The Next Best Thing to Robert Redford Dessert is full of layers of creamy, chocolaty goodness on top of a pecan shortbread crust. This throwback to the 70’s dessert is a fun choice for parties and potlucks.
While working on this post I had an entertaining conversation with my sis, Marj (aka, my consultant). I love my sis. I can turn to her for important matters like naming recipes at any time of the day or night and she’s always there for me.
Me: Should I call it “Next Best Thing to Robert Redford Dessert” or “Better than Robert Redford Dessert”.
Sis: Robert Redford is an actual dessert?
Sis: Well, the second one sounds like your comparing your dessert to his dessert. Maybe…Next best thing to Grandma’s dessert? Next best thing to winning the lottery dessert? Next best thing to Ryan Gosling dessert?
In the end, I decided to stick with the title I’ve always known for this recipe but was a bit tempted by Ryan Gosling (who wouldn’t be?).
There are lots of names out there for this lovely layered dessert. Most frequently you’ll see it referred to as Chocolate Lush. Then there are the flavor varieties like Lemon Lush or Strawberry Lush (and on, and on, and…), but it’s entirely more fun to say “I’m bringing Robert Redford to the party” than “I got the Chocolate Lush”. So, Redford it is.
This recipe was all the rage in the 70’s, the decade when quick and easy make-ahead desserts really took off. I found reference to it in Family Circle Magazine and I’m sure similar recipes were printed in most of the other women’s magazines back in the day. It also happens to be the decade when Robert Redford was IT and although I was a bit young to be crushing on him at the time, I get it, I totally get it.
Based on the overwhelming response I received from readers for my Easy Blueberry Cheesecake I have the sneaking suspicion that quick and easy dessert recipes are just as popular as ever. So, without further ado, I’d like you all the meet the dessert that apparently might be nearly as compelling as the ever so compelling Mr. Redford.
Some of the items you’ll need – two 8-ounce containers of Cool Whip (more on that in a second), one package each of instant vanilla and chocolate fudge pudding, and one package of cream cheese (I used the less fat version).
A note about the Cool Whip. I used to be able to find 12-ounce containers and I believe that is the perfect amount for this recipe. Alas, they are no longer available at my store but if you can find it, I’d recommend going with that.
First, we make the crust. Combine 3/4 cup of melted butter with 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour and 1 cup finely chopped nuts. I like this recipe best with pecans but you can use walnuts if you’d like.
Stir until well combined.
Press the mixture into a 13″ x 9″ baking dish that has been coated with non-stick cooking spray. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 20 to 25 minutes, until lightly golden brown around edges.
In a separate bowl combine the cream cheese, 1 cup of powdered sugar, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. I like to use powdered versus granulated sugar in a recipe like this because it dissolves really well into the filling without leaving behind any graininess. Use a mixer to beat this mixture until well combined.
Add one of the 8-ounce containers of Cool Whip. If you found the 12-ouncer, go ahead and just add half at this point and reserve the remaining amount for the topping.
Transfer the mixture to the baked and cooled crust.
Use an offset spatula to carefully pat down and spread the mixture out over the crust. Little bits of the crust may want to come up but just stick with it. There are more layers coming so it doesn’t have to be exceptionally pretty at this point.
Grab a clean bowl and whisk the vanilla and chocolate fudge pudding with 3 cups of milk. It will get quite thick.
Spread the fudgy goodness out over the cream cheese layer.
Spread the remaining Cool Whip over the top. I used an entire 8-ounce container in the images you see here but you can use less if you’d like (or the remaining amount of your 12-ounce container should be just right).
At this point, cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 2 hours or overnight.
When ready to serve, garnish the top with shaved chocolate and slice it into squares. I made the chocolate shavings by running a sharp vegetable peeler along the edge of a bar of semi-sweet baking chocolate.
Fast, easy, and it makes enough to serve a good size group. A great one to add to your collection.
Next Best Thing to Robert Redford Dessert
- 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 10 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts
- 8 ounces 1/3 less fat (Neufchatel) or regular cream cheese
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 16 ounces whipped topping (2 8-ounce containers), like Cool Whip
- 5.1 ounces vanilla instant pudding
- 5.9 ounces chocolate fudge instant pudding
- 3 cups milk
- ¼ cup grated semi-sweet chocolate bar
- additional finely chopped nuts, for garnish (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 13- x 9-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, melted butter, and chopped nuts until well combined and crumbly. Press into the prepared baking dish and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until lightly golden brown around edges. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
- In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer to beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract. Fold in 1 container of Cool Whip and stir to combine well. Spread over cooled crust.
