There’s no doubt that mixers — standing and hand-held — have made baking so much easier. But there’s an enticing ease to whipping up a dessert without having to get one out, and without having to wash it afterward. New York Times Cooking has plenty of desserts that require nothing more than a few bowls and some elbow grease. Here are 14 such sweets you can stir up right now.
For this five-star vegan recipe from Ali Slagle, all you need is a saucepan and a wooden spoon or a heatproof spatula. Once those are in hand, it’s simply a matter of mixing oat milk with sugar, cornstarch, cocoa and salt. Bittersweet chocolate imparts an undeniably deep, warm flavor and, best of all, the final product is ready in just 15 minutes.
Though this simple cake from Dawn Perry is inspired by the sweet berries of summer, it works just as well with frozen berries, or that star of fall stone fruits: the plum. And using frozen fruit dredged in a bit of flour keeps your cake from going claggy with too much fruit juice.
Recipe: Berry Buttermilk Cake
While it may be too big an undertaking to make these homemade peanut butter cups for trick-or-treaters, they’d be a huge hit at any spooky gatherings. Even better, Samantha Seneviratne’s take on the recipe is endlessly riffable: Use your favorite almond butter in place of peanut butter or substitute dark chocolate for the semisweet chocolate she recommends. And a sprinkle of flaky sea salt right out of the oven couldn’t hurt either.
Recipe: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
When in doubt, make an olive oil cake. They’re easy, and carry so much flavor with so little work. This recipe for meskouta, from Nargisse Benkabbou, derives its brightness from the zest of two oranges. Enjoy it with your coffee in the morning or your amaro in the evening — really whenever the craving for cake hits.
Chances are that if you’re even slightly dedicated to baking, you’ll have all of the ingredients needed to make this spoon cake from Jerrelle Guy on hand. (Extra points if you have some vanilla ice cream lying around.) It’s finished with mashed strawberries and their juices, spooned on top of the cake batter before it’s baked, for a dessert that’s as easy to make as it is delicious.
Recipe: Strawberry Spoon Cake
When she wasn’t acting circles around her contemporaries, Katharine Hepburn made a mean brownie, the recipe for which came to The Times via a reader letter in 2003. Not only are these utterly scrumptious (thanks to Ms. Hepburn’s preference for as little flour as possible), the preparation is about as bare-bones as you can get for brownies — perhaps a nod to a more classic era of baking.
Recipe: Katharine Hepburn’s Brownies
The key to making a mixerless version of these P.B. and J.-inspired bars from Dawn Perry is ensuring that your butter is as soft as possible. Once you’ve done that, you’re simply making a crumble that probably won’t last through the end of the week.
Recipe: Peanut Butter Blackberry Bars
With the holidays fast approaching, you may be searching for ideas for homemade gifts. Look no further than these coconut caramels from Yewande Komolafe. Just a few critical ingredients — including coconut cream or milk, ginger, cardamom and, of course, shredded coconut — yield 72 tropical treats that your friends and family won’t soon forget.
Recipe: Coconut Caramels
Who says it has to be beach season for you to enjoy beach pie? This pie from Margaux Laskey via Bill Smith, the onetime chef at the now-closed Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill, N.C., marries the sharp taste of Key lime pie with the tangy-sweet flavors of lemon meringue pie. Here, the saltine cracker crust is made in a food processor, but you can also make it by hand. Just mix together until it looks and feels like a dough.
Recipe: Atlantic Beach Pie
Rice Krispies treats are easily one of the most beloved mixerless desserts. Genevieve Ko’s one-saucepan take on the classic skews more modern than the sticky-finger-inducing treats you might have grown up with, employing butter-flavored pretzels and semisweet chocolate. The result is the kind of savory-sweet dessert that dreams are made of.
Are you feeling as if you haven’t quite leaned into fall baking as much as you would have liked? This recipe from Samantha Seneviratne may be your fix. As the name implies, it comes together in just a few minutes, with most of the work happening in the oven. One reader suggests making much more than the recommended amount of cider glaze, and drizzling it over just about any dessert you want to add instant fall flavor to.
Despite its laissez-faire name, this five-star cake from Amanda Hesser via her mother, Judith, takes a bit of dedication. The batter needs to be smooth but not overmixed, which is much easier to achieve if you’re making this cake entirely by hand. Once that’s done, you really do just dump it into a tube, or Bundt, pan and then cover the cooled cake with a perfectly tangy sour cream-chocolate frosting.
Recipe: Chocolate Dump-It Cake
Again, never sleep on a quick bread (or in this case, a quick cake). This version from Yossy Arefi is slightly easier than a full-blown cake, coming together in one bowl and substituting a tart lemon glaze for the usual cream cheese frosting. Voilà, weeknight carrot cake.
No mixer? No problem. No time? Also, not a problem, especially when it comes to this reader-submitted recipe from Amy Casey, adapted by Melissa Clark. You can have these five-ingredient cookies in the oven in under 15 minutes and then out the door another hour after they’ve baked. In other words, there’s a reason this is still a five-star recipe nearly a decade after its debut.
Recipe: Sugared Shortbread