Our Broken Phyllo Cake with Orange and Bay is the stuff of dreams. Literally. “My daughter just texted me from her apartment and said she had a dream about the cake, which I haven’t made since last summer,” wrote one reader. It is just that powerful. It’s based on portokalopita, a cake made with dry, broken-up bits of phyllo dough in place of flour. Like many Mediterranean sweets, the cake is doused with syrup after emerging from the oven, which usually gives it a heavy, sodden texture.

Our version is different. Inspired by “Aegean" chef Marianna Leivaditaki’s version—which is based on a family friend’s recipe—it’s much lighter. We dry strips of phyllo in the oven to give the cake a more lifted structure. When soaked with syrup, it takes on a moist, pudding-like consistency that doesn’t weigh you down. The cake is citrusy with grated orange zest, and the soaking syrup is infused with cinnamon, cardamom and bay for added dimensions of flavor and fragrance. Serve at a springtime brunch for what one reader called “an easy win.”

These cakes and bakes are all easy wins

You can never have too many low-effort, high-impact dessert recipes in your back pocket. Our Streusel-Topped Jam Tart—which can be made with any flavor of jam, any time of year—is just that. Instead of rolling out finicky pie pastry, the cookie-like crust is made in a food processor and divided into two portions—most of it is pressed into a tart pan; the remainder is scattered across the jam filling for a streusel-like topping. It’s also a favorite of our resident baking expert Rose. “If anyone asks me to suggest something they can make to bring somewhere, I tell them to try that tart,” she told me.

Another easy win is our 1-2-3-4 Yogurt Cake. You don’t even need a measuring cup. Dump a 4-ounce container of yogurt into a bowl, then use the container to measure the rest of your ingredients. It’s moist, lightly tangy, and something of a blank canvas, so feel free to flavor it to your liking with vanilla or other extracts, ground spices or grated citrus zest. Finish with a dollop of crème fraîche or freshly whipped cream and a handful of berries.

Other homey one-layer cakes and bakes for easy entertaining:

  • Pão de Ló: This Portuguese sponge cake is dramatically sunken, with a thin layer of gooey custard just underneath the surface, so there’s no need for frosting. It takes all of 45 minutes, with only 25 minutes of active time, and you probably already have everything you need to make it.
  • Amalfi-Style Lemon Cake: “I married her just for the lemon cake,” Amalfi lemon farmer Salvatore Aceto told us—referring to his wife Giovanna’s torta al limone. Our adaptation uses lemons two ways: Lemon zest perfumes the cake, then a lemon syrup is poured on after baking to keep the crumb moist and add a layer of tangy-sweet flavor.
  • Clementine Blender Cake: We blitz whole, unpeeled clementines straight into the cake batter to infuse it with flavor. We use the fruit two ways: to produce a fragrant, saffron-orange crumb and to flavor our soaking syrup, which we brush onto the still-warm cake. It’s next-level citrusy brightness, and moist enough to keep for days. (Make it now before citrus season ends!)
  • Lemon-Buttermilk Pound Cake: This is the pound cake for angel food cake lovers! This lemony, citrusy pound cake gets extra-light texture, thanks to “under-whipped“ egg whites.
  • Spanish Almond Cake: This flourless cake from Galicia, Spain, is traditionally made with separated eggs and flavored with citrus and/or cinnamon. We liked it made more simply, with whole eggs and just a small measure of vanilla and almond extracts. A sprinkling of chopped almonds and coarse raw sugar on top of the batter gives the surface a chewy-crisp crust that contrasts wonderfully with the dense, plush crumb of the cake’s interior.

Blend your carrot cake for better flavor

Classic carrot cake is delicious, but this Brazilian-style carrot cake blew us away. Instead of grating carrots, they’re blended right into the batter. It’s vibrant and bright orange, and infused with earthy, carroty sweetness. Blender cakes, or bolos de liquidificador, are big in Brazil for this reason, with flavors ranging from corn to coconut to passion fruit. Beyond emulsifying eggs and butter, this style of dessert eliminates the need for chopping or grating and results in a more flavorful product.

Turns out, the more you rupture the cell structure of fruits and vegetables, the more sugars, aromatic oils, and flavorful hydrocarbons they release. It’s the difference between a chopped carrot and a grated one; the latter is much sweeter. Pureeing takes this effect to another level.

And if you’re looking for something that straddles the line between quick bread and cake, our Carrot-Tahini Quick Bread with Candied Ginger and Pistachios is just sweet enough, perfect for breakfast or a snack with afternoon tea; pistachios and tahini lend the bread loads of nutty notes, and candied ginger and orange bring bright, bracing flavor.

Make a better New York-style cheesecake with goat cheese

At the century-old Beatrice Inn in New York City, Angie Mar taught us how to make a lighter, creamier, more complex New York cheesecake—one made with chèvre, cream cheese, and crème fraîche.”. The tangy flavors harmonize creating what she calls “something very new off of simple and elegant.” More than one reader has called it “the best cheesecake” ever.

If you’re looking to try your hand at the beautifully burnished Basque-Style Cheesecake, our recipe comes straight from the original source—La Viña bakery in San Sebastián, Spain. Chef Santiago Rivera’s famously scorched cheesecake is beloved for its blistered, “burnt” surface and creamy-smooth center. Our recipe skips the finicky water bath. Instead, we chill the batter overnight, so the center doesn’t overcook while the outside gets deeply caramelized.

Then there is the cheesecake that Christopher Kimball obsessed over for two decades. “I kept coming back to that ricotta cheesecake of so long ago,” he writes of the cheesecake he tried 20 years ago at a small Italian eatery in New York City. It was admittedly modest-looking, but it was light, creamy, with a “grownup flavor” that eluded him. When he finally sought to develop a similar recipe, he found that his perfect ricotta cheesecake also solved all of the usual headaches: a superior cheese choice that’s not only more flavorful, but creamy enough to prevent cracking and robust enough to skip the water bath. (And if it does crack a little, take Chris’ advice: “Please take a deep breath, a first bite, and remember to exhale!”)

Semifreddo is easier than ice cream (but more impressive)

Fancy restaurants serve semifreddo instead of ice cream for one simple reason: They do not have room for an ice cream maker. The “semi-frozen” desserts are just as delicious as true ice cream, with a lighter, fluffier texture and gorgeous loaf cake-like shape for easy slicing.

We have two: our biscuit-studded Mandarin Orange Semifreddo, which consists of pulverized biscuits layered with whipped cream and sweetened condensed milk, along with Mandarin orange and bourbon for an air of sophistication; and our Cherry and Chocolate Crumble Semifreddo, which is rich yet light in flavor, with both creaminess and crunch, and it can be made well in advance (with fresh or frozen cherries).

Finally, if you’re looking for some simple breakfast bakes, we cannot stop raving about torrijas. Spain’s sophisticated, sherry-infused take on the breakfast dish has none of the common pitfalls of a typical French toast: no overly browned exterior hiding an unappealingly wet center, no copious amounts of gut-busting dairy, no need for loads of syrup. It’s tender and custardy on the inside while deliciously golden-brown and crisp on the outside, and you’d never know that the elegant slices take a mere half hour to come together.

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