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Fun retro dessert recipes

Have you ever wondered what desserts were like decades ago, before celebrity chefs, cupcake bakeries and diet sweets were in style? Sure, the fancy neo-desserts of today are innovative – and many are awe-inspiring – but the desserts of the 40s, 50s, and 60s never go out of style. Here are a few retro dessert recipes (with a slight updated twist) to give you a taste of the desserts your parents and grandparents grew up on.

Checkered Cake

Retro dessert recipes

Strawberry Baked Alaska

Makes 12 servings

Nonstick cooking spray
4 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup sifted cake flour
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 pints strawberry sorbet, softened
1 quart strawberry ice cream, softened
6 large egg whites
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9-inch round springform pan with cooking spray.

2. Whisk eggs, sugar and vanilla together in a large bowl. Set bowl over a pot of boiling water, not letting the bowl touch the water. Whisk continually to warm through for about 2 minutes.

3. Remove bowl from heat and beat with a hand mixer for about 7 minutes or until mixture is very thick. Gradually add flour, folding well after each addition. Fold in poppy seeds, then butter (in two steps). Pour batter into prepared pan.

4. Bake cake for 28 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cake cool then remove sides.

5. Line a 10-inch round bowl with plastic wrap leaving an 8-inch overhang. Spoon sorbet into bottom of bowl, then top with ice cream. Place cake over ice cream, pressing gently. Cover cake with plastic wrap and freeze overnight.

6. To make a meringue, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in sugar then vanilla. Unfold plastic wrap from cake and flip over onto a round pan. Remove plastic wrap. Spread meringue onto ice cream and re-freeze for at least 30 minutes.

7. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Place cake on a large baking sheet and bake about 5 minutes. Serve right away.

Checkerboard Cake

Makes 12 servings

To make this dessert easy, check out these nifty checkerboard cake pans.


4 cups sifted cake flour
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/3 cups whole milk, room temperature
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs
3 ounces baking (unsweetened) chocolate, melted in a double boiler, cooled


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 3 (8-inch) round cake pans. Place parchment rounds in bottom of pans and grease those.

2. In a large bowl, beat flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together for 1 minute. Mix in butter and 1 cup of milk and beat for about 2 minutes.

3. In a separate bowl, mix together vanilla, 1/3 cup of milk, and eggs. Gradually beat egg mixture into flour mixture, beating well after each addition. Separate batter into two equal bowls. Stir the melted chocolate into half of the batter.

4. If you have a checkerboard cake ring, begin by pouring batters in an alternating pattern in rings. If you do not have a checkerboard cake ring, pour batter in alternating rings very carefully by hand, make sure batters do not mix. Continue with all three pans until all batter is used. Only fill pans half way. In each pan, alternate colors so a checkerboard effect will be seen when the cake is put together. Be sure to remove dividers before baking if using.

5. Bake for 15 minutes in oven, then turn and bake another 10 minutes. Let cakes cool then remove from the pans. Stack cakes with a thin layer of frosting between each layer and frost the outside. Slice and serve.


Cherries Jubilee

Makes 6 servings

1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup orange juice
1 pound Bing or other dark, sweet cherries, rinsed and pitted (or use frozen pitted cherries)
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon cherry extract
1/4 cup brandy
3 cups vanilla ice cream


1. Whisk sugar and cornstarch together in a pot. Add water and orange juice and let boil over medium heat, stirring until thick. Add cherries and zest and bring back to a boil. Lower heat and simmer 10 minutes.

2. Take pot off of heat and stir in cherry extract. Add the brandy and very carefully light with a long match or lighter. Shake pan until flame has extinguished. Spoon cherry mixture over individual bowls of ice cream.

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