Fast, Single-Serving "Fake" Desserts


Frequently, my husband and I will be watching a movie, hours after dinner, and some weird dessert craving will hit me. After thirty years of marriage, he is used to it. It’s not like I have just seen an ad for an ice-cream sundae, or that I am thumbing through a magazine illustrating foolproof pie crust. I just get these crazy OMIGOD I WANT THIS NOW thoughts...and I usually don’t have whatever it is that I want in the house.

It gets more complicated. I don’t want an entire cake in my house, or two dozen chocolate chip cookies, or an apple pie. I have the attention span of a gnat, and once I eat the thing I was craving, I don’t usually want it again the next night or the night after that. I’m also frugal, and I don’t want to spend money the ingredients for a big apple pie or a cheesecake. I could make something and share it, but I was an only child and honestly never learned to share well.

So I had this crazy idea. What if I stocked staples for “fake” desserts in my pantry? By “fake,” I mean small bites that would satisfy a craving, yet not make me spend lots of money or eat too many calories.

Once I had the idea, I started kitchen-testing and internet-surfing. Here are the goodies that I came up with. (See also: 15 Ultra-Quick Homemade Desserts)

Almost Apple Pie

This is technically more of a turnover, but if you serve it with a slice of cheddar cheese, it’s a good fake pie. Unroll a triangle of canned crescent roll dough. Add a heaping tablespoon of apple-pie filling. Add a second triangle on top, seal the sides with a fork, and vent the top with a knife. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes, or until browned and bubbly.

Pantry essentials: Canned crescent rolls and apple-pie filling.

Fake Cherry Cheesecake

I am not sure why I didn’t think of this one years ago. For two servings, you’ll need two whole graham crackers, 1/3 block of low-fat cream cheese, 1 tablespoon honey, and a can of cherry pie filling (you won’t use it all). Combine the cream cheese with a tablespoon of honey and stir to soften slightly. Spread on a graham cracker and top with some canned cherry filling. Close your eyes and eat. It really satisfied my cheesecake craving!

Pantry essentials: Graham crackers, cherry pie filling, honey, and cream cheese.

Fake Cake in a Cup

Honestly, this five minute chocolate cake reminds me a little more of a souffle when it is done. Be careful — it is very hot when you remove it from the microwave. I like it just fine without the chocolate chips, too.

Pantry essentials: Flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cocoa powder, milk, vegetable oil, and nuts (optional).

Chocolate Chip Cookies in a Cup

In the same vein, have you heard of chocolate chip cookies in a cup? I hadn’t, and now I am so happy. I always have the ingredients for chocolate chip cookies on hand, but I rarely feel motivated to make a big batch.

Pantry essentials: Brown and white sugars, eggs, vanilla, flour, salt, and chocolate chips.

Two-Ingredient Ice Cream

In my humble opinion, this is the greatest summer discovery ever — two-ingredient ice cream. It really works! The first time that I made this, we “checked” it after one and a half hours (quality control, you know). We had to stop ourselves from eating the entire batch. If you prefer a firmer-texture ice cream, you’ll need about four hours. I make it in half-recipes because I do get bored quickly with a flavor. This is so easy that you can have peach one night and candy-bar crunch the next. Genius!

Pantry essentials: Sweetened condensed milk, cream, vanilla, and flavorings of your choice.

Strawberry Fake-Cake

Occasionally, the baking bug does bite me, and I’ll make some biscuits. With just two of us, though, the bulk of the leftovers will go into the freezer. If I also have frozen strawberries in the depths of the freezer, hello, strawberry fake-cake! Thaw some berries and add some sugar (and a little Grand Marnier, if you’re fancy). Defrost those biscuits in the microwave, split them, and add the defrosted strawberries. Hopefully you have a can of whipped cream in the refrigerator to top them off.

Pantry essentials: Biscuits (or Bisquick), frozen strawberries, sugar, and whipped cream.

Fake Angel Food Cake

My mother was a big fan of angel food cake, but she’d serve this fake-angel in a pinch. Believe it or not, it’s reminiscent of an angel food cake, probably due to the texture. For one serving, combine two tablespoons of brown sugar, two tablespoons of coconut, and one tablespoon of butter. Spread on white-bread toast and broil (keep a close eye on it, because it burns easily).

Pantry essentials: Brown sugar, coconut, butter, and white bread.

Readers, any dessert trickery to share?

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Guest's picture
Mrs PoP

I have to recommend Banana Soft-Serve "Ice Cream". Blend frozen banana slices with a splash of milk in a blender until smooth. If you want, add additional favors with powdered peanut butter or cocoa powder. Tastes amazing and not bad for you!


Marla Walters's picture

Mrs. Pop, my husband grows bananas, and we have sooooo many! THANK YOU for this tip! I can't wait to try it.

Guest's picture

make the whole batch of chocolate chip cookie dough, roll it into balls, freeze on a cookie sheet, once frozen dump them into a plastic bag. when you want a homemade cookie or two, pull as many as you want out of the freezer and bake for just a bit longer than usual.

Marla Walters's picture

Kate, thanks for this wonderful suggestion. In our humidity, I hate it when I finally do bake a batch and they just go all soggy on me. :-)

Meg Favreau's picture

Yessss! I love baking and having dessert...but I also live alone. Entire cake + Meg = not a good idea. I'm totally into these, especially the strawberry shortcake idea.

Lately I've been keeping a loaf of a sliced quick bread in my freezer, pumpkin or chocolate-chip banana. When I have a sweet craving, I just pop a slice in the toaster.

Marla Walters's picture

Dang, I should do this, especially with regard to the aforementioned bananas. That's a good one, and then I'd have it right there. And yeah, that having a whole cake in the house is a bad idea. Been there! That is why I cannot make Texas Sheet Cake anymore, ever.

Guest's picture

We do something i called "Hot Cookie Dough" in a mug...
1) take 2 pkg of instant oatmeal (if for just me..or else i make a small pot of regular oatmeal for the family)..Add spoonfull of nuts, chocolate chips, brown sugar (your fav. cookie add-ins) mix well, add the called for hot water. LET SIT ONE FULL MINUTE. stir & enjoy...
Bonus points: Safer & Lower calories than "real" cookie dough, No eggs, No flour

Marla Walters's picture

Leave it to the Scoutmaster to come up with something handy! Off to check the pantry for instant oatmeal. I don't even think I'd feel guilty eating this. Mahalo!

Guest's picture

What a great round-up of single serving desserts! Thanks so much for including my ice cream!

Guest's picture

I got such a kick out of reading this article -- I felt like I was reading about myself...haha.. I am ALWAYS saying, "I NEED (fill in the blank) NOW!" :) Almost apple pie sounds definitely doable. :) Thanks!!!

Guest's picture

Aaaaannnnnnd, I made the apple pie one today. It's awesome!
My dad always made homemade pie, and so I used a few of his tricks, too -- like putting a little butter on top, and sprinkling with cinnamon and sugar.

As a rule, my step-son doesn't like fruit in anything, and he loved this. It was delicious!!! :)

Marla Walters's picture

Kristin, thanks for writing! Glad you tried the apple pie (and thanks for the ideas about giving it even more apple-pie realism.

My new favorite is the frozen banana ice cream - just freezing bananas and then tossing them in a blender. It is so much like soft-serve ice cream and no dairy, no fat, etc. I thought it would be really banana-y, but weirdly, it's not - especially if you add another flavor to it, like chocolate, or strawberries, etc. Glad to hear from another person who understands immediate dessert gratification!