My parents cooked often when I was growing up, but my sweets were more likely to come from the freezer section or the baked-goods aisle (what parent has the time to put a lovingly homemade dessert on the table night after night?). They may not have been what you'd call sophisticated or nuanced, but I still have a nostalgic soft spot for the flavors of the packaged cookies, snack cakes, and ice cream novelties of my youth: your Klondike Bars, your Pop-Tarts, your Keebler Fudge Stripes. The adult me would prefer versions that are made with better-quality ingredients, and perhaps a tad more balance, instead of just sugar piled on corn syrup. Meanwhile, the child in me refuses anything that resembles an attempt to tart up those dearly remembered favorites with fancy grown-up substitutions. Luckily, these 17 recipes for DIY Oreos, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Jell-O pudding, and more offer just the right compromise: Lovingly homemade, indeed, but retaining all the simple sweetness you crave, each one is sure to make you feel like a kid again.
Candy and Cookies
Homemade Milk Duds
You may not consider eating Milk Duds except around Halloween, but take it from us—these homemade ones are delicious enough to eat all year round. Start by making a batch of caramel, heavy on the cream to ensure that it's soft and chewy. Once you've tempered the chocolate, it's time for the fun (and messy) part—dipping the caramels, then fishing them out a handful at a time and lining them up on a parchment-lined baking sheet to dry.
We replicate (dare we say, improve on?) the crispety, crunchety, peanut butter–y burst of Butterfingers with a variation on a French leaf croquant—essentially a laminated peanut brittle. It sounds complicated, but really takes just a little patience, which will be richly rewarded with an extra-flaky texture in your very own DIY candy bar. Upgrade the chocolate shell by dipping with your own favorite chocolate, dark or milk.
Homemade Reese's Cups
A disk of peanut butter covered in chocolate would make a tasty treat, but that's not what makes a Reese's Cup, or a convincing Reese's Cup clone. Here, we mimic the pleasantly pasty, slightly crunchy texture of the peanut filling by grinding up a homemade peanut brittle and mixing it with a few ounces of store-bought peanut butter. The cups are assembled in muffin liners, which do a great job of reproducing the candy's signature ridges.
Homemade Devil Dogs
Depending on what part of the country you're from, you may never have encountered these distinct hot dog–shaped whoopie pies. No matter: With our recipe, you can make a version of Devil Dogs that's even better than the real thing. All it takes is a chocolate batter, piped out into oblongs that bake up into soft cakes, and a creamy filling to sandwich in the middle. We recommend Homemade Cool Whip if you want to make it an all-copycat endeavor.
Our version of the greatest sandwich cookie of all uses crisp, thin cookies made with cocoa powder, instant coffee, and all-purpose flour—though you can easily substitute rice flour to make them gluten-free, with no discernible impact on flavor or texture. Using shortening in the filling will provide the most authentic flavor, but butter will work, too. Just be sure to make extra filling—if you're going to take the time for homemade Oreos, you gotta make 'em Double Stuf.
Homemade Magic Middles
Keebler no longer produces Magic Middles, so if you've got a craving for the chewy-outside, melt-in-your-mouth-chocolaty-inside cookies, you'll have to take matters into your own hands. Creating a just-soft-enough cookie was fairly easy; the tough part was developing a chocolate filling that's appropriately gooey but not runny. A very hard ganache, made with semisweet chocolate and just a little heavy cream, turned out to do the trick.
Homemade Keebler Fudge Stripe Cookies
These DIY Fudge Stripes start with a simple dough of flour, baking soda, corn syrup, vanilla, and clarified butter (sub a neutral-flavored vegetable oil, like safflower, for a vegan version) before getting painted with the requisite chocolate backing and stripes. Docking the dough all over with a fork produces the dimpled texture of the originals, and don't forget to use the tiniest round cutter you have to form the hole in the middle—there's no fun in Fudge Stripes that can't be worn like rings as you eat them.
