Dessert Without Chocolate? I Tried It, and You Should Too

Despite Melissa d'Arabian passion for chocolate desserts, she's out to celebrate the beauty of other sweet treats too.
Angel Food Cake


Photo by: Renee Comet ©Renee Comet

Renee Comet, Renee Comet

My husband and I have a long-standing inside joke that we play on each other at restaurants. We sit down, we look at the menu, and then while we discuss our ordering plans (“What looks good to you? I’m thinking the short rib and roasted Brussels sprouts …”), we try to trick each other by picking the exact opposite of what we want to order, to see if our partner knows us well enough to call it out as a prank. It’s a subtle and super-funny game (to us, anyway — try it and you be the judge). Anyway, I have a “tell,” which is ordering a non-chocolate dessert. If I ever try to pass off a non-chocolate dessert order as my real plan, Philippe, my husband, knows immediately that I am bluffing. Apparently, I believe that dessert, by definition, includes chocolate. In fact, it wasn’t until I married Philippe that I truly understood that not everyone must have chocolate in their dessert in order for it to count. (For the record, Philippe loves chocolate, but in a healthier, more balanced way that allows him to order the occasional lemon cake or apple tart.) (Huh?!)

So yesterday I did something extraordinary. I took the kids out for an end-of-summer treat: milkshakes at In-N-Out Burger. (Yum!) Without consulting anyone and without even the smallest hesitation, I ordered us all chocolate. The lady at the counter typed our order into the register, and paused just slightly. She looked up at me and quietly suggested that maybe we would want to try one in vanilla, just for variety. And, she assured me, it was actually the best flavor. I let that sink in. I actually felt my body brace a little as I resisted this news. And then I did something unexpected: I changed mine to vanilla. (Full disclosure: I was on the fence about ordering my own milkshake in the first place, since my normal M.O. is just to try some out of the kids’ treats. So trading in my chocolate dessert for a vanilla one, knowing full well I was surrounded by multiple backups, is hardly the stuff of heroes. But still … baby steps.)

And you know what? I loved it. I do believe that vanilla isn’t just the absence of chocolate — I really do love its flavor in its own right. And I reveled in the floral taste of that cold, creamy white shake. My kids all tried my vanilla shake with the curiosity of someone trying an unknown ethnic delicacy for the first time. “So this is vanilla? This is what non-chocolate looks like.” I had a vanilla shake and was totally cool about it and nonchalant. Is it embarrassing that I felt proud of my accomplishment? (And that I will still order my usual chocolate next time?)

In the spirit of celebrating the non-chocolate dessert this week, here are a few of my family’s favorites!

What are your favorite non-chocolate desserts? Tell me in the comments below.

Next Up

Best 5 Thanksgiving Desserts

This Thanksgiving, look no further than Food Network's best Thanksgiving desserts for classic recipes to serve as the perfect ending to your meal.

Easter Desserts for Everyone

Accommodate everyone on your Easter celebration guest list with these seasonal treats.

Best 5 Thanksgiving Desserts

Check out Food Network's top-five Thanksgiving desserts to find recipes for family-friendly sweets from Giada, Alton, Sunny and more Food Network chefs.

15 Valentine’s Day Desserts

These lightened goodies are the perfect way to show your sweetie you care without busting their waistline.

21 Smarter Summer Desserts

What’s summer without fabulous desserts? All these delicious treats have 400 calories or under per serving.

10 Healthy Thanksgiving Desserts

Planning your turkey day menu? We’ve got something for every kind of sweet tooth, filled with fall flavors.

7 Days of Healthy Desserts

If you stick with a combination of fresh, whole-food ingredients and sensible portions, it's okay to indulge in a post-dinner sweet each night of the week.

Thanksgiving Desserts: Something for Everyone

Cooking for a crowd this holiday? Stumped by how to accommodate family members with special dietary needs? We’ve got sweet ideas for everyone.