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Desserts

You lucky devil. You just found copycat recipes for all of your favorite famous foods! Bestselling author and TV host, Todd Wilbur shows you how to easily duplicate the taste of iconic dishes and treats at home. See if Todd has hacked your favorite desserts here. New recipes added every week.

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    Just 15 minutes after the very first Cheesecake Factory opened in Beverly Hills back in 1978, the lines began forming. Here's their cheesecake twist on the delicious Key lime pie. Since Key limes and Key lime juice can be hard to find, this recipe uses standard lime juice which can be purchased bottled or squeezed fresh. If you can find Key lime juice, bear in mind that Key limes are more tart, so you'll need only half as much juice. This recipe also requires a springform pan. If you don't have one, you can use two 9-inch pie pans and make two smaller cheesecakes.

    Try more of my Cheesecake Factory hacks here

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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    Nothing finishes a meal in the islands better than traditional rum cake. And the 37-unit island-themed Bahama Breeze chain knows how to do rum cake right with a mini Bundt-style serving, topped with ice cream, and smothered in three delicious sauces. It's no less than pure paradise for your mouth.

    At the restaurant, they bake this single-serving cake in a mini Bundt cake pan, but if you don't have one of those you can use a jumbo muffin pan, or use small cake pans and slice the cake before serving. 

    What makes this rum cake presentation special are the sauces: a rum sauce that soaks into the cake, a vanilla sauce that’s spooned onto the bottom of the plate, and the delicious raisin butterscotch sauce that oozes over the top and down the sides of the ice cream and cake. Of course, all these amazing sauces are hacked here for your food-cloning pleasure, and they're a breeze to make.

    Combine all the flavors in one bite and you'll experience one of the best rum cakes you've ever tasted.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    What started as a single food cart in Madison Square Park in New York City in 2000 has become one of America's fastest-growing food chains. In 2014, Shake Shack filed for its initial public offering of stock, and shares rose by 147 percent on the first day of trading. The chain’s success can be attributed to a simple menu of great food that makes any bad day better, including juicy flat-grilled burgers, thick shakes, and creamy frozen custard.

    Custard is made just like ice cream with many of the same ingredients, except custard has egg yolks in it for extra richness. Also, custards are made in ice cream machines with paddles that move slowly so minimal air is mixed in. Home ice cream makers work great for custard, and will churn out a thick, creamy finished product. Using the right ratio of cream to milk and just enough egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla, you can now make an identical hack of Shake Shack’s custard, which is great on its own or topped with syrups, fruit, and candy bits. 

    And don’t forget that custards taste best when they’re fresh. Shake Shack serves the custard within a couple of hours of making it, so consume your copycat custard as quickly as you can after it’s churned. 

    Find out how to duplicate the chain's famous Vanilla Milkshake by just adding milk using the recipe here, and re-create the juicy Shake Shake Burger with my hack here.

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    Menu Description: “This fresh-baked pull-apart bread is topped with caramelized butter, brown sugar and cinnamon, baked to a golden brown finish and then topped with vanilla bean ice cream.”

    BJ’s signature dessert, and probably its most famous single menu item, is the Pizookie, which is a cookie baked in a small pizza pan, served hot with ice cream on top. But the cookie in the pan isn’t always a cookie. Sometimes it’s a brownie, or in the case of this recent variation on the famous dessert, freshly-baked monkey bread.

    Just as in the restaurant, the monkey bread in this clone isn’t originally baked in the 6-inch cake pans (or pizza pans) it’s served in. The monkey bread is baked ahead of time in a larger pan, then the sections of bread are placed into the smaller serving pans, with the gooey side up, and they’re warmed up just before serving.  

    Great monkey bread needs to be made from scratch, and it’s not hard. Many of the most popular recipes for monkey bread you’ll see are made with instant biscuits in a tube. This is an easier solution to be sure, but monkey bread made with quick dough—dough that’s chemically leavened with baking powder—rather than with hardier yeast dough just doesn’t match up to what you get at the restaurant.