Homemade Animal Crackers
These crackers truly live up to the name: crispy and not too sweet, perfect for dunking into a glass of milk. You'll need to buy animal-shaped cookie cutters to make them, of course, but isn't that a small price to pay for the ability to re-create a happy little facet of your childhood?
Mr. Softee-Style Vanilla Bean Soft-Serve
The name "Mr. Softee" brings two things to my mind: an annoying earworm of a song, and a creamy, ultra-whipped soft-serve. While I'd prefer to never experience the music again, the ice cream is another story. Gelatin, which keeps the ice cream solid right to the brink of melting, helps us get the texture right in this recipe, and a Tahitian vanilla bean and a tablespoon of Scotch improve the flavor.
Homemade King Cones
Whether you know it as a King Cone or a Drumstick, there's a good chance your childhood featured these chocolate-dipped ice cream cones, with the sprinkling of chopped nuts on top and that crucial nub of chocolate hidden in the cone's tip. Coating the inside of the cone with homemade Magic Shell allows you to pack it full of ice cream without worrying about it getting soggy. Use any ice cream you like, but homemade Scotch vanilla bean is our favorite.
Homemade Klondike Bars
Turns out, you don't have to do all those wacky things from the commercials just to get a Klondike Bar: Another classic freezer-section treat, it's easy to re-create at home with our DIY Magic Shell recipe. You can make them with homemade ice cream that's been hardened in a long, flat pan, but cutting store-bought ice cream into squares works fine, too. Just let the squares firm up in the freezer, then spear them with a fork to dip them in the chocolate.
Our refreshing Fudgsicles get their intense chocolatiness from Dutch-process cocoa powder—the good stuff is pricey, but worth it for its depth of flavor. Brown sugar rounds out the flavor, and gelatin gives the pops a pleasant texture that's icy, but not grainy. You'll get the best results if you make these in popsicle molds, but Dixie Cups will also work in a pinch.
DIY Pudding Pops
Pudding Pops are milder and creamier than Fudgsicles, making them the ideal comfort snack on a hot afternoon. Despite their association with Jell-O, ours require no gelatin—just a four-egg custard made with tapioca starch, which helps keep the mixture silky and thick. The pops are wonderful plain, but even better with a dip in Magic Shell and colorful sprinkles (or your sundae flair of choice).
Homemade Jell-O Style Chocolate Pudding
What sets Jell-O pudding—the stuff in single-serving cups that you remember from your lunchbox days—apart from other puddings is an unusually slick texture, achieved in the original version through a bunch of hard-to-pronounce ingredients that you most likely don't have in your kitchen. Our recipe simplifies things by sticking with powdered gelatin alone, plus milk, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and vanilla—that's it. Use a fancier cocoa, like Valrhona, if you want a richer, more complex flavor, or Hershey's to recapture that simple school-lunch taste.
Strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups
Many recipes for homemade Fruit Roll-Ups try to elevate the snack into something natural and healthy. Our top priority here is authenticity, not nutrition. That means a recipe that copies the original more faithfully, with dried pears or apples for bulk, lots of sugar, corn syrup (it's necessary for that iconic plasticky texture), and just a small amount of freeze-dried strawberries.
As with Fruit Roll-Ups, DIY Pop-Tarts often fall victim to attempts at refinement. But when I want a Pop-Tart, I'm not looking for a hifalutin fruit pastry—I want the real thing, with a crust that's totally devoid of any flakiness and a thick, dry filling. A dough of butter, flour, salt, and corn syrup, paired with a filling made of freeze-dried strawberries, dried fruit, and more corn syrup, helps us get there.
DIY Donettes (Mini Sugar-Coated Doughnuts)
The secret to these caky little doughnuts is frying them in coconut oil, which gives them an almost buttery richness. Greek yogurt and egg yolks in the batter give the doughnuts just a hint of tang and the fluffiness of yellow cake. A slightly squished, irregular shape is part of the charm of Donettes, so we prefer to form ours by hand.
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