Five or Fewer: Chill out with these sweets

Hibiscus lime paletas
Fresh lime juice added to the agua de jamaica strikes a balance between sweet and tart in this cool summertime treat.
(Maria Zizka)

Who wants to bake on the hottest days of the year? Not me and probably not you.

To get around turning the oven on but still get dessert on the table, I’ve put together these summertime sweets — all are bakeless and have five or fewer ingredients.

Hibiscus Lime Paletas

35 minutes plus freezing. Makes 6.

When making any type of frozen dessert, keep in mind that cold temperature will dull sweetness. For these paletas, the agua de jamaica should taste a little bit too sweet before you freeze it in the popsicle molds. I like to add a good amount of fresh lime juice to strike a balance between sweet and tart, but feel free to vary the amount to your taste, or even try substituting other fruit juices.


  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar, plus more as needed
  • ½ cup dried hibiscus flowers (jamaica)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice


  1. Bring 3 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from the heat, and stir in the brown sugar and dried hibiscus flowers until the sugar dissolves. Taste a small spoonful and add more sugar if desired (see headnote). If the mixture isn’t sweet enough, add another tablespoon of sugar, stir to dissolve then taste again; repeat as needed. Cover and let steep for about 20 minutes.
  2. Strain the agua de jamaica through a fine-mesh sieve into a small pitcher. Stir in the lime juice then pour the mixture into pop molds. Freeze for at least 5 hours before serving.

Strawberry Lemonade Sorbet Floats

Strawberry lemonade sorbet floats
The sorbet is bright and refreshing but even better in a float.
(Maria Zizka)

15 minutes plus chilling and freezing. Serves 6.

Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray of the River Café in London devised this ingenious method for making sorbet using a whole lemon — peel and all! You might think the lemon flavor would be too intense, but when combined with ripe berries it tastes just like frozen strawberry lemonade. The sorbet is bright and refreshing on its own, and even better in a float.


  • 2 lemons
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 pounds fresh strawberries, hulled
  • 4 ½ cups ginger ale, chilled


  1. Trim the ends off one of the lemons and cut it into eight wedges, discarding the seeds. Place the lemon wedges in the bowl of a food processor along with the sugar and blend until very smooth. Transfer the lemon purée to a large bowl.
  2. Using the food processor once again (no need to wash it), blend the strawberries until smooth. (You might need to blend the berries in two batches, depending on the size of your processor.) Mix the strawberry purée into the lemon purée. Stir in the juice of the remaining lemon. Chill the strawberry lemonade in the refrigerator until cold, at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.
  3. Pour the chilled lemonade into an ice cream maker and churn it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Spoon the sorbet into a container, cover tightly, and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours.
  4. To assemble the floats, place 2 small scoops of sorbet in each of 6 tall glasses. Fill each glass with about ¾ cup ginger ale and serve immediately with long spoons.

Mango Yogurt Pudding

Mango yogurt pudding
Inspired by Indian shrikhand, this sweetened yogurt pudding is thick and creamy.
(Maria Zizka)

20 minutes, plus 24-hour straining. Serves 6 to 8.

This sweetened yogurt pudding — inspired by Indian shrikhand — has a super thick, creamy texture. Start making it the day before you want to eat it to give the yogurt ample time to strain and thicken. (Or for a shortcut, you can buy pre-strained yogurt like labneh.)


  • 4 cups (32 ounces) plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 cup roasted and lightly salted shelled pistachios
  • 1 large or 2 small ripe mangoes
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice


  • Scoop the yogurt into a fine-mesh sieve and set the sieve over a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours, allowing the yogurt to thicken as the whey drips into the bowl below. (If you don’t have a fine-mesh sieve, you can improvise and hang the yogurt in a cheesecloth satchel suspended over a bowl.)
  • Transfer the yogurt to a clean bowl and stir in the sugar and pistachios.
  • Peel, pit and cut the mango into pieces and place them in the bowl of a food processor. Blend until completely smooth. Add the lime juice and blend to incorporate.
  • Spoon the sweetened yogurt into a large serving dish or individual bowls. Dollop the mango purée into the yogurt and swirl the two together. Serve chilled.

Chocolate Icebox Cake

Chocolate icebox cake
Fans of cookies-and-cream ice cream will love Maria Zizka’s Chocolate Icebox Cake recipe.
(Maria Zizka)

30 minutes plus overnight chilling. Serves 8 to 10.

If you like cookies-and-cream ice cream, you’ll love this simple cake. Assembling the layers is easiest in a springform pan with removable sides. Or you can put the cake together on a serving platter — the sides won’t be perfectly smooth, but I doubt anyone will mind. Rainbow sprinkles are optional but highly encouraged.


  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup mascarpone (8 ounces)
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 ½ pounds store-bought chocolate biscuit-style or wafer cookies, such as Nabisco wafers or Goya Maria
  • Rainbow sprinkles (optional)


  1. Combine the cream, mascarpone and powdered sugar in a large bowl. Use an electric mixer to whip them together just until stiff peaks form. (Be careful not to over-whip; the mixture will form curds if whipped too long.)
  2. Arrange a single layer of chocolate cookies in the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan, breaking some cookies to fill in the empty spaces. Spread about one-fifth of the whipped cream mixture evenly over the cookies. Repeat four more times to create five layers total of cookies and cream, ending with a layer of cream. Smooth the top, cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Remove the plastic and the sides of the springform pan. Scatter rainbow sprinkles across the top of the cake. Cut into wedges and serve cold.

Espresso Granita With Cardamom Cream

Espresso granita with cardamom cream
The caramom cream is an ideal counterpart for the strong sweetened coffee in this espresso granita recipe.
(Maria Zizka)

5 hours, largely unattended. Serves 6.

You probably already have everything you need to make espresso granita — the only tools required are a freezer and a fork. Italians serve espresso granita with unsweetened whipped cream, spiked here with cardamom, which is an ideal counterpart for the strong sweetened coffee.


  • 2 cups freshly-brewed espresso or very strong coffee
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon coffee liqueur (optional)
  • 1 cup heavy cream, chilled
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom


  1. Combine the hot coffee and sugar in a bowl, stirring until the sugar dissolves completely. Stir in the liqueur (if using). Pour the mixture into an 8-inch square or equivalent size dish, cover tightly with plastic wrap, then freeze, using a fork to lightly scrape the surface to break up the frozen coffee into tiny crystals every hour, until the granita is fully scraped and a fluffy consistency, at least 4 hours total. (If you forget to scrape the granita and it freezes solid, don’t worry — it will still work. Just let it thaw very slightly, then use a fork to scrape and break it up into tiny crystals.) Cover the dish and freeze until ready to serve.
  2. A few minutes before serving the granita, combine the cream and cardamom in a medium bowl. Whisk by hand until the cream holds very soft peaks. It’s better to under-whip than to over-whip here. As soon as the cream thickens and holds floppy peaks, stop whisking.
  3. Layer a spoonful of espresso granita in the bottom of a pretty glass or small bowl. Top with a dollop of cardamom cream, followed by another spoonful of granita and more cardamom cream. Serve immediately.