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Spectrum of Sweetness

Martha Stewart Living, May 2007

Spring's vibrant hues are at home on any dinner table with desserts that are as colorful as they are delicious.

If a rainbow is the pathway between heaven and earth, as the ancient Scandinavians believed, then these vivid confections will send you up, up, and away. Our sweet journey starts with this eye-catching summer pudding, its dazzling hue derived from strawberries, cherries, plums, and raspberries. The fruits are heated gently to release their crimson juices, and then layered with sliced bread and chilled overnight to allow the flavors to meld. Garnished with additional fresh fruit, this ruby beauty makes a dramatic statement.
Red-Fruit Summer Pudding

This bold color is said to stimulate the appetite, and our blissful puddings may be proof. Thinly sliced oranges are candied in a honey syrup that lends them a faint floral perfume. The sweet citrus slices sit atop a contemporary version of rice pudding, which is made from starchy, short-grain Arborio rice to yield a texture that's exceptionally rich. Heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks, is folded in just before serving to ensure a light consistency.
Vanilla Rice Puddings with Glazed Oranges

Anyone who samples our sunny lemon tart can tell you that appearances don't deceive: This dessert tastes every bit as bright as it looks. Egg yolks, sugar, and mouth-puckering lemon juice create a velvety curd that is poured into a crunchy cornmeal shell flecked with lemon zest and fresh sage. The tart filling is balanced by the mellow flavor and creamy texture of creme fraiche, which is placed atop the tart in dollops and teased into artistic swirls with a wooden skewer.
Marbled Lemon Tart with Sage-Cornmeal Crust

These exquisite golden custards are bound to create a buzz. Panna cotta, which has a luxurious silken texture, traditionally hails from Italy, but our version is decidedly Middle Eastern. Heady saffron imparts a sunny color; toasted almonds, honey, and lemon zest round out the exotic flavor. Presented on petal-shape plates, the desserts resemble daisies. Serve them with a drizzle of honey and you're sure to draw a few friendly bees. Ours are made of both cocoa and spice cookie doughs, striped with yellow icing, and given a bit of sparkle with sanding sugar.
Honey-Saffron Panna Cottas with Bee Cookies

Evoke the promising hue of spring's unfurling leaves with this unexpectedly colorful pound cake. We have updated the standard loaf with a few additions. Cream cheese makes the cake wonderfully moist, while ground pistachios lend the batter a distinct nutty flavor and a faint green tinge. Drizzled with icing and sprinkled with pistachio slivers, this cake couldn't be more appropriate for the season.
Pistachio Pound Cake with Drippy Icing

What do chocolate and the color of the sky and the sea have in common? Both soothe and uplift our spirits. Here they are combined in one sumptuous cake that has been laced with espresso powder for a subtle mocha flavor, layered with whipped ganache, and topped with a shiny dark-chocolate glaze. Tucked inside nests of milk-chocolate shavings are truffle eggs tinted robin's egg blue and dusted with a metallic luster. The accompanying marbled eggs are created by dipping more truffles into melted white chocolate swirled with blue food coloring.
Rich Chocolate Cake with Ganache Frosting and Truffle-Egg Nest

This inky shade of blue violet -- the color of all-American denim -- has timeless appeal. And so does our delectable blueberry tart, a classic ending to any simple summer meal. The crisp, buttery shortbread base gets a surprise crunch from ground almonds. The tangy buttermilk custard that fills the shell is the perfect complement to the abundance of sweet, plump blueberries scattered over the top. The tart is best served soon after its assembled, but it's so delicious that it's unlikely that there will be a crumb left over.
Blueberry and Buttermilk Tart

These dainty confections, iced with a pale shade of royal purple, are fit for a modern-day queen and her retinue. Dark, indulgent brownie batter is baked in gilded cupcake liners. The delicate hue of the smooth topping hints at its soothing floral flavor and aroma, which are achieved by steeping dried lavender in milk. Sugared pansies and violas form a glittering crown for the little cakes, which are rich enough to replace the pot of gold at the end of this rainbow.
Spring Cupcakes with Sugared Flowers

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