Cold desserts are easy to make ahead of time, which can be invaluable when you’re having a party. The desserts on this list can even be made the day before. These dishes also do not require any specialised equipment or unusual cooking techniques, and many can be assembled using store-bought components to make things easier.
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Tapioca: There’s a bit of stirring involved in making tapioca, but otherwise you’re just tossing together tapioca pearls with milk, sugar and eggs. Rice Pudding: When you have leftover rice, combine it with milk, cream or coconut milk and let it simmer; stir in cinnamon and raisins when you take it off the heat. Banana Pudding: Mix up a couple of boxes of instant vanilla pudding, layer with sliced bananas and vanilla wafers. It’s not that much harder to make the pudding from scratch. Haupia: This traditional Hawaiian dessert is basically coconut milk solidified by the addition of cornflour and a few hours in the refrigerator.
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Trifle: Trifle is traditionally made of sponge cake (which can be store bought) soaked in brandy or sherry, layered evenly with custard, preserves and whipped cream. Serve it in an elegant, straight-sided trifle dish. Punch Bowl Cake: Use store-bought pound cake (or make a yellow cake from a box mix) and instant pudding as the basis for this dessert, which is similar to a trifle, only less structured. Layer with canned pineapple, sliced bananas, whipped cream and nuts, and it should fill a punch bowl. Flan: Also called cream caramel, this Spanish dessert is a steamed custard with some half-burnt sugar in the bottom of the pan. When you flip it over onto a serving dish, the caramel forms a self-topping. Dirt Cake: Fortify pudding with cream cheese and icing sugar. Plop it into a never-used, clean flowerpot and top it with crumbled chocolate sandwich cookies. Finish with a new silk flower. Strawberry Shortcake: Use ready-made shortcake cups and thawed sweetened sliced strawberries. Top with whipped cream.
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Key Lime Pie: Make the crust by crunching up graham crackers with sugar and butter; fill it with canned condensed milk and lime juice. Bake the crust, then refrigerate. Orange-Cream Pie: Mix orange gelatin with fat-free whipped cream and fat-free cream cheese; pour into baked pie crust. Fruit-Topped Tarts: Buy ready-made tart shells and fill them with vanilla pudding. Place some small fruit pieces on top, and finish it off by melting a little apple jelly and using it to glaze the fruit. Lemon Curd Tarts: Buy a jar of lemon curd and spoon it into baked tart shells. Top with whipped cream.