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5 fab finales 
a top 5 list of the best 
stress-free desserts

by Patricia Virella 
and Yee-Fan Sun
 | 1 2

Entertaining can be a feat in and of itself, but don't let the idea of a last course wipe you out! Some of the best desserts pair simplicity with amazing taste. Most hosts stress over the entrée as the focal point of a dinner party, but the dessert is the anticipated ending, the essential encore to the amazing dinner you've prepared. Serving any of these top 5 will leave your guests speechless with a satisfied sweet tooth. These select few go with all seasons and occasions. Some match better with certain meals than others, but all are guaranteed to garner you show-stopping bravos, and can be made easily with a just a little special attention. The countdown begins …

5 Cakes/Cupcakes: The cake may seem intimidating, and it very well can be, for the very ambitious cook, but there are plenty of easy ways for even the novice baker to create a lovely cake dessert. To begin with, no one says that you have to make a cake from scratch; though a perfectly-baked homemade cake is without compare, it really depends on your comfort level with baking. Buy a boxed cake mix if baking isn't your thing -- most of them are as straightforward as adding eggs and oil, mixing, then baking. Easy, reliable, tasty, and affordable to boot.

The key to making your box-mix cake seem like something special is to dress it up. Get creative with the decorating: invest in some decorating tips and pipe on some frosting, add sprinkles or arrange fresh fruit — maybe even some edible flowers — on top.

Cupcakes are another great way to snazz-up a cake mix. These tiny single-serving delights are always a hit when you're entertaining friends with kids, and charm the grown-ups too. If you don't want to invest in a muffin pan, look for a combination pack that has the cupcake holders as well as the mix. This will cut down on price. An added perk is that clean-up is a snap when you're serving cupcakes. You don't have to place cupcakes on individual plates; sit them all paper-side down on a large plate and people can grab as they desire them.

The reason this dessert earned its 5th place ranking? It's a heavy dessert. Sometimes, a rich cake doesn't complement a meal. If your menu is light, and you're adamant about doing the cake thing, go for an angel food cake with a good dusting of confectioners sugar.

4 Sorbet Simple, elegant and refreshingly light, a good sorbet is the perfect ending for just about any meal. Making them is as easy as 1-2-3, and you can have your sorbet made up to a week in advance. Just blend your water along with frozen or fresh fruit and simple syrup, then freeze it in a bowl. Lemon and orange are both classic, palate-cleansing choices, but just about any flavor works. Just remember to keep it sweet with a bit of tang in the background of the flavor. Garnish with a mint leaf and you're done.

Easy Fruit Sorbet
1 cup frozen fruit
½ cup simple syrup
1 ½ cup water

In a blender, combine ingredients until mixture is smooth and consistent. Place in a bowl with plastic wrap set on top of the mixture and securely on top of bowl. Set in freezer until frozen. Serves 4.

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