My daughter has recently been bubbling over with enthusiasm over s’mores– that sticky-sweet concoction of chocolate, graham crackers, and toasted marshmallows, sacred to campfires everywhere. Personally, I find them too sweet, and prefer plain toasted marshmallows without the extraneous crackers and chocolate to get in the way– but I’ve never been one to pass up a challenge when I see one!
We decided to adapt the s’mores to the warm summer weather by turning them into a frozen dessert! We mixed pre-toasted marshmallows into a no-churn ice cream base and added a ribbon of dark chocolate ganache, then layered it between sheets of graham crackers to make cold and creamy, sweet and sticky treats that (admittedly) melt in your hands but are worth it!
Since I’m always paranoid while prepping for parties that there will not be enough cake (spoiler: there is ALWAYS more than enough cake), I decided to make some extra cupcakes to supplement the tree stump cake. I used a dairy-free box mix (many Duncan Hines mixes are dairy-free), which had the added benefit of providing cake for the party guest who I knew was allergic to dairy and who otherwise would have had to make do with some of the other random sweets on the table.
I decided to make moss a component of my edible dessert table, so in addition to adding some green food coloring to a double batch of my no-mixer sugar cookies, I topped my cupcakes in “moss” made of crushed graham crackers.
Note– it’s not as simple as just squirting food coloring into a bag of graham cracker crumbs and mushing them around to combine; the dye immediately gets absorbed into just a few surrounding crumbs and doesn’t do much good. Instead, the trick is to dilute your food coloring in a few tablespoons of water, pour that into your crumbs, and mix until it distributes evenly. Don’t worry if your crumbs seem wet and mushy– the next step is to spread them onto a baking sheet and bake for about 10-15 minutes at 300 degrees F, until they dry out. Crush one more time to ensure that there are no clumps, and they’re ready to use!
I frosted my cupcakes with a relatively small amount of frosting, then dipped them into the container of mossy crumbs to get a nice, even coat. For a few, I added meringue mushrooms as decoration– for others, some flowers piped with my new Russian floral tips!
I admit, this is just a riff on my Key Lime Pie Tartlets, but I did say at the time that it was possible to add whipped cream to the original recipe to make it fluffier– this is just another application of the concept!
Basically, I whipped 2 cups of heavy cream and folded it into the original mixture, which I augmented with additional lime juice, corn syrup, and sugar to balance out the flavors and keep the texture creamy when frozen. Add some graham cracker crumble and presto– instant key lime pie ice cream!
As I expect will happen often this summer, last weekend I found myself with a barbecue to attend and no ideas as to what dessert to bring. And as I often do, I turned to Smitten Kitchen for inspiration. This time it was an icebox cake– but not just any icebox cake, a cheesecake-inspired, graham-layered, strawberry-studded icebox cake.
I was tempted to take a shortcut and use storebought graham crackers rather than making my own round cracker layers, but in the end I went with the recipe as written, and was really glad I did. The dough rolled out incredibly easily, and baked up into the most deliciously crisp, flavorful cookie ever– I found myself nibbling away at the scraps all afternoon.
The filling was simple and tasty– the cream cheese and lemon zest worked together nicely to make a tangy, creamy counterpoint to the sweet graham layers, and when I dipped some extra strawberry pieces into it and added a cookie scrap to the mix, the combination was fantastic.
I am indebted to my dad for this recipe, as he’s always been one for making simple desserts that nevertheless end up tasting fantastic. (I still remember him blending up instant chocolate jello pudding with a peppermint Altoid and pouring it into a chocolate crumb crust– easiest chocolate pie ever!) Anyway, he made me try this recipe the last time I visited home and I’ve been making it ever since.
The filling, which you can pour into a graham cracker crust to make a pie, into dishes to make pudding, or into mini muffin tins to make tartlets, is amazingly simple– you just blend together your basic ingredients and you’re set! I admit to making things a bit more complicated with a homemade graham cracker base, but the basic recipe is fantastic just as it is– creamy, tangy, perfect for summer. Plus, unlike other key lime recipes I’ve seen, it’s got (secret ingredient!) low-fat cottage cheese in it rather than cream cheese, sour cream, or egg yolks, making it a healthy (okay, slightly healthier) alternative to the standard dessert!