Desserts for the Oscars

For our annual Oscar party this year, I wanted to make use of the kazillion mini-mason jars that are always clinking and tumbling around my cupboards and just calling out to be made into something pretty and delicious. So I decided on mini dulce de leche cheesecakes, mini coconut cream pies and trifles in a jar, with some s'mores on a stick on the side. Handy-dandy, individual, no-cook, make-ahead desserts that were hopefully gonna simplify my life and delight my guests. Assemble and chill; perfect for my busy weekend.

Last summer when I prepared similar desserts, I made the mistake of tamping down the graham-crumb bases too much and when they hardened it was nearly impossible to chisel them out with a small spoon. So this time around I gently laid the bases but just smoothed them out without using any pressure, and when they were refrigerated, they set perfectly. You can really adapt this dessert to any of your favourite cheesecake recipes and top with fruit or another favourite topping.... I just happen to love the creaminess of the dulce de leche combined with the crunch of the sugared nuts. I found that recipes that call for using 8 oz of cream cheese yield about 11 or 12 of these mini cheesecakes. If you use a recipe that uses more than a pound of cheese, you'll be doubling your final numbers.

These s'mores on a stick were probably more a hit with the kiddie guests than the adults but still worth the (very little) effort.
And these mini coconut cream pies were pretty scrumptious too. I used chocolate cookie wafers combined with some shredded coconut for the bases and then topped with the coconut pastry cream, whipped cream and toasted coconut.

Mini dulce de leche cheesecakes

Combine 1 1/2 cups of graham crumbs with 1/2 cup melted butter. Stir together and then gently spoon about 2 tbsp or so of the mixture into the mini mason jars (about a dozen). Gently, very gently, smooth out but don't push it down too hard or your guests will have a hard time scooping it out.

Then, I chose an easy no-bake cheesecake recipe, using all of four basic ingredients (8 oz cream cheese at room temp, 1 can condensed milk, 1 tbsp lemon juice and 1 tbsp vanilla), stirred them all together until smooth and poured the mixture on top of the graham-crumb bases and then threw them in the fridge to set for at least two hours or up to a day ahead. Then, gently heat about a cup of dulce de leche with about 3 tbsp of whipping cream; mix well and pour on top. Chill again and top with sugared nuts.