    Rather than making the monkey bread in a Bundt cake pan as most traditional recipes call for, we’ll make this one in a single layer in an 8-inch cake pan or deep-dish pizza pan. When the bread is cool, it’s broken up and transferred to two smaller cake pans, warmed up, topped with ice cream, and served.      

    Make it a complete meal and try my clone recipes for Bj's Avocado Egg Rolls and famous chili.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    The real Dole Whip is a non-dairy dessert that includes artificial flavoring, a small amount of real pineapple juice, and more gums than a candy store. Everything in this Hawaiian ice cream is combined in a powdered form including the pineapple juice in 4.4-pound bags that are sold to soft-serve machine operators at fairs, sporting events, and amusement parks. On the back of the Dole Whip mix are instructions to dissolve the powder in 2 gallons of cold tap water, then immediately pour the syrup into a soft serve machine and hit the switch.  

    Up until now, almost all recipes that claim to reproduce Dole Whip—including one shared by Disneyland during the coronavirus outbreak—include ice cream, to make what is supposed to be a "non-dairy" dessert one that is quite full of dairy. The results you get from these recipes may be tasty, but they are nothing like Dole Whip because Dole Whip is sorbet and sorbet isn't made with ice cream.

    One thing that makes Dole Whip special is its creamy consistency, which may lead some people to believe it has dairy in it. Dole Whip creates this thickness with the assistance of six different natural gums and gels: cellulose gum, xanthan gum, locust bean gum, guar gum, karaya gum, and pectin. In addition, there is a small amount of coconut fat solids in the mix to help simulate the fat found in dairy.

    For this hack, I limited the gels to two that are easy to find: unflavored gelatin and pectin. When these two ingredients are heated, then cooled, they form a gel similar to what’s in the real Dole Whip, and the result is a thick-and-creamy consistency. Another trick often used to help thicken sorbets is the use of viscous corn syrup to replace much of the sugar. Corn syrup will give the sorbet body and it helps tone down the acidic pineapple juice.

    But the best part of this Dole Whip copycat recipe, unlike the real thing, is that it contains all-natural ingredients and it's mostly made of real Dole pineapple juice, plus a little tangerine juice to round out the flavor and enrich the color. This homemade Dole Whip is ridiculously easy to make (you'll need an ice cream maker) and fans of the real thing will love it. Plus, now you can have this DIY Dole Whip whenever you want—no amusement park required.

    Click here for more of my hacks of delicious desserts and sweet treats. 

     

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    Score: 4.67. Votes: 3

    Imagine a giant soft sugar cookie with sweetened cream cheese on top and served warm as if it just came out of the oven and you have California Pizza Kitchen's Butter Cake, a delectable dessert described on the menu with five simple words: “Trust us…just try it.” 

    This dessert is an easy one to prep in the restaurant since the cakes are made ahead of time and chilled until ordered. Once an order comes in the cake is zapped for a minute in the microwave, then topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and surrounded by dollops of whipped cream. You can prepare yours this way at home as well—make your cakes in advance, then chill them until dessert time. Or, you can serve the cakes right after they come out of the oven. Either way works.

    The construction is an easy one—you’ll need four 4-inch cake pans, or ramekins, or anything you can bake in that is 4-inches across. To make the batter I used a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and it worked great, but a hand-held granny mixer also works.

    I think you're gonna love this one. Trust me...just hack it.

    Find more amazing CPK copycat recipes here.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    Not having ever lived in the southern US my experience with this dessert was about as minimal as it gets. The first buttermilk pie I tasted was at Cracker Barrel and I was immediately hooked on the sweetened vanilla custard with its distinct, but not overwhelming, tang from the buttermilk and lemon juice, balanced with a sweet garnish of strawberries and whipped cream. It’s a versatile dessert that is as well-suited for summertime get-togethers as it is for traditional southern winter holiday meals.

