Three Easy Make Ahead Valentine’s Day Desserts

Nothing says Valentine’s Day like sweets for you and your sweetie.  Here are three deserts that you can make, pop into the fridge and forget about until after the big Valentine’s dinner.

  • No Fail Stupid Easy Caramel Sauce
  • Quick Fruit Tarts
  • Chocolate Mousse

The No Fail Stupid Easy Caramel Sauce

I know you’ve heard horror stories about the difficulties of making caramel, but this quick caramel sauce is easy to make, requires only five ingredients and can be used in a variety of ways from topping ice cream, drizzling over freshly sliced fruit, to topping chocolate cake and pairing with shortbread cookies.  The hardest part is leaving it alone to set up before putting it to use.

Ingredients

 1 stick (1/2 cup) salted butter

1 cup brown sugar

2/3 cup heavy cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/8 tsp salt

Measure out all of your ingredients before you start and place them within easy reach of the stove as this goes pretty fast. 

  • Put the stick of butter in a medium sauce pan. 
  • Set the burner on medium low heat and let the butter melt. 
  • When the butter has melted add the sugar and stir for two minutes.  It will be mostly combined but you may see a little ring of butter around the outside, that’s okay.
  • After two minutes add the cream and stir gently but constantly for two minutes.  At first they won’t look like they are mixing but by the end of the two minutes they should be melding into one sauce. 
  • After two minutes take the caramel off of the heat and add in the vanilla and salt, stir until it is incorporated and pour into a clean glass container. (it will look very liquid-y but it thickens as it cools.
  • Let cool on the counter. When cool, put the lid on the jar and put it into the fridge overnight.  It will thicken as it chills, but never really go solid.
  • Drizzle over anything your heart desires.
Sauce in a jar: and yes it is a reused sliced jalapeno jar well cleaned

Technically the sauce will keep about a month in the fridge, but we’ve never had a jar that managed to stick around for more than a week. While this is the basic recipe, you can play around with flavors.  Any flavors you want to mix into your caramel would go in at the stage where you take it off the heat and add the vanilla and salt. I like you add a pinch of cardamom sometimes.  Occasionally I will add a pinch of cayenne to make a spicy sweet treat.  The above recipe is just the basic one, feel free to play with it and make it your own.

Quick Fruit Tarts

Ingredients

baked tart shell: cooled before filling

Tart shells (you can use store bought pie crust cut into smaller rounds, premade tart shells from the freezer section of your own favorite pie dough recipe)

¾ cup granulated (caster) sugar

2 Tablespoons cornstarch

1 cup water

3 oz box of jello in the fruit flavor of your choice

Fruit of your choice (I went with raspberry for this one)

Whipped cream for topping (you can buy the can or whip up some cream fresh at home as is your preference)

jello cornstarch mix
  • Prebake your tart shells as per the directions and let cool.  For me that meant docking the bottom (poke it with a fork to prevent bubbles), cover with parchment paper, fill the shell with pie weights or beans and then bake for 30 minutes at 375 degrees F.
  • In a sauce pan add your cornstarch and sugar.  Mix with a fork and then set it on medium heat.  Add your water and stir constantly until it comes to a boil.  After it comes to a boil keep stirring for two more minutes or until the slurry starts to thicken.
  • Once it starts to thicken take it off the heat and pour in the jello packet of your choice.  Stir to incorporate it all and then put it in the fridge for 20 minutes (It will thicken in the fridge but not go solid.)
  • Put fruit into your cooled tart shells.
  • Pour the jello mixture over the fruit in the tart shells.  In mine the raspberries were taller than the shell so they stood up more.  Your look will depend on what fruit you use.
  • Put into the fridge and let sit over night to set fully.
  • When you take them out, top with whipped cream and serve.
tart before chilling in the fridge.

I like this because you can alter it based on what fruit you have on hand.  You can also mix and match flavors.  Kiwi slices and strawberry jello work well.  You can also doctor the jello with some zest if you would like to punch up the flavor.  I tend to use a tsp of zest in the fruit flavor (orange zest for orange jello, lemon zest for lemon jello), the combinations are dependent on your palette.  My babydoll loves raspberries so I went with that. Oh and as a fun aside, these tarts freeze really well.  I freeze them on a tray and once frozen wrap each in plastic and put into a larger bag. It is a great way to use up extra fruit when it is in season.

Chocolate Mousse

This is the full recipe below. It makes on large trifle or four decadently large deserts or eight regular deserts. Think about how much you need before you make it and scale it appropriately. This recipe takes well to scaling. And even though it requires three bowls, it is a fairly simple recipe. Just measure your ingredients out before you start, remember to get three separate bowls (one for heating chocolate, one for mixing egg whites and one for mixing cream) and take your time folding things together.

Ingredients

1 2/3 cup heavy cream

2 tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp kosher salt

4 egg whites

½ cup castor sugar

6 oz dark chocolate chips

egg whites are ready when the mixer leaves marks that don’t go away or you can turn the bowl upside down without spillage.
  • Melt chocolate and let cool slightly.  I like to do this in the microwave.  I put the chips in a microwave safe bowl, heat on high for fifteen seconds, stir, heat, stir and heat until they are completely melted.  Always stir between each fifteen second heating as it distributes the heat through instead of leaving you with one hot spot.  If you don’t stir it can easily burn.
  • Put your heavy cream, vanilla and salt into a bowl.  Whip it until stiff peaks form. Set it to the side.
  • In another, larger bowl take your four egg whites, whip them to soft peaks. When they are at soft peaks, add in your sugar and whip into stiff peaks.
  • Slowly fold your chocolate into the egg whites. It is okay if it looks a little marbled.
  • Once the chocolate is in your egg whites, fold your whipped cream into the chocolate egg whites.  It is okay if it isn’t perfectly uniform in color.  You don’t want to knock out all the air you added by whipping the whites and cream. It tends to deflate less than other recipes because both the cream and whites have air so you start with double the air for your mousse.
  • When as combined you want, spoon into serving dishes and move to the fridge for anywhere from two hours to overnight.  If leaving overnight, cover with plastic wrap.  If only leaving a few hours you don’t need to cover it.
mixed together

This recipe makes four large and super decadent deserts or eight regular sized deserts. It can easily be cut in half or even in fourths depending on who you are serving and how large you want your deserts to be.  I left the measurements as the full sized recipe so they matched the photographs.  While some will be eaten here, we needed extra so I made the full batch. It is a very scalable recipe and rather forgiving if you are still learning your folding technique.

Top off with whip cream and chocolate shavings and you have a truly decadent desert. You can also play around with this one as well, adding a Tablespoon of instant coffee crystals to make it mocha flavored. I like replacing the vanilla with ginger syrup.  I have also filled the serving glasses half way and added a layer of raspberry coulis before topping them off with more mousse. 

Again the recipe above is the basic one and you can easily play around with it to suit your palette.  Just try not to add too much liquid and add your flavorings to the cream instead of the egg whites or wait until the mouse is formed and just layer it with other flavors using the chocolate as the base.

These three desserts are favorites around my house and my favorite part is that they not only can be made early, but they mostly require you to make them early.  I love that they can be made ahead of time and stashed away in the fridge while I concentrate on other things. It is one less thing to worry about as the last second and they all taste great.


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One thought on “Three Easy Make Ahead Valentine’s Day Desserts

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