Stories Feature
Best Dressed Desserts

Steam your table skirts, dust off your best candelabra and polish the silver wear, nothing says summer like a festive tablescape packed in between great friends, delicious food and flowing drinks.


From whimsical creamy puffs set in fantastical towers and sugary fruits sitting snug within a creamy base to the classics; pavlova being crushed under the weight of berries and cream or a citrus cheesecake flavour bomb, desserts take centre stage on the dinner table.

With no shortage of long lunches and shared dinners during the festive season, we thought we'd hit up some of our friends and collaborators for their go-to dessert for summer, the crowd pleaser. We hope you enjoy!

Gooseberry Gateau - Jojo Ross

This recipe is a family Christmas staple and comes from my late Grandmother Beverly, or Grandy B as we called her. She was always an eccentric (presents addressed to and from herself were always under the tree), and this desert just sums her up for me. It’s a bit silly but I just love it to bits.

It’s sour, wobbly and jelly like and so more-ish. I don’t where Grandy B got the recipe from but we always had gooseberry bushes at home and still do today so we can make this desert every Christmas. Gooseberry’s are seemingly difficult to find, I had to ask mum to send them up from Wanaka! But it’s so worth it, and I don’t have to fight my sisters for the left-overs.

Recipe note: Do not mix the jelly and gelatine first! Do it once the gooseberry’s are cool and ready to be combined. Jelly apparently sets quicker than I remembered.

Gooseberry Gateau. Image/ Jojo Ross

Dark chocolate, orange and rosemary truffles - Ali, Sphaera

These delicious delights are the taste of Christmas in our house. I make a big double batch every December and they are perfect for guests and after meals. The flavors are magic and they are vegan as well. The recipe is from the amazing Emma Galloway, My Darling Lemon Thyme cookbook, a year round favourite of mine.

Dark chocolate, orange and rosemary truffles. Image/ Emma Galloway, My Darling Lemon Thyme

INGREDIENTS - Single batch
125ml coconut milk
Pinch of seasalt
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
250g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
200g dark chocolate, melted
(Whittaker's 50% dark is really the best choice here)

Infuse the coconut milk over a low heat with the salt, orange rind, rosemary and pepper. Then bring to a boil briefly, remove from heat, add chopped chocolate and stir till melted. You can choose to strain the infusion before adding the chocolate for a smoother truffle.

Cool truffle mix and form into small balls and chill again. Then dip in melted chocolate and set on a tray. Keep in the fridge and enjoy!

Lemon Posset - Tara, colleen store

What do you do when you have too many lemons? Make Lemon Possets! They look gorge on your table and they are unbelievably easy. Creamy citrusy flavours are the perfect finishing touch after a summery meal. I got the recipe from one of my fave foodie accounts to follow on Instagram: aromecassis, and have it saved for when my lemon tree is abundant. You could totally use other citrus fruits too, I saw an orange cut into the shape of a basket which was quite whimsey.

Lemon Possett. Image/ Tara Young

3 lemons
300g double dream
80g caster sugar
biscuit of your choice crushed (i used Arrowroot)

Step 1 - Prepare your lemons - carefully zest 1 1/2 lemon and keep zest aside. Cut each lemon in half lengthways.
Step 2 - Using a small spoon, apply pressure on the pulp, transferring juice into a medium bowl. Get in between the citrus skin and fruit segment and remove the pulp
Step 3 - Combine double cream and sugar into a saucepan and gently heat over medium heat until the sugar is fully dissolved. Stir occasionally
Step 4 - Turn off the stovetop and allow the saucepan to rest for 2 minutes before adding 50 ml lemon juice and zest and giving it a stir (cream will instantly begin to thicken)
Step 5 - Add crushed biscuits in the bottom of each half lemon
Step 6 - Divide posset mixture into your lemon halves, only to cover the biscuits, and refrigerate for thirty minutes
Step 7 - Fill up each half lemon to the top and refrigerate for at least two hours before serving (or up to a day)

Note - it is important that the double cream has a high fat content as this will affect the richness/texture of the posset

Lemon, Thyme and Hot Honey Cheesecake - Benjamin Alexander

I’ve never been a desert person, however decided one day I should have a couple recipes up my sleeve. This was the first desert that I had ever made, and it is incredible. Super easy, super delicious and a crowd favourite.

Lemon, Thyme and Hot Honey Cheesecake. Image supplied.

500 gram Greek-style yogurt
200 gram Hobnobs (or other oat flour cookie)
60 gram unsalted butter (melted)
1 ½ tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (divided)
400 gram cream cheese (at room temperature)
40 gram confectioners sugar (sifted)
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
150 gram white chocolate (chopped)
60 gram honey

Line the sides a 9‑inch springform cake pan with parchment paper and set aside.
Line a sieve with a clean kitchen towel and set above a bowl. Spoon in the yogurt, then draw up the sides of the kitchen towel. Squeeze the yogurt into a ball, pressing out as much liquid as you can. You want to end up with about 1 2/3 cups of thickened yogurt. Set aside until required. Discard the liquid.
Place the Hobnobs in a clean plastic bag and crush them finely with a rolling pin. Mix with the butter and 1 tablespoon of the thyme and spoon into the cake pan, pressing it down to form an even layer. Set aside in the fridge.
Whisk together the cream cheese, strained yogurt, confectioners’ sugar, and lemon zest until smooth and combined; this can be done in a stand mixer or using a handheld mixer.
Next melt the white chocolate. This needs to be done in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water (taking care that the base of the bowl is not touching the water). Stir the chocolate frequently for 2 to 3 minutes, taking care not to get any moisture into the chocolate as this will cause it to seize. Spoon the melted chocolate into the cream cheese mixture and whisk until combined.
Spread the cream cheese mixture over the cookie base evenly, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours, until set.
When ready to serve, warm the honey in a small saucepan with the remaining ½ tablespoon of thyme leaves until thin and runny. Remove from the heat and drizzle over the cheesecake.
Release the cheesecake from the pan, divide into 8 slices, and serve.

