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3 Crowd-Pleasing, Low-Calorie Desserts

Low-Cal Desserts

Pastry chef and author of Sweet & Skinny, Marisa Churchill shares low-calorie and low-fat dessert recipes from her cookbook.

Old-Fashioned Fudge Cake

Makes: 16 servings
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes


Nonstick cooking spray
Any use 1 3/4 cups flour and much more for coating the pan
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 1/4 cups low-fat buttermilk
1 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
4 Whites from large eggs
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
2/3 cup finely grated beets, loosely packed
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
2 tablespoons nonfat milk


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. Mist a 10-inch round cake pan with cooking spray and coat lightly with flour.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 3/4 cups flour, granulated sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together buttermilk, yogurt, egg whites and olive oil until the mixture is smooth. Stir in beets, then the flour mixture until just incorporated.
  3. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake for about 40 minutes, until cake is slightly domed in the center and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool 20 minutes. Then, run a knife around the edge and invert the cake directly on the rack; let Cool completely, about 1 hour.
  4. While the cake cooling, make the frosting. Using a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and butter on medium speed until the mixture is smooth, about 1 minute. Sift in powdered sugar and cocoa powder; continue to mix, starting on low speed and increasing to medium as sugar is incorporated, until frosting is completely smooth. Reduce speed to low and add vanilla extract and milk, mixing until incorporated.
  5. Use a spatula to frost the top of cake first, starting at the center and pushing frosting out to the side. Frost sides. Cut cake into 16 slices before serving.
Nutrition facts per serving (1 slice): 289 calories, 7g protein, 51g carbohydrates, 8g fat (4 g saturated), 3g fiber

Spiced Chocolate Mousse

Yield: Makes 2 servings


1 cup Cool Whip Lite
2 tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon good quality unsweetened cocoa powder, natural or Dutch-processed
1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
Scant 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons pepitas (toasted hulled pumpkin seeds)
Pinch of coarse sea salt,such as fleur de sel


  1. Combine the chocolate chips and 2 tablespoons water in a double boiler or in a bowl in a microwave oven, and heat until you can stir the mixture smooth.
  2. Put the whipped topping into a medium bowl and whisk in the melted chocolate until the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the cocoa, cinnamon and cayenne until they are well combined.
To serve: Divide the mousse between two serving glasses and top with pepitas. Drizzle the olive oil over the tops, and sprinkle with a small pinch of sea salt.
Nutritional facts per serving: 170 calories, 10g fat

Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Berries

Panna cotta Ingredients

3/4 cup milk (2% or whole)
1 1/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin powder
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk, at room temperature

Fresh Berry Medley Ingredients

2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 of a vanilla bean
1 1/2 cup mixed berries, such as raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries, large berries quartered
Sugar-free substitution: Substitute 5 packets of Truvia for the sugar in the panna cotta. Substitude 3 packets of Truvia for the sugar in the berries.


  1. To make the panna cotta: Pour milk into a small saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the top. Whisk to combine, tehn set aside for 3 minutes to soften the gelatin. Whisk in the sugar.
  2. Place the saucepan over medium heat and whisk frequently until the milk begins to steam and the gelatin dissolves completely.do not allow the mixture to fully boil.remove the saucepan from the heat and let cool for 15 minutes.whisk in the buttermilk.
  3. mixture into four 4-ounce ramekins. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate about 3 hours, until it is set.
  1. To prepare the berries: Just before serving, put the sugar into a bowl large enough to hold the berries. Use a paring knife to slit the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the sugar. Rub the seeds into the sugar with your fingers. Add berries and mix gently with a spoon or your hands for about 1 minute, until the berries are well coated and begin to release their juices.
  2. Distribute the berries and their juices evenly over the tops of the panna cottas and serve.
Nutrition facts per serving: 140 calories, 1.5 g fat
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