9x13 pan. Prepare cake as directed and bake until center is set — about 22 minutes or so. Let cake cool a bit and then with end of a wooden spoon poke holes over top and pour sweetened condensed into the holes and add one cup of mini chocolate chips. Refrigerate 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make frosting. In large bowl with hand mixer beat cream cheese, ricotta, vanilla and powdered sugar. Beat until well combined and no lumps or clumps remain. Frost cake top with remaining mini choc chips and crushed cannoli shells or waffle cones before serving. Cover and store this cake in the refrigerator.

Cherry Twinkies Dessert

Richard’s Note: While this recipe is for “cherry” I would imagine it would lend itself to many variations, which would be just as good!

14 twinkies (individual cream filled sponge cakes)

2 small pkgs. of cherry gelatin

2 cups hot water

2 pkgs. instant vanilla pudding

1 cup cold milk

1 container of whipped topping

1 jar maraschino cherries

Place 14 twinkies in a 9x13 pan. Dissolve cherry gelatin in hot water, pour evenly over twinkies. Sprinkle on some chopped cherries. Mix milk with pudding. Mixture will be thick. Carefully spread pudding over twinkies. Spread whipped topping over pudding. Garnish with more chopped cherries. Chill overnight then cut into pieces.

Pam’s Quick Swiss Cake Dessert

Pam’s Note: This is always a big hit at my family reunions and is super easy to make. I have used vanilla pudding instead of chocolate and it was just as good.

Take Swiss Roll cakes and lay them in a 9 x 13 cake pan and pour chocolate pudding over the cakes. Put into the refrigerator for a couple hours and then top with a Cool Whip/whipped cream topping. Store in refrigerator until ready to take with you to a gathering or ready to serve, It is always a big hit at my family reunions and super easy to make. I have used vanilla pudding instead of chocolate and it was just as good.

Tea Cakes

1 cup butter, softened

1 & 1/2 cups white sugar

3 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a baking sheet. Beat butter and sugar in a bowl until creamy. Stir in flour, vanilla extract, baking powder, and baking soda until dough is well mixed. Drop spoonfuls of dough two inches apart onto prepared baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven until lightly browned, five to 10 minutes.

Old Fashioned Tea Cakes

1 cup butter

1 & 3/4 cups white sugar

2 eggs

3 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt and nutmeg then stir into the creamed mixture. Knead dough for a few turns on a floured board until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until firm. Preheat the oven to 325°. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to one-fourth inch in thickness. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies one and one-half inches apart onto cookie sheets. Bake for eight to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for five minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Mississippi Tea Cakes

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup white sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease cookie sheets. In a medium bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine flour, baking powder, and baking soda then beat into the creamed mixture alternately with the buttermilk. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake for eight to 10 minutes in preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheets for five minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Gathering Pie

Richard’s Note: This quick and easy dessert is so named because it is perfect for any “gathering!” You can easily double this and put it into a 9x13 pan for a summer family BBQ!

This fits an 8 x 8 pan.

1st Layer:

1 heaping cup graham cracker crumbs (or 1-1/4 cups finely crushed pretzels)

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup sugar

Mix all together and press into your pan.

2nd Layer:

1 (8 oz) pkg. cream cheese, softened

1/2 scant cup powdered sugar

1/2 large tub of Cool Whip

1 tsp. pure vanilla

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

Whip this all together in a bowl and spread over crust.

3rd Layer:

1 pkg. instant chocolate pudding

2 cups milk (you can use almond milk if you like)

Mix together according to package directions, and pour over 2nd layer. Set in refrigerator for 15 minutes to firm up the pudding.

4th Layer:

1/2 large tub of Cool Whip

Spread the Cool Whip gently over the 3rd layer, then sprinkle the top with Heath bits. (Note: If desired, you can drizzle it with chocolate syrup or caramel syrup.) Store in the fridge!

Yellow Cake with Old Fashioned Peanut Butter Icing

Duncan Hines yellow cake mix made according to package directions and cooled

1 & 1/2 cups sugar

7 Tbs. whole milk

2 Tbs. shortening

2 Tbs. butter or margarine

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

Prepare cake mix in a 9x13 pan as directed on package. Allow to cool. In a large sauce pan combine sugar, milk, shortening, butter, and salt. Bring to a rolling boil over medium high heat, stirring to prevent scorching. Once it reaches a boil, let boil for two to three minutes without stirring. Remove from heat and immediately stir in vanilla and peanut butter. Beat until icing is smooth and starts to lose its shine. Immediately pour onto cake and even out. Allow to cool before serving.

Mounds Brownies

1 brownie mix (9x13 size)...mixed and baked according to box directions.

5 cups shredded coconut

1 can sweetened condensed milk

Mix the coconut and milk together add one cup powdered sugar. As soon as you take the brownies from the oven, spread the coconut/milk/powdered sugar mixture over hot brownies. Take one container chocolate frosting (microwaved just long enough to make the frosting pourable). Pour over the brownies topped with coconut mixture. Spread to seal edges.

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