Strawberry Pavlova - Ashleigh Proctor, Pilot

The Kiwi classic, Pavlova! I use a recipe handed down by grandma that I am sworn to secrecy on, so am unable to share. But the recipe below is pretty close. The secret is to let the meringue cool completely in the oven before taking it out. I love that you can spice it up with whatever seasonal fruit you have (berries, lemon curd, passionfruit). A family tradition is to eat it for breakfast the next morning, tastes even better!

Strawberry Pavlova. Image supplied.

4 egg whites
Pinch of salt
1 ¼ cups superfine sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon white-wine vinegar
A few drops vanilla extract

1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved or quartered
½ teaspoon high-quality vanilla extract
1 teaspoon high-quality balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons superfine sugar
2 cups heavy cream

To prepare meringue: heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and draw a circle on the paper using an 8- or 9- inch cake pan as a guide. Flip the parchment over so the pencil marking is facing down (this ensures that the pencil won’t transfer to the meringue). In bowl of an electric mixer, combine egg whites and salt. Begin beating at low speed, slowly increasing to high. Continue until satiny peaks begin to form; gradually beat in sugar a tablespoon at a time until meringue is stiff and shiny.
Sprinkle in cornstarch, white-wine vinegar and vanilla, and fold in gently. Mound onto parchment within circle, and shape into a disk, flattening top and smoothing sides. Place in oven, and immediately reduce heat to 300 degrees. Bake 1 hour 15 minutes. Turn off heat, and allow meringue to cool completely in oven.

To prepare topping: in a mixing bowl, combine strawberries, vanilla, balsamic vinegar and sugar. Cover with plastic wrap. Let sit at room temperature at least 15 minutes and up to 2 hours.
To serve, carefully peel off parchment and place meringue on a platter or cake stand. Gently crack the top with the back of a soup spoon to make a shallow nest for the whipped cream and berries. Whip cream until it is thick enough to hold peaks, and spoon it evenly over meringue. Cover cream with strawberries, allowing a small amount of their liquid to dribble onto cream. Serve immediately.

Classic Lemon Tart - Mandy Myles, Bookety Book Books

Donna Hay's Lemon Tart is a family favourite of ours. I pinched this recipe from Mum as she is the dessert queen in our family. We both will make this multiple times every summer as it is such a lovely, fresh way to end a long lunch on a hot summer's day here in Central Otago. It is a winner every time.

Classic Lemon Tart. Image supplied.

1½ cups (225g) plain (all-purpose) flour
125g chilled unsalted butter, chopped
½ cup (80g) icing (confectioner’s) sugar, plus extra, for dusting
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon iced water

1 cup (250ml) single (pouring) cream
2 eggs
3 egg yolks, extra
½ cup (110g) caster (superfine) sugar
½ cup (125ml) lemon juice

Place the flour, butter and icing sugar in a food processor and process until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. With the motor running, add the egg yolks and process until combined. Add the iced water and process until the dough just comes together. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and gently bring together to form a ball. Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Roll the pastry out between 2 sheets of non-stick baking paper to 3mm-thick. Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Line a lightly greased 22cm loose-bottomed, fluted tart tin with the pastry. Trim the edges and prick the base with a fork. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Line the pastry case with non-stick baking paper and fill with baking weights. Bake for 15 minutes, remove the paper and weights and bake for a further 10 minutes or until the pastry is light golden. Remove from the oven and set aside. Reduce temperature to 140°C (250°F).
To make the lemon filling, place the cream, eggs, extra yolks, sugar and lemon juice in a bowl and whisk to combine. Strain the mixture into a clean bowl. Transfer the tart to a baking tray and carefully pour the filling into the tart shell.
Bake for 30–35 minutes or until just set. Allow to cool at room temperature before refrigerating until completely set. Dust with icing sugar to serve. Serves 4–6.

Personal Tiramisu - Kiekie Stanners, Makeup Artist & colleen contributor

We like to make this Tiramisu recipe in individual sundae glass bowls, so everyone has their own portion. Something wide and almost flat at the bottom like vintage sundae bowls works best. Make sure you have enough room in the fridge for all the individual glasses to set overnight before serving. Alternatively lay out in a rectangular dish and self-serve straight into glasses.

Image supplied.

3 egg yolks
4 tbsp Galliano Amaretto
About 1.4 cups caster sugar
Just less than a third of Tatua Mascarpone Cheese 500gm bag
175ml Double Cream
Lago Savoiardi Lady Fingers
Grated Whittakers chocolate (some for adding into the mix and the rest for dusting over top) and cocoa powder (for dusting over top)

Whisk together the egg yolks and amaretto. Gradually add the sugar and beat until the sugar has dissolved completely. Stir in about 6 pieces of grated chocolate and the mascarpone cheese.
Whip the cream and fold it in.
Dip each ladyfinger into the espresso and lay along the bottom of each sundae bowl (about 3 along). Cover with half the mascarpone cream mix.
Layer additional ladyfingers and cream, and smooth out the top layer of cream. Cover each individual tiramisu and leave to set overnight. Sprinkle cocoa powder and left over grated chocolate on top of each before serving.

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