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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
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3 Mousse: Sweet, sweet, mousse, that silky, airy treat that dissolves with every bite. Mousse is another prep-the-night-before goody that never fails to satisfy everyone's craving for something sweet after dinner. You can get decadent with a chocolate mousse, or go with a light, fresh lemon mousse. Mousse can also be easily dressed up: spoon it into hollowed lemons, martini glasses or ice cream sundae bowls. Glam it up some more with a garnish: dust with confectioners' sugar or chocolate powder, add chocolate shavings, rinds of fruit, mint or lavender leaves, or fresh fruit.

2 Pie Everyone adores the taste of a big, fat slice of all-American pie. But there's another great reason to serve up a homemade pie: that amazing aroma that fills your house when you have a fresh pie baking in the oven, one of my favorite smells since I was a little girl. You can fill pie shells with just about anything you want -- mix up whatever leftover (or frozen) fruit you happen to have lying around, add in some sugar, then toss it all around with binding ingredients (flour, cornstarch, tapioca flour, etc), and maybe a spice or two. If making a pie crust from scratch scares you, cheat a little and buy a pre-made crust at the store. They're nearly as good bought as homemade. For penny savings, go with the store brand. If you're really short on time or are just plain cooking-phobic you can purchase your pie filling as well, then just assemble and bake.

1 Ice Cream Buffet: Far and away my favorite dessert to serve, ice cream sundaes bring out the inner child in everyone. Serve up the ice cream and toppings buffet-style and let your guests build their own sundae desserts. Worried it'll lead to an inevitable mess? Think again. Ice cream condiments are usually kept in user-friendly bottles, with big spouts and slotted tops, so you can keep them in their containers and put them out on the table as is. And though homemade toppings like real hot fudge sauce always make for a special treat, you can go the ready-made route as well. Manufacturers make just about every topping available that you could imagine. The key lies in offering a wide variety buy a couple of flavors of ice cream along with some chocolate sauce for the choc-o-holics, fresh fruit for the health-conscious, maybe a good butterscotch or caramel as well. Round out the offerings with coconut shavings, nuts, sprinkles, chocolate chips, cookie dough or even soda to make root beer or vanilla floats. Indulge in an ice cream smorgasbord at a relaxed dinner party, and let the fun take over.

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The rule of thumb when it comes to making a killer dessert without breaking a sweat? Keep it simple and be comfortable with the dessert you're cooking. Don't go where no man has gone before - stick with any of these five easy crowd-pleasers and you'll be earning raves guaranteed.

Patricia Virella was born in Spanish Harlem, and grew up entirely in NYC. She currently lives in Brooklyn and works at an advertising agency. She is also a student at the Adelphi University. When she's not throwing fabulous dinner parties on a shoestring budget, she enjoys spending time with her 6 and 9 year old nephews, as well as painting.

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