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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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    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: 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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    One of the best choices you will make in life is having this dish for dessert when you’re at Cracker Barrel. They call it a “dumplin” but it’s just a little streusel-covered apple pie, served up hot in its own small baking dish with two scoops of vanilla bean ice cream on top, and drizzled with warm apple/caramel sauce—it's good stuff. Take a bite and you may notice the apples inside taste like Cracker Barrel’s Fried Apples side dish, so we'll use my previous hack for that part to bring it all together.

    This recipe makes two small pies that serve up to four. Check out more of my cool copycat recipes from Cracker Barrel here.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 10

    Menu Description: "Our famous pumpkin pie has just the right amount of spice."

    The vittles from Marie Callender's have made an impression beyond the chain's West Coast roots with home-style packaged entrees and side dishes available in frozen food sections of supermarkets across the country. Pie making is where the chain excels. A fresh slice of a Marie Callender's pie is as close as you'll get to homemade heaven this side of Grandma's porch window. This clone is an obvious selection, since the restaurant sells more pumpkin pies than any other, even in non-holiday months. This clone is a perfect opportunity to improve on icky pumpkin pie recipes (like those found on cans of canned pumpkin, for example) in many ways. For one thing, there's no need to use canned evaporated milk when fresh whole milk and cream is so much better. And three eggs, versus two found in many recipes, will add to the richness and firmness of the cooked filling. After mixing the filling we'll let it sit for a bit while waiting for the oven to preheat. This way it can come closer to room temperature, and the pie filling will bake more evenly. The clone recipe included here for the crust uses a chilled combination of butter and shortening for the perfect mix of flavor and flakiness.

    If you're looking for something to please both the pumpkin and pecan lovers, try my clone for pumpkin pecan cheesecake from Cheesecake Factory

    Update 10/12/17: I made a few changes to improve this recipe. I increased the pumpkin to 19 ounces (or 2 1/2 cups) to better fill the crust. Get a large can of pumpkin. Also, I took the egg yolk out of the crust for a flakier and more tender finished product. Also, because of the additional filling, I've increased the baking time by 10 minutes to 60 to 70 minutes. If you find your crust getting too dark on top, use a pie crust shield or mold some foil around the top of the crust to prevent it from over-browning.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    When YouTuber James Wright sang and swooned over Patti Labelle's Sweet Potato Pie in an exuberant November 2015 video, it went viral, racking up a quick 5 million views. The sudden popularity of the video led to a mad run on the pies, and stores around the country were sold out for weeks.

    Now, no one who craves the rich goodness of a delicious sweet potato pie will be forced to go Patti-less for long, with this hack that re-creates everything good about her pie. And the one bad thing about her pie—that it's too small—is fixed here with a finished pie that is about twice as big as the store version. You won't find this recipe anywhere else, including Patti's cookbook, which makes a sweet potato pie very different from the bestselling pie that was sold out in stores.

    What other incredible famous desserts can you whip up at home? Check out my other clone recipes here.

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    The Cheesecake Factory’s autumnal dessert offering is a clever mashup of pecan pie and pumpkin cheesecake in a traditional flakey pie crust. At first glance, I thought this would be an easy one to unlock, but I found the recipe to be a surprisingly tricky hack since all the components in the cheesecake follow different baking rules.

    The first step was to design a crust that could withstand being cooked three times. After a few tests, I came up with a recipe that produces a hardy dough that can be par-baked, then baked again two more times while maintaining flakiness.

    The next step was to thicken the pecan filling before adding it to the cheesecake pan. My first version skipped this step and pecan filling soaked through the crust and through the springform pan onto the bottom of the oven, where a charred, dark stain remains to this day.

    Cooking the pecan filling before it goes into the cheesecake will thicken it so it won't soak through the crust and wind up dirtying your oven. After the filling cools for 45 minutes, you can build a cheesecake on top of it.

    Add the cheesecake filling right up to the top of the crust. If you do a good job making the top edge of the crust even all the way around, the cheesecake filling will fit perfectly.

    I'm sharing two ways to make the delicious finishing caramel sauce that goes over the top. The easy way is to simply combine walnuts with your favorite caramel sauce and pour it over a slice. But the best way is to make the sauce from scratch using the recipe I've included here. It's only a few ingredients, it's not too hard, and you'll love the results.

    Pour the sauce over the top, add a dollop of whipped cream, and you'll have produced a finished slice of cheesecake that looks—and tastes—like it was made by a pro.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 7

    In 1949 a bakery owner named Charles Lubin pioneered the frozen-foods business when he invented a top-quality cream-cheese cake for sale in supermarkets and restaurants. He named the cheesecake after his daughter, Sara Lee. Though skeptics believed that a frozen baked item could not be sold in large grocery stores, Lubin's cheesecake was such a success that only two years later, in 1951, he opened the Kitchens of Sara Lee and began to add other items to his line. In the early 1950s Lubin introduced the aluminum foil pan, which allowed his products to be baked, quickly frozen, and sold in the same container. Today the Kitchens of Sara Lee produce more than 200 varieties of baked goods. And few people know that this diverse company has also been successful in manufacturing and marketing coffee, meats, and even pantyhose under the Hanes and Liz Claiborne labels.

    Try out more of my famous and fun desserts.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    Menu Description: "Topped with vanilla ice cream under a hard chocolate shell."

    After the success of the Molten Chocolate Cake, Chili's chefs went back into the development kitchen and emerged with this incredible white chocolate variation that has become the new go-to meal ender. Just as with my clone for the Molten Chocolate Cake in Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2, I found that an instant cake mix is the perfect solution to quickly and easily copy this awesome dish. It just so happens that Duncan Hines Butter Recipe cake mix produces a butter cake that perfectly matches the moist, buttery cake in the Chili's original.

    For the molten white chocolate inside the cake we mix melted white chocolate chips with cream and then spoon the creamy mixture into a hole cut into each cake. Pop the filled cakes into your refrigerator, and then when you're ready to serve the dessert, nuke each one in the microwave to heat up the filling, add ice cream and a little white chocolate on top, and serve. This is a great make-ahead dish since the loaded cakes can be stored in your refrigerator for a couple days (or even longer in your freezer), and when you're ready to plate the impressive dessert, each serving only takes a minute or two to set up.

    Chocolate lovers can find my Chili's Chocolate Molten Cake recipe here

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 3.50. Votes: 2

    So, you need to make some buttery yellow cake, but you don't have any mix in the pantry. Or perhaps you love the moist and delicious cake made from a box, but aren't a big fan of all the polysyllabic preservatives and thickeners that come along for the ride. Here is the TSR way to make homemade yellow cake mix from scratch using basic baking ingredients. You can store the cloned dry mix in a sealed container for several weeks in a cabinet until you need it. Then, when you're ready to make the cake, simply add water, oil, and eggs to the mix in the exact measurements required by the original, then pour the batter into a pan and pop it in the oven. Done. 

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked 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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