- In a clean bowl, whisk both the vanilla and chocolate pudding mix with 3 cups cold milk. Whisk together until smooth and thickened and spread over cream cheese layer. Spread remaining container of Cool Whip over the top.
- Cover dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight. Garnish with the grated chocolate and additional finely chopped nuts, if desired, before serving.
- Garnish with the grated chocolate and additional finely chopped nuts, if desired, before serving.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated using generic ingredients, and is an estimate not a guarantee. For more accurate results, please refer to the labels on your ingredients at home.
Questions and Reviews
I only have spreadable cream chese in the tub, can that be used instead of a block .
I think it’d be worth a trip to the store as I’m not sure the texture is quite the same.
You are correct on that. Spreadable cream cheese lacks the density needed for a dessert like this. It will not generate the volume needed. The result will be quite disappointing.
I’ve used the softened cream cheese instead of block and it worked fine.
Looks so yummy, I may tweek it a bit but I’m definitely making it! Thanks Valerie
I’d love to try this but cannot use the “Cool Whip”. Is there a way that I could use regular heavy cream that I have whipped? I’m not sure of how to substitute the amount. Does 8 oz. of heavy cream whipped equal the 8 oz. of Cool Whip? I think it might whip up to be more. Have any ideas? Much appreciated.
Hi Beverly. There will be a difference in the texture of real whipped cream vs. Cool Whip and it may not hold up as well in this dessert. This article on Taste of Home should help with the amounts but I would also recommend doing a Google search for “Stabilized Whipped Cream” if you want to try this. http://www.tasteofhome.com/cooking-tips/ask-the-test-kitchen/whipped-topping-substitute
I use real whipped cream all the time as a substitute. Use powered sugar for the sweetener and it stabilizes the whipped cream and whip the cream just a little heavier. I cannot use anything with preservatives so that means pudding mixes. I would have to make the puddings from scratch.
I used to make this years ago and was called a slush cake. Brought back memories. Think I’ll make it.
Those old recipes are just best, aren’t they? Thanks, Jean 🙂
When I make this I use 2 pkg of chocolate pudding and add a few drops of peppermint extract to the pudding mixture.
Can you leave the nuts out because for 1 reason I don’t like nuts and 2 reason allergies?
Hi Debbie. If you can’t use nuts then I think a basic graham cracker crust would be your best bet.
I also sometimes make an Oreo cookie crust awesome
I love Ryan Gosling AND Robert Redford (esp in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) AND this dessert!! Such a classic!
I would whip fresh heavy cream for this recipe instead of cool whip. it would taste so much better!!
I have been making this dessert for about 60years but have never heard it called Robert Redford dessert. my favorite.
It used to be on the side of pudding packages except with a graham cracker crust. It was called chocalate lush. Not very original, but it’s awesome. I think the graham cracker crust is better.
There have been lots of variations and similar recipes over time but the shortbread/nut crust is specific to the Robert Redford dessert and definitely sets it apart from the others. It is one of the things I love most about it!
I agree that the crust sets it apart! It’s wonderful and beats plain old graham cracker crust ANY day!!!
I’ve heard it called both Better than Robert Redford Dessert and Better than Sex Dessert. It is scrumptious! ? Only thing different in the recipe I know is that it is 2 chocolate pudding packages, not 1 vanilla and 1 chocolate.
There are all kinds of different flavors and variations out there. It’s endless!
I think I would go with Ryan Gosling on the chocolate version…dark hair and handsome then do a butterscotch version for Robert Redford…light hair and luscious!
This recie has been around for a long time! It can be made with different flavor a of pudding. My fav is pistashio pudding. We call it “Better than Sex cake”. But thank you for sharing!
I’m same here this has been made in my family for years and when I worked in Hospital Cafeteria they called it Better Than Sex Cake, my sister n law first made at a Thanksgiving dinner in the 80s when I had it the first time.
This sounds amazing cant wait to make it but I think I’ll make it with lemon pudding. Does that work?
This is an incredible dessert recipe, and I will be making this for my sister’s birthday. Thanks so much for sharing!
Enjoy, Julie and Happy Birthday to your sis 🙂
Can I use a cheesecake pan instead of a 9 by 13?
This recipe is much better if you use the “cook” pudding instead of the instant…It hold up better and has much more flavor…We call it “Baskin Robin Pie”…A coconut one is the BOMB..and Butterscotch is totally out of this world…