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HOW SWEET IT IS WELCOME TO THE CONFECTION CONNECTION, WHERE CALORIES ARE NOT COUNTED.

No apologies for the recipes here -- they are rich and we know it. But this is the time of year to enjoy something special, after all.

Something pretty and sweet with no holds barred.

Cut the portions smaller if you have to.

The Chocolate Torte consists of rich cake layers with flavored whipped cream and raspberry preserves. Although it's a tad time-consuming to prepare, it can be made the day before and filled the day of the party.

The Cream Cheese Tart has a rich cookie crust -- the perfect foil for the smooth filling. This, too, can be made the day before. Just cover it loosely and refrigerate.

Tangy Lemon Bars are zippy. Butter oats and brown sugar make up the cookie layers and in between is a rich filling of sweetened condensed milk and lemon juice.

These bars also have do-ahead virtues. Prepare 'em up to a week ahead and refrigerate. Or, make them up to a month ahead of time and freeze.

Happy holidays.

CHOCOLATE WHIPPED CREAM TORTE 6 eggs, separated
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup butter
1 1/3 cups finely chopped walnuts
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup raspberry preserves
Vanilla Whipped Cream
Chocolate Whipped Cream

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form; beat in 1/2 -cup sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, until stiff peaks form; set aside.

In another large bowl, beat egg yolks, remaining sugar, butter, walnuts, chocolate, flour and vanilla; beat until light and fluffy.

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in egg whites just until blended; pour into a jelly roll pan that has been lined with waxed paper and then buttered again.

Bake in preheated 325-degree oven for about 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan; place on large wire rack or baking sheet. Remove paper. Cool.

CHOCOLATE WHIPPED CREAM
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Beat together cream, sugar and cocoa until soft peaks form.

To assemble torte: Trim edges from cake; cut cake into three equal-sized rectangles. Place one layer on a cake plate; spread with half the raspberry preserves. Set aside a small amount of Vanilla Whipped Cream for garnish. Spread with half the remaining Vanilla Whipped Cream.

Top with second cake layer; repeat with remaining jam and remaining Vanilla Whipped Cream.

Top with third cake layer; frost with Chocolate Whipped Cream. Garnish with remaining Vanilla Whipped Cream, chocolate curls, raspberries and walnut pieces, if desired.

Cake may be made one to two days ahead, covered and refrigerated, then filled and frosted early in the day. Makes 8 servings.

CREAM CHEESE AND YOGURT TART
Rich Butter Crusti
2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Prepare and bake Rich Butter Crust; set aside. Beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add yogurt and vanilla; beat until combined and pour into prepared crust.

Refrigerate until firm, about 6 hours. Garnish with sliced apricots, strawberries and mint, if desired. Makes 8 servings.

VANILLA WHIPPED CREAM
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat together cream, sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form.

RICH BUTTER CRUST
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Pinch salt
1/3 cup butter, cut in chunks
2 tablespoons cold water
1 egg yolk

Place flour, sugar and salt in the container of a food processor fitted with a metal knife. Mix well. Add butter; process until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add water and egg yolk; process just until mixture leaves the sides of bowl and forms a ball.

Pat mixture into a 5-inch round on a square of waxed paper. Wrap and refrigerate at least one hour or up to two days.

Working quickly on a lightly floured board or between two sheets of waxed paper, roll into a 12-inch round. Ease into a 10-inch pie plate.

Trim or flute edges; prick bottom with fork tines. Chill until firm. Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven until golden, about 8 minutes. Cool before filling. Makes 1 crust.

FRESH LEMON BARS
2 cups old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats (not instant) 1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup light brown sugar
Pinch salt
1 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 can (14-ounce) sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

Combine oats, flour, sugar and salt. Add butter; stir until combined. Remove one scant cup of the mixture and set aside.

Firmly press remaining dough evenly over bottom of a buttered 13-by-9-inch pan; set aside.

Combine condensed milk with lemon peel; gradually stir in lemon juice. Pour over dough. Crumble reserved dough and sprinkle over lemon mixture. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for about 25 minutes or until firm and golden.

Cool on a wire rack. Cover and refrigerate until cold. Cut into bars.

Refrigerate up to a week or freeze up to a month ahead. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar just before serving, if desired. Makes about 24 bars.

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