Sweet Tips for a Fabulous 4th of July

It’s easy to throw a 4th of July party that looks like you worked on it for weeks. Celebrate the holiday in style by serving classic entrées everyone loves and focusing your attention on delicious, easy-to-make desserts.

300-starcakeNo-Bake Cheesecake Star Pops
Yield: 6 Servings

Drizzled or dipped in melted candy, these festive star pops are easy to shape in star-shaped silicone treat molds.

•  1 envelope (2 1/4 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
• 1/4 cup granulated sugar
•  3/4 cup boiling water
• 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 1/8 teaspoon salt
• 1 bag (12 ounces) royal blue Candy Melts candy
• Lollipop Sticks

Prepare 6-cavity mini star silicone mold with vegetable spray. In small bowl, whisk gelatin, sugar and water until dissolved. In large bowl, beat cream cheese, vanilla and salt until smooth. Gradually add gelatin mixture, beating well. Scrape bottom and sides of bowl. Continue beating until fully combined. Pour into prepared pan. Refrigerate 2 hours or until completely set. Carefully unmold cheesecakes onto cookie pan. Melt small amount of Candy Melts candy. Dip lollipop stick in melted candy and insert 3/4 way into cheesecake stars. Freeze 30 minutes or until firm. In large bowl, melt remaining Candy Melts according to package directions. Drizzle or pipe candy over cheesecake stars as desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Note: Choose a firm, brand name full fat cream cheese for best results.

300-cakeflagMixed Berry and Lemon Mini Icebox Cake
Yield: 2 Mini Cakes

Sweet, light and airy, these mini icebox cakes pack a refreshing burst of creamy flavor, perfect for the summer. Vanilla wafer cookies are stacked in a flavor-filled mixture of fruit and whipped cream.

• 2 cups fresh or frozen mixed berries
• 2/3 cup granulated sugar
• 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
• 1 tablespoon lemon zest (about 1 lemon)
• 2 cups heavy whipping cream
• 1 package (4.9 ounces) vanilla wafer cookies
• Blueberries, raspberries or blackberries, for garnish

Line muffin pan with plastic wrap, pressing plastic into each cavity and letting plastic hang over edge of pan. In large skillet, combine mixed berries, sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until berries soften and liquid reduces to 1 cup, about 20 to 25 minutes. Gently mash berries. Transfer to medium bowl and cool completely. In large bowl, whip cream on medium-high speed until cream holds stiff peaks. Gently fold in berry mixture and zest until completely combined. Place whipped cream in decorating bag and cut off pointed end. To assemble, pipe small amount of mixture into each muffin cavity. Lightly press a cookie into whipped cream. Continue layering whipped cream and cookies until cavities are full, finishing with whipped cream layer. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Remove plastic wrap and carefully flip out onto serving platter. Garnish with additional berries. Serve immediately.

300-cakefireworksHot Cinnamon Fireworks Cakes
Yeild: 12 Servings

Crushed cinnamon drops add color and a slight hot cinnamon flavor to the cake, while simple melted candy details make the cake look like a firework bursting.

• 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 2 cups (4 sticks) butter, softened
• 2 cups granulated sugar
• 6 eggs • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 bottle (6 ounces) Cinnamon Drops, crushed
• 1 box (1.5 ounces) Blue Colorburst Batter Bits
• Red, White and Royal Blue Candy Melts candy, melted
• Red, white and blue colored sugars

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray Dimensions Cascade Pan with vegetable pan spray. In large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. In second large bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, scraping bottom and sides of bowl often. Add vanilla; beat until well combined. Add flour mixture and beat at low speed until just combined. Fold in Cinnamon Drops and blue Batter Bits. Pour into prepared pan; smooth out top. Bake 60 to 65 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely. Drizzle melted candy onto cake to look like fireworks. Sprinkle sugars onto melted candy.

300-piesQuick Pickled Strawberry Hand Pies
Yield: 8 Pies

Pies you can hold in your hand are perfect for a picnic, and this one has a special flavor. The filling balances sweet and sour for an uncommonly delicious mini pie your party guests will love.

• 3/4 cup water
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 10 black peppercorns
• 1 egg
• 1 cup red wine vinegar
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch
• 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 1 cup sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
• 1 package (14 ounces)refrigerated pie crusts 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves, divided
• 1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and cutinto quarters or eighths

In saucepan, stir together vinegar, water, 1 cup sugar, salt and peppercorns. Add thyme sprigs. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until boiling; let boil 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour over strawberries, until fully submerged. Cover and let sit at room temperature 4 to 8 hours. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line cookie pan with parchment paper. Strain strawberries from pickling liquid; discard peppercorns and thyme. Toss berries with cornstarch until evenly coated. In small bowl, whisk egg with 1 tablespoon water until smooth. Unroll pie crusts and cut with 3 1/2-inch round cutter. Each crust yields 8 rounds. To assemble pies, top half of rounds with 3 tablespoons of berry mixture each. Brush edges with egg wash. Cut out a hole or pierce remaining rounds with fork. Place on top of berries. Using a fork, press edges of crusts together tightly to seal. Transfer to prepared pan. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake 18 to 22 minutes, or until pies are lightly golden and filling is bubbling. Cool slightly before serving.