All the sweetness, with minimal cleanup and fuss.

By Antara Sinha
April 03, 2020
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Antonis Achilleos

When the urge to bake hits, the number-one deterrent that’s keeping you out of the kitchen is most likely the prospect of cleanup. Baking projects and sweet treats often feel relegated to weekends or the holidays exclusively. Thankfully, there's a very friendly assortment of recipes that only require a single bowl, and don’t have you scrubbing dishes for the rest of the night.

From childhood, nostalgia-inducing favorites like crisp rice-cereal treats, to a one-bowl comforting chocolate cake with warm spices, these recipes will have you cooking up crowd-pleasing desserts any day of the week—not just on the one-off special occasion—because we all deserve a little more dessert in our lives. A carrot cake with all of the fixings; a crowd-pleasing Dutch baby, a halvah-inspired shortbread cookie: It’s all possible with zero stress and minimal cleanup. 

The Recipe That’ll Make Carrot Cake Easy Enough For a Weeknight

The trickiest part of this speedy dessert? Grating carrots. This super tender cake has every craveable element you’d want from a carrot cake: Warm spices, a thick layer of cream cheese frosting, and crunchy pecans throughout. But, thanks to the forgiving nature of snack cakes, it can all come together in one bowl with minimal cleanup afterward. It’s casual, approachable, and a fuss-free baking project perfect for when you’re just looking to get something sweet and crowd-pleasing onto the table without a hassle. 

© Eva Kolenko

The Skillet Dessert That You’ll Want To Eat For Breakfast

Dutch babies always make for a stunning presentation—and it’s easier than making pancakes since you cook it up all at once. For a dessert that fits right in at both the breakfast table and as a seasonal, after-dinner treat, you only need seven simple ingredients for it to all come together. The addition of pomegranate juice adds a touch of sweetness and enhances the fruity, berry flavors, but feel free to swap in apple or orange juice if you don't have pomegranate on hand. Don’t have blueberries? You can easily use whatever fresh berries are in your kitchen: Raspberries or chopped strawberries would work well. Serve warm with scoops of good vanilla ice cream and a dusting of powdered sugar. 

Get the Recipe: Blueberry Dutch Baby

The Cookies That You’ll Always Want Stocked In Your Freezer

Inspired by the Middle Eastern treat halvah, these nutty cookies are the ideal one-bowl treat. Bright, tart lemon zest adds a fragrant, floral note that pairs well with the earthy tahini and cacao nibs. You’ll want quality butter and tahini on-hand for these shortbread-style cookies—the flavor really comes through. They’re delicious enjoyed warm out of the oven but also travel well and are perfect to share, and the recipe can easily be doubled or tripled if you’re looking to stash a few logs of dough in your freezer. 

Get the Recipe: Lemon-Tahini Cookies

The Fudgey Brownies That Go Above and Beyond

You could actually call this recipe one-POT brownies, since you'll melt the chocolate in a saucepan, and then whisk the cocoa, sugar, eggs, flour, and vanilla right into that molten chocolate. Pour the batter into a lined 9-inch square pan, sprinkle generously with Maldon salt (or another sea salt, or just a bit less table salt) and use a knife to swirl that salt right into the batter. When baked, these brownies are a bit less sweet than the average salted-caramel dessert, and even more irresistible.

Get the Recipe: Salted Fudge Brownies 

The Speedy Dessert That’ll Remind You of Your Childhood 

For a treat that’s just as welcome in a lunchbox as it is an after-dinner indulgence, it doesn’t get any easier than these speedy, nostalgia-inducing Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Treats. You only need four simple ingredients and just a little time on the stove, and these kid- and adult-friendly are ready to be enjoyed. The best part: you can riff on and customize this recipe with whatever nut butters or crunchy cereals you have on hand. Wrap them in plastic and store them at room temperature and they’ll keep for a few days on your counter. 

The Snack Cake That’ll Be a Family Favorite

Banana and peanut butter are already a winning duo, but this cake takes each ingredient to new heights. Browned butter adds a caramel-like richness to the banana in the batter, and a good amount of salt in the frosting makes the peanut butter taste nuttier, and balances out the sweetness. Aside from a brief step on the stove to brown the butter, the whole dessert comes together in one bowl—you can whip up the frosting while the cake bakes and cools. Using whole-wheat pastry flour instead of white flour adds nutty nuance that enhances all of the deeper flavors of brown sugar, browned butter, and peanut butter. 

Your New Favorite Chocolate Cake Recipe

This simple yet rich cake is full of warming spices like cardamom, cloves, and black pepper that put it in a league of its own from your standard chocolate cake. The addition of applesauce makes it extra tender, and the simplicity of it (one bowl, minimal cleanup, only fifteen minutes of assembly) makes it approachable enough for whenever you need a chocolate fix. This’ll become your new back-pocket chocolate cake recipe, and the crème fraîche and powdered sugar eliminates the hassle of whipping up a frosting. No crème fraîche? It's just as good with whipped cream or ice cream.