Recipes: Desserts

Chocolate Pots de Crème

Sweet, rich, and creamy dessert that is easier than you would expect to make. Only the finest desserts served to your deserving book club members!

  • 9 ounces high-quality semisweet and/or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 5 tablespoons granulated sugar (add an extra tablespoon if using bitter chocolate)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Place the chocolate in a food processor and chop until fine.
  2. Whisk the milk, cream, egg yolks, granulated sugar and salt in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook approximately 5 to 6 minutes, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the spatula and almost boiling—bringing the temperature up to 160°F - 175°F.
  3. Immediately pour the milk mixture over the chocolate in the processor. Blend until combined and smooth.
  4. Divide the chocolate mixture among ramekins or small cups and refrigerate until set, about 2 hours. Top with whipped cream if desired.

Recipe adapted from Food Network Magazine

Pairing Suggestions

This classic French dessert pairs well with feminine, luxurious, and romantic novels like Beautiful Ruins by Jess WalterAn Inconvenient Wife by Megan Chance, The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro, and A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff.

Chez Panisse Almond Torte


  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • 7 oz./200g soft almond paste
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ⅛ tsp. almond extract
  • 6 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • powdered sugar for dusting


  1. Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Butter a 9-inch springform pan.
  2. Beat sugar and almond paste until the almond paste is in fine pieces. Beat in butter and vanilla. Cream mixture until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition so the eggs are thoroughly mixed in.
  3. Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt, and beat in just until thoroughly blended.
  4. Turn batter into pan, smoothing the top evenly. Bake for 1 to 1¼ hours or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the center feels springy when you push it gently.
  5. Let cool for about 20 minutes before releasing the sides of the springform pan.

Serves 8-10.

Source: Alexandra’s Kitchen website


In Spanish, Carmelita means garden. Well, this recipe is definitely a garden of eden (or eating) where chocolate and caramel blossom! Heather shares her favorite version of this sinful dessert.

32 individually wrapped caramels, unwrapped

1/2 cup heavy cream

3/4 cup butter, melted

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed

1 cup flour

1 cup rolled oats

1 teaspoon baking soda

6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 8x8 baking pan.

In a saucepan over low heat, melt caramels with cream. Stir until completely smooth; set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine brown sugar, flour, oats, and baking soda. Stir in melted butter. Press half of the mixture into the bottom of pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over crust. Drizzle caramel mixture over all. Crumble remaining oatmeal mixture evenly over caramel.

Bake an additional 15-20 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned.

Remove from oven and cool completely before cutting.
 Note that the caramel may take a long time to cool down. Store and serve at room temperature.

recipe origins: Lulu the Baker

Pairing Suggestion:

In the spirit of the dessert name’s Spanish influence, serve this up after reading Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel or One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Of course, Carmelita could have its origins in Italy too. So don’t forget about these great books: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter and The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani. And we really couldn’t ignore the important part played by The Emperors of Chocolate by Joel Glenn Brenner.

Pecan Sour Cream Pound Cake


Crunchy, moist, and sticky sweet. This cake was easy to prepare and serve. I made it a week before and put it in the freezer. The morning of hosting our book club, I pulled it out and glazed it with the Caramel Frosting. Lick your lips and your plate!

Pecan Sour Cream Cake

recipe by Carole10 from

1/4 cup chopped pecans
3 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter
3 cups white sugar
6 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C).

Grease and flour a 10 inch Bundt or tube pan. Sprinkle pecans on bottom of pan; set aside.

Sift together flour, salt, and baking soda into a medium bowl; set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and white sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with sour cream.

Pour batter over pecans in prepared pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 75 to 90 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Let cool in pan for 20 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Caramel Frosting

recipe by BethMcShane from

1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup toasted, chopped pecans

In a shallow 6-inch saucepan, thoroughly mix brown sugar and flour. Stir in butter and milk, and cook over medium-high heat until mixture comes to a rolling boil. Boil exactly 1-1/2 minutes.

Remove from heat. Allow to cool 5 minutes.

Beat with a wooden spoon until mixture begins to thicken. Mix in vanilla and continue beating until frosting is the consistency of thick honey, no more than 1 to 2 minutes.

Immediately pour caramel frosting onto cooled cake and quickly spread with the back of a warm spoon before frosting begins to set up. Quickly sprinkle top of cake with toasted pecans.

Frosting will set up completely in a few hours.

Pairing Suggestions:

This sweet and nutty cake mingles well with Southern-inspired novels like Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen; The Honk and Holler Opening Soon by Billie Letts, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt, and Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani.


Karen's Best Banana Bread Ever

Julia’s mother, Karen, made the best banana bread. Break this moist and sweet bread with those you love the most. 

