If you made a new year’s resolution to diet, by now you may be ready to fall off the wagon with one big flourish. If you observe Lent (which begins on February 10), and you normally give up sweets, you might want a final splurge. Or maybe you’re eager to create a one-of-a-kind dessert for Valentine’s Day.


Whatever the reason, we are offering you the chance to indulge in fine style, with three easy-to-execute, hard-to-forget desserts that will give everyone a mid-winter lift. And you can always get back on the diet train tomorrow!

HOLY COW CAKE
Many years ago, Ann Byrn wrote a series of “Cake Mix Doctor” cookbooks whose recipes made optimum use of packaged cake mixes in dozens of innovative ways. This outrageous dessert represents one of her efforts. It will feed a large crowd unless you want to hoard it all for yourself and your family!

1 (18 ounce) package devil’s food cake mix
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12 ounce) jar caramel sauce
4 Butterfinger bars, crushed and divided
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (12 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed

Several hours or the day before serving, prepare and bake the devil’s food cake according to package directions, using a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. While the cake is baking, combine the condensed milk and caramel sauce in a 4-cup measure. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, place the pan on a wire rack, and poke several holes in the top of the cake, using a poultry skewer. Gradually pour the condensed milk mixture over the top of the cake, letting it absorb into the cake. This will take several minutes. Spread half of the crushed Butterfingers over the cake, and let it cool completely. In a large bowl, with mixer on medium, beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy. With a rubber spatula, fold in the whipped topping until well combined. Spread this mixture over the cake, and top with the remaining Butterfinger crumbs. Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight. Use a serrated knife to cut into serving pieces. Serves 20.

KRISPY KREME BREAD PUDDING WITH ESPRESSO WHIPPED CREAM
Over the past decade, adventurous chefs have elevated the humble bread pudding into a more elegant dessert by replacing ordinary stale bread with brioches, croissants, raisin bread and challah (egg bread). Here, world-famous Krispy Kreme doughnuts form the basis for the ultimate bread pudding. This popular Richmond product is easy enough to find, but the recipe works equally well with any glazed doughnuts.

9 glazed doughnuts, cut into sixths
2 cups heavy cream, divided
1 cup whole milk
5 egg yolks
1 large whole egg
¼ cup sweetened condensed milk
¼ cup brewed espresso, chilled

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the doughnut pieces on top. Bake for about 30 minu8tes, or until pieces are dry on the outside and semi-firm in the center. Remove from the oven. In a medium bowl, whisk 1 cup of the cream with the next 4 ingredients. Add the doughnut pieces and let soak until they are softened—about 1 hour. Stir every 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 1 ½-quart casserole or baking dish and add the doughnut mixture. Cover the dish with foil and set it in a larger pan filled with about 1 ½ inches of water. Bake the pudding for 40 minutes. Remove the foil, and bake 20 minutes longer, or until the pudding is set. Turn oven to Broil setting and broil the pudding for about 3 minutes or until top is lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Just before serving, in medium bowl, with mixer on high, whip the remaining cream until soft peaks form. Stir in the espresso and serve with the warm bread pudding. Serves 6.

DOUBLE-STUFFED CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Someone recently came up with the idea of wrapping chocolate chip cookie dough around Oreo cookies and then baking them. Genius! The recipe below goes one step further by including a Reese’s peanut butter cup. Most people cannot eat more than one of these jumbo treats at a time so there will be plenty to go around.

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 (10 ounce) package semisweet chocolate chips
18 Reese’s mini peanut butter cups
18 Oreo cookies
Sea salt, optional

One or more days before baking, in a large bowl, with mixer on medium, cream the butter with both sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. In a 4-cup measure, combine the flour, salt and baking soda. With mixer on low, gradually add to the butter mixture just until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours. About 45 minutes before baking, line one or more cookie sheets with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Scoop out about 1 ½ tablespoons of dough and flatten it your hand. Place a mini peanut butter cup on top, and cover with one Oreo. Form another circle of dough and place it over the Oreo. Then mold the dough around the filling so that it is covered completely. Place on prepared cookie sheet, keeping cookies at least 2 inches apart. If desired, sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 18 minutes, or until golden brown. If baking two cookie sheets at a time, reverse their position on the racks, switching from top to bottom, midway through baking time. Cool on pans on wire racks for a few minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely. Makes 1 ½ dozen.

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