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COOKING & ENTERTAINING WITH STYLE : Sweet Things : A cook extraordinaire presents old-fashioned desserts in contemporary camouflage, fitting finales to your holiday meals

November 08, 1987|MARION CUNNINGHAM | Cunningham is the author of "The Breakfast Book" (Knopf: $17.95) and Food Consultant for The Broadway.

When I want a dinner party to sparkle, I serve a dessert--or two--that looks gorgeous and, I hope, irresistible. One other requirement, of course, is that whatever I choose must have wonderful flavor! Teaching cooking classes for many years has taught me that a well-constructed dessert that looks spectacular yet is the result of a foolproof recipe will produce the desired finale for almost any type of meal. The recipes that follow have their roots in nostalgia but fit easily into the "sparkling" category. Several are for smaller groups, but the Chocolate Whipped Cream Cake or the Lemon Trifle will serve a crowd, a saving grace during the busy holidays.

WALNUT SPONGE ROLL WITH APRICOT FILLING

SERVES 16

5 eggs

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup cake flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

teaspoon salt

1 cup ground walnuts

Powdered sugar

2 cups apricot preserves

Walnut halves, optional

Grease 15x10-inch jellyroll pan and line with wax paper. Grease and lightly flour wax paper. Place eggs and granulated sugar in mixing bowl and beat with electric mixer until very fluffy and light, 4 to 14 minutes, depending on mixer.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in bowl, stirring with fork to blend well. Turn mixer to lowest speed and sprinkle flour mixture and walnuts into egg mixture, mixing just 1 to 2 seconds. Remove bowl from mixer and, if necessary, finish folding with spatula until no white streaks remain.

Spread batter evenly in jellyroll pan. Bake at 350 degrees 12 minutes or until light golden and cake springs back when touched. Spread towel on counter and dust lightly with powdered sugar.

Invert cake onto towel. Remove wax paper. Beginning from long side, roll cake up into towel. Leave rolled until ready to fill, up to several hours. Unroll and spread 2 cups apricot preserves evenly over surface. Reroll and dust with powdered sugar.

Use remaining cup apricot preserves and walnut halves to garnish top of roll. Makes 1 15-inch jellyroll.

RASPBERRY MOUNTAIN PIE

SERVES 8 TO 10

1 package plus 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin

cup cold water

5 cups fresh raspberries

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 1/2 cups whipping cream

1 baked 9-inch pie shell

2 cups raspberry preserves

Sprinkle gelatin over cold water and let stand to dissolve. Partially crush 4 1/2 cups raspberries. Place 2 tablespoons juice from raspberries in small saucepan with 2 tablespoons water. Bring to boil, remove from heat and stir in gelatin, stirring until it is completely dissolved.

Sprinkle sugar and lemon juice over crushed berries and let stand 20 minutes. Stir in gelatin, mixing well. Place raspberry mixture in refrigerator until partially set.

Whip cream until stiff. Gently fold whipped cream into the raspberry mixture. Pile mixture, mounding in middle, into the pie shell. Chill thoroughly.

Melt raspberry preserves in saucepan. When liquid, remove from heat and strain. Cool.

Just before serving, spoon 1/2 to 3/4 cup strained raspberry preserves over pie and garnish with remaining 1/2 cup fresh raspberries. Serve remaining preserves with pie.

Note: 2 1-pound boxes frozen raspberries may be substituted for fresh berries. Thaw and drain well. Increase gelatin to 3 packages. Recipe may also be made into tarts.

CHOCOLATE WHIPPED-CREAM CAKE

SERVES 20 TO 24

8 ounces unsweetened chocolate

8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

1 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1 tablespoon vanilla

2 cups whipping cream, whipped

Whipped-Cream Frosting

Chocolate rolls or shavings, optional

Line bottom of 9-inch springform pan with wax paper. Melt unsweetened and semi-sweet chocolate in heat-proof bowl in pan of barely simmering water or in microwave. Place chocolate in mixing bowl and beat in butter until thoroughly blended. Stir in powdered sugar and vanilla, mixing well.

Gently stir in whipped cream. Spread chocolate mixture evenly in springform pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 6 hours. Remove from pan, discard plastic wrap and cover top with Whipped-Cream Frosting. Top with chocolate rolls or shavings if desired. Cut in small wedges, dipping knife into hot water before cutting each slice. Makes 20 to 24 servings.

Whipped-Cream Frosting

1 cup whipping cream

2 tablespoons powdered sugar, sifted

Combine cream and sugar in mixing bowl and whip until firm peaks form.

MANGO OR PAPAYA SHORTCAKE

SERVES 8

3 1/2 cups flour

1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

12 tablespoons butter, chilled, cut into pieces

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 1/2 cups whipping cream

cup powdered sugar, sifted

Mango or Papaya Fruit Filling

Mango slices or slivered lime peel, optional

Place flour, baking powder and salt in large mixing bowl. Stir mixture with fork to mix well.

Add butter pieces to flour mixture and rub quickly with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add 1/2 cup granulated sugar and toss to mix well. Using fork, slowly stir in 1 1/2 cups cream until slightly mixed.

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