Layered desserts in a jar

Impress dinner guests with these simple yet elegant recipes by Lauren Grant.

Lauren Grant/Iowa State Daily

Impress dinner guests with these simple yet elegant recipes by Lauren Grant.

Impressing someone with an outstanding dessert might be easier than you think. Do not get frustrated with complicated recipes that never seem to turn out perfectly. Prepare a simple yet delicious dessert and impress your guests with creative presentation.

Mousse in a Jar

For the mousse:

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

3 ounces milk chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 3/4 cup heavy cream, chilled

3 large egg whites

2 tablespoons white sugar

Whipped Cream for Topping:

1 cup heavy cream, chilled

3 tablespoons white sugar

2 teaspoons espresso powder or

1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest

Place chocolate in a large glass bowl over a pot of simmering water. Make sure the water does not hit the bottom of the glass bowl. Continually stir chocolate until melted. Once chocolate is completely melted, remove from heat.

With a hand mixer, beat the cream in a chilled metal bowl, or in a glass bowl placed over ice. Beat until heavy cream forms soft peaks. Set whipped cream aside.

With a hand mixer, whip egg whites to soft peaks. Slowly add the sugar and continue to whip until stiff peaks are formed.

Remove the chocolate from the glass bowl and gently fold in all of the egg whites with a whisk or rubber spatula. Once egg whites are mostly incorporated, gently fold in whipped cream. Separate mousse out into individual glass canning jars, cover and chill in refrigerator for one hour.

Top with whipped cream and shaved chocolate, if desired.

*Note: For a white chocolate mousse, replace bittersweet and milk chocolate with white chocolate. Skip the whipped cream topping and finish with fresh fruit and mint.

Strawberries and cake

1 angel food cake, diced into 1 inch pieces

1 pound fresh strawberries, sliced

1/4 cup white sugar

1/4 cup orange-flavored liqueur, such as Grand Marnier (optional)

Whipped Cream:

1 cup heavy cream, chilled

3 tablespoons white sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract

1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest, split

Combine sliced strawberries, sugar and liqueur in a small bowl. Stir occasionally. Allow strawberries to sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes or until sugar is completely dissolved.

Using a hand mixer beat the chilled heavy cream, sugar, extract and 1 teaspoon orange zest. Set aside remaining zest for garnish. Beat heavy cream until soft peaks form. This will take 1 to 2 minutes.

In a regular sized canning jar, alternate layering the cake, strawberries and whipped cream. Finishing with whipped cream on top, sprinkle with remaining zest and serve immediately.

Also serve these desserts in a jar:

Yogurt Parfait

Bananas Foster

Apple Crisp with Ice Cream