Better than Robert Redford — Layered Chocolate Dessert in a Jar

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Better than Robert Redford -- Layered Chocolate Dessert in a Jar

Years ago, maybe 30 or more, my mom and her friends made a dessert called “The Next Best Thing to Robert Redford”. Yes, really. Well, some ladies wrote it down as “Better than Robert Redford”.

I think that it’s pretty funny that a chocolate dessert is superlative or even being compared to some actor, hunky though he may have been at the time. Women have their priorities straight. Chocolate trumps some guy you never met.

Though in his defense, Robert Redford was pretty good as the first Great Gatsby, and I liked him a lot in All the President’s Men. He’s old school, but I hear he’s coming back in the next Captain America movie. So, there you go.

Just like its namesake, this dessert will be making a comeback. It’s probably one that you’ve seen in multiple incarnations. My mom usually made it with pistachio pudding instead of chocolate at the holidays. That one was called “Pistachio Dream”. Either way, it is a taste of my childhood: crunchy crust bottom, cream cheese, pudding, and whipped cream, all layered in a 9×13-inch baking dish. It was tradition to serve that every year at the holidays.

This year I decided to play with the layered pudding dessert thing a bit and try it out in a jar. As you know, desserts in jars are a super convenient way to serve a dessert.

They are:

  • pre-portioned
  • easy to store
  • ready to serve

I wish that I could have found 8-ounce wide-mouth jars with straight sides and round bottoms. All I can find at my stores are these. I really don’t like the square bottoms. (Those are affiliate links, by the way. Just FYI*.)

I took my mom’s old recipe for “The Next Best Thing to Robert Redford” and tweaked it just a bit. Many of the original versions of the recipe call for a nut crust and layers of vanilla and chocolate pudding. I opted out of the nut crust, after much hemming and hawing. It’s a little hard to find nuts that guarantee no cross-contamination with peanuts or walnuts. Since our littlest one is allergic to both of those, I decided to just ditch the nuts altogether and make the equivalent of Gramma John’s Pie Crust, which, as you know, is fabulous.

I also decided to forego the vanilla pudding, instead adding vanilla extract to the cream cheese and whipped cream layers. I kept the convenient shortcut of instant chocolate pudding, but decided to use real whipped cream since it’s so easy to make myself. Use Cool Whip if you want to make your dessert even quicker and easier to pull together.

Better than Robert Redford -- Layered Chocolate Dessert in a Jar

This dessert is super convenient to prepare and stores well in the fridge. It’s a little more elegant to serve in jars than the traditional 9×13 pan since you’re layering all that goodness in individual serving dishes.

Admittedly, it’s a little tricky to get pretty layers in the jars. Feel free to make this batch in a 8-inch square pan if you’d rather.

Want to make your own Better than Robert Redford in a Jar?

Spin to Win with Kraft

Kraft produces a lot of the ingredients used in the original recipe as well as in my updated version. They are items that you can quickly grab at the store and throw into the cart. Currently, you can find more holiday meal inspiration from Kraft in conjunction with Walmart.

Get ready to Cook Up Holiday Magic with fun and festive Kraft meal solutions. You’ll find recipes, coupons, and meal planning tools to help fill your holiday season with yummy food and joy!

Spin To Win Coupons For The Whole Family!


If you’re looking for a quick way to save money, find new recipes, and get inspired this holiday season, you can do all three when you play the Kraft Spin To Win game. Simply pull the lever to score a winning meal combination and get six coupons. Play more than once to find multiple recipes.

PLUS, get rewarded for your holiday entertaining with a free one-year subscription to Family Circle, Parents, or the Ladies Home Journal magazine. Simply purchase $20 worth of the eligible Kraft Foods products you love! Participating products include many of the ingredients in today’s recipe, like Philadelphia Cream Cheese, Jell-O Chocolate Instant Pudding, and Baker’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate.

There are plenty of ways to make your holiday traditions easy and delicious. While I may not be a huge fan of Robert Redford (he’s just a bit too old for me), this dessert is a blast from my past, and a great addition to your holiday table.

What are your favorite holiday mealtime traditions?

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Lunchbox and Kraft. I have compensated for my time spent writing, cooking, and photographing. All opinions are my own.

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. Nia Hanna says

    Jessica, I’d like to try the version with nuts in the crust. Any idea how much your Mom used? Also,that pistachio version sounds really good,we love pistachio ice cream. We don’t use Jell-O so I have no idea if I’ll be able to find pistachio pudding,but in case I do, would I need two boxes? Or would I be using one box of pistachio and one box of vanilla? You mentioned the original was layered with chocolate and vanilla. So I’m wondering if your Mom used both pistachio and vanilla,or just pistachio? BTW I’m not planning to use jars,so quantity won’t be an issue.

    • I wish I could make Pistachio Dream! Here are answers: Nut crust: 1/2 c. nuts, 1/2 c. flour, use softened butter, no food processor, no water. Just mix the nuts, butter, and flour together. Large box of pudding, no matter what flavor you use. If pistachio only comes in small box, then two. The vanilla and chocolate pudding mixes were mixed together in the version I found this weekend. So, just ignore the vanilla. 😉 Mom just used pistachio.

      • Nia says

        Thanks so much! I can almost taste this dessert. Sounds good no matter the flavor I choose. Off to look for that Pistachio or it’s substitute!

      • Jessica says

        Thank you for sharing the nut version. I think this dessert can be easily made gluten free. I’ve been looking for a quick & easy gluten free dessert for myself & my SIL to enjoy while everyone else is eating Grandma’s famous chocolate pie. This will be perfect!

  2. Alissa says

    OMG…I have this recipe written down from my grandmother and I remember eating it 🙂 How awesome is t his.

  3. Jenni Rom says

    For the crust try using 2 cups crushed pretzels, 1/4 cup of sugar, and 1/2 cup melted butter, portion it out, then bake at 350 for about 10 minutes. YUM!!

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