1/2 cups butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups sour cream
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
3 small or 2 large bananas
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups flour
1 package chocolate chips



  1. Cream together butter, sugar, and eggs.
  2. Mix sour cream and baking soda together in a separate bowl, letting it stand until foamy.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients to above mixtures and mix well.
  4. Place into two greased loaf pans.
  5. Bake 50-60 minutes at 350°F until toothpick inserted in to the loaf comes out clean. 

Black Russian Bundt

Playfully known as Booze Bundt—this easy dessert (using cake and pudding mixes; GASP!) is rich and delicious.

Cake Ingredients:
1 box yellow cake mix
1 large box instant chocolate pudding mix
4 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup vodka
1/4 cup Kahlua
1/4 cup water
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 10-inch bundt pan.

Combine cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, sugar, oil, vodka, Kahlua, and water in large bowl. Beat four minutes. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool on rack.

Glaze Ingredients:
1 stick butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup Kahlua
1/4 cup water

Combine all ingredients in saucepan and bring to boil. Boil for 2-3 minutes. Cool slightly. Pour glaze over cake.

Dusting cake with confectioner's sugar makes a nice finishing touch.


Pairing Suggestions:

A rich and sophisticated delicacy hiding behind simple, rough and ready beginnings is perfect for accompaniment with The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory; Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote; The Commoner by John Burnham Schwartz

Caramel Chocolate Pie

Caramel tops the list of favorite foods when it comes to eating for our book club (along with bacon and chocolate, of course) This sweet and easy pie recipe is served to us from Amy, definitely a well-known caramel-holic in our group!

28 Kraft caramels
1 cup heavy cream (separated)
8 Tbsp. butter (separated)
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli chocolate chips)
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts (optional) (I did not use these)
1 9" pre-baked pie crust (I used a regular pie crust, but have also used a ready-made shortbread crust, which is really good, too)

Melt together 28 caramels, 1/4 cup heavy cream and 2 Tbsp. butter over low heat. Pour into a pre-baked 9 inch pie crust.

Boil together 3/4 cup heavy cream and 6 Tbsp. butter. Remove from heat and stir in 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate. Pour over caramel layer.

Top with 1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts, if using. Chill to set. Store in refrigerator.


Pairing Suggestions:

Sinfully sweet and sticky make this dessert perfect to serve with Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, The Bolter by Frances Osborne, Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

Julia's Fruit Tart


3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
11/2 cups flour

11 ounces Ghirardelli white chocolate chips
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
8 ounces cream cheese, softened

Strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, kiwi, etc.

For the pastry, beat the butter and sugar in a bowl until blended.  Add the flour and beat until smooth.  Press dough over the bottom and up the sides of a greased spring form pan.  Bake at 300 degrees for 20-25 minutes until lightly golden.  Cool and release from pan.

For the filling, combine the chocolate chips and heavy whipping cream in a microwave safe bowl.  Microwave two minutes and stir.  Add the cream cheese and beat until blended.  Pour filling in cooled pastry.

Arrange desired fruit in a decorative pattern over the top of the filling and chill, covered in the refridgerator.

Pairing Suggestions:

Serve this tart on warm summer days that fade into quiet contentment. Delicate endings, like those in Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, My Antonia by Willa Cather, and Tinkers by Paul Harding can soothe the soul.

Double-Chocolate Layer Birthday Cake

(Makes 12-16 servings) from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Sunday, July 6, 2008; Cooking section, page 3N.
3 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate, finely chopped.  (I use ghirardelli semisweet bars)
1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee
3 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened regular cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, shaken well
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Frosting (see recipe below)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees and set a rack in the middle level.  Grease two 10-inch round cake pans.  Line bottoms with rounds of parchment paper and grease the paper.

In small bowl, combine chocolate and coffee and let stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and smooth.

In large bowl, sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In another large bowl, using electric mixer, beat eggs until slightly thickened and lemon-colored, about 3 minutes with a stand mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer.

In 4-cup glass measure, combine buttermilk, oil, vanilla and chocolate-coffee mixture.  Gradually add mixture to eggs , beating until well combined.  Add sugar-flour mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined.

Divide batter between pans and bake in preheated oven until toothpick in center comes out clean, 60-70 minutes.

Let layers cool-to-touch in pans on wire racks, about 30 minutes.  Then run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks.

Carefully remove parchment paper and let cool completely.  The cake layers may be made up to 1 day ahead and kept at room temperature, wrapped well in plastic wrap.

Meanwhile, prepare the frosting.  Spread frosting between cake layers and over top and sides.  Cake will keep, covered and refrigerated, 3 days.  Serve at room temperature.

1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons sugar
1 pound good-quality semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (I use ghirardelli semisweet chocolate chips, and finely chop these)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

In medium saucepan, bring cream, corn syrup and sugar to a boil over medium-low heat, whisking until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat and add chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted.  Add butter, whisking until smooth.

Transfer frosting to a medium bowl and let cool, stirring occasionally, until it's spreadable.  (Depending on the chocolate, it may be necessary to refrigerate the frosting to bring it to spreadability.)