A sliver of low-cal angel-food cake with fresh berries on the side, a dish of poached fruit or a scoop of low-fat yogurt all serve as guiltless dinner finales in our fat-conscious lives.
But let's face it -- there aren't too many of us who can always say no to what cookbook author Elaine Corn describes as "a gorgeous, lavish, luscious dessert, the kind you should have after broiled fish."
Ms. Corn's book, "Gooey Desserts" (Prima Publishing, $24.95), started as a joke but, she says, "turned into a serious search" for desserts that go squish in the mouth.
Some of them, like the one that follows, are perennial favorites that began as convenience-product recipes but were adapted by Ms. Corn using real, not ready-mix, ingredients. This one manages to incorporate pudding and cream cheese and whipped cream and a cake-like crust and chocolate sauce. Oh my.
Most of the component parts can be made a day in advance and assembled before serving.
Better than better-than-sex cake
Makes 12 servings
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups flour
VANILLA PUDDING LAYER:
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
CREAM CHEESE LAYER:
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, very soft
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup cream
WHIPPED CREAM LAYER:
1 1/2 cups cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
PINEAPPLE CARAMEL LAYER:
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
1 jar caramel sauce or chocolate sauce (optional)
2 ounces (2 squares) semisweet chocolate
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Set oven rack in center of oven and heat to 350 degrees.
Beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add flour and, at low speed on mixer, blend until mixture is pebbly and can be pressed together. Press mixture on bottom of buttered pan and bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Cool completely. (If using a food processor, process until ingredients are a coarse mixture.)
For pudding, beat egg yolks and set aside near stove. Whisk the sugar, flour and milk in a medium saucepan until free of lumps. Set over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spatula, just to a boil. Remove from heat and whisk a little of the hot, thick pudding into the beaten egg yolks, then pour the yolk mixture back into the pudding, whisking really well. Continue to cook 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until thick.
Pour pudding into bowl and add vanilla and butter, stirring until butter melts. If pudding has lumps, pour through a large, fine-mesh strainer. Chill, with plastic wrap pressed directly on surface of pudding, until ready to use.
Beat cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and lemon juice just to blend. In separate bowl, whip 1 cup cream to medium-stiff peaks. Fold a scoop of whipped cream into beaten cheese then fold remaining cream into cheese. Set aside.
Whip 1 1/2 cups of cream, sugar and vanilla to stiff peaks.
Spread crust with cream-cheese mixture, top with pineapple, then caramel or chocolate sauce. Spread pudding over pineapple; spread whipped cream evenly over pudding. Chill well.
To make glaze, melt chocolate and butter over low heat, stirring until smooth and completely melted. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla. Drizzle in zigzags across cake's surface.