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Parfait buffet — Finish Easter feast with make-your-own desserts

Published: Wednesday, March 31 2010 12:00 a.m. MDT

You've had salad bars, potato bars and taco bars. So why not a trifle or parfait bar?

It's a make-ahead dessert solution for an Easter feast, baby shower or other spring get-together. You can provide something for those on special diets without sacrificing anyone else's idea of dessert.

Set up a variety of ingredients — cake cubes, puddings, fillings, fruit and toppings — and let everyone mix and match to make their own creation.

Low-carb dieters can load up on sugar-free gelatin or pudding. Include angel food cake and a tub of fat-free Cool Whip for those trying to cut calories, and real whipped cream and hot fudge for those who aren't. Fruit and berries add tartness and eye appeal, as well as a little nutrition.

And for Easter, you can even use malted milk eggs or jelly beans for toppings.

Since most fruits and berries are out of season, you can save some money by using frozen or canned berries and fruit. As a bonus, the extra canning or freezing liquid will soak into the cake for the moist "trifle" texture. Usually, trifles have a few hours after assembly for ingredients to settle into each other to get that soaked texture.

To keep sliced fresh apples, pears, peaches or bananas from turning brown on the buffet table, add pineapple juice to the serving bowl.

Clear glassware will showcase the finished parfait layers, so pull out your fancy sundae dishes and stemmed goblets from your china closet. If you're serving a larger crowd, or a number of young kids, you may want to use clear plastic cups instead.

How to arrange your ingredients? You can do it by layers, with all the cake-y items together, next the fillings and fruits, and finally the toppings.

Here are some ideas for your parfait buffet:

CAKE

Angel food cake

Sponge cake

Brownies

Banana bread

Muffins

Chocolate cake

Cut-up doughnuts

Cookie chunks

Macaroons

SAUCES AND FILLINGS

Pudding

Whipped cream

Fruit-flavored gelatin

Lemon or lime curd

Pie fillings

Yogurt

Cheesecake filling

Mousse

FRUITS

Cherries

Apples

Peaches

Pears

Berries

Apricots

Pineapple

Fruit cocktail

Mandarin oranges

Kiwi

Mango

Bananas

Raisins

Craisins

TOPPINGS

Caramel sauce

Hot fudge sauce

Marshmallows

Marshmallow creme

Coconut

Granola

Nuts

Here are some ideas forputting the ingredients together:

Diet-Friendly Strawberry-Kiwi Trifle: Angel's food cake cubes, sugar-free strawberry gelatin, sugar-free pudding, and kiwi.

Brownie Raspberry Cheesecake Parfait: Brownie or chocolate cake cubes, raspberries, cheesecake filling, fudge sauce and whipped cream.

Berry Muffin Trifle: Chopped blueberry muffin, blueberries, strawberry or blueberry yogurt.

Crunch and Spice Parfait: Granola, vanilla pudding, apple pie filling with a little added cinnamon and whipped cream.

e-mail: vphillips@desnews.com