    Now I’ve tasted over a dozen variations of this decades-old favorite—all but one of them coming out of my own oven—on my quest to discover the best way to make Cracker Barrel’s popular dessert. And finally, I hacked it.

    The beauty of this recipe is its simplicity: you’ll need just a handful of common ingredients, a whisk, and an unbaked pie shell. You can make your own pie shell using your favorite recipe or buy a frozen unbaked crust at the supermarket to save time. My pie shell was made by Marie Callender’s and it was delicious.

    Whisk together the filling in stages as described here, pour it into your pie shell, and bake it starting on the lowest rack so that the bottom of the pie gets browned. If you have a convection oven, this is a good time to use it so you’re sure to get even browning on top.

    After about an hour your pie will be done, and when it cools, it's slicing time.

    Find more of my Cracker Barrel copycat recipes here

     

     

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    Score: 4.90. Votes: 39

    Menu Description: "Delicate white cake and lemon cream filling with a vanilla crumb topping."

    To make this clone easy I've designed the recipe with white cake mix. I picked Betty Crocker brand, but any white cake mix you find will do. Just know that each brand (Duncan Hines, Pillsbury, etc.) requires slightly different measurements of additional ingredients (oil, eggs). Follow the directions on the box for mixing the batter, then pour it into 2 greased 9-inch cake pans and bake until done. The filling recipe is a no-brainer and the crumb topping is quick. When your Olive Garden lemon cream cake recipe is assembled, stick it in the fridge for a few hours, and soon you'll be ready to serve 12 slices of the hacked signature dessert.

    Now, what's for dinner?

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    The Applebee's chain is now the world's largest casual dining restaurant, with over one thousand units in seven countries and forty-eight states. In less than four years, the chain has doubled in size. That's great if you're a restaurant chain, but put enough fat-filled desserts in your belly and you'll double in size, too. That's why we're happy to see items like this one on the menu. It tastes like a decadent, guilty pleasure, but it actually contains only four grams of fat per serving. That's possible because the brownie "pie" is made in a special way using a combination of low-fat and fat-free chocolates, some egg whites, and just a bit of shortening. Grab yourself some fat-free frozen yogurt, and share this one with eight hungry friends.

    Nutrition Facts
    Serving size–1 dessert
    Total servings–9
    Calories per serving–424 
    Fat per serving–4g

    Find more of my Applebee's copycat recipes here.

    Source: Low-Fat Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 5

    Traditional white birthday cakes are pretty boring by themselves. Scoop a little ice cream onto the plate and I'll perk up a bit. But, hey baby, bring a Baskin-Robbins ice cream cake to the party and I'll be the first one in line with my plastic fork. This 5000-unit ice cream chain stacks several varieties of pre-made ice cream cakes in its freezer, but I've discovered the most popular version, over and over again, is the one made from white cake with pralines and cream ice cream on top. So that's got to be the version we clone here. But don't think you're locked into this Todd Wilbur formula—you can use any flavor of cake and ice cream you fancy for your homemade masterpiece. Just be sure the ice cream you choose comes in a box. It should be a rectangular shape so that the ice cream layer stacks just right on the cake. You'll want a real sharp serrated knife to cut the ice cream in half while it's still in the box. And check this out: that white stuff that coats the cake is actually softened vanilla ice cream that's spread in a thin layer on the cake, and then re-frozen. After it sets up, you can decorate the cake any way you like with pre-made frosting in whatever color suits the festive occasion. So now you can learn how to make Baskin Robbins ice cream cake at home that looks and tastes exactly like those in the stores that cost around 30 bucks each!

    Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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I'm Todd Wilbur,
Chronic Food Hacker

For 30 years I've been deconstructing America's most iconic brand-name foods to make the best original clone recipes for you to use at home. Welcome to my lab.

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