Sex in a Pan: Robert Redford Dessert

Square slice of sex in a pan layered chocolate dessert on a plate

The Spruce Eats

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 25 mins
Total: 45 mins
Servings: 12 to 18 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
287 Calories
18g Fat
29g Carbs
4g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12 to 18
Amount per serving
Calories 287
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 18g 23%
Saturated Fat 10g 51%
Cholesterol 29mg 10%
Sodium 285mg 12%
Total Carbohydrate 29g 11%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Total Sugars 22g
Protein 4g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 88mg 7%
Iron 1mg 3%
Potassium 142mg 3%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

If you grew up in the 70s, chances are you've seen this dessert at parties or at home when your family was hosting dinners. Perhaps you had the chance to make it yourself? Known by many names, most including the name of heartthrob Robert Redford, this layered dessert is rich, creamy, and unctuous, but mainly super easy to put together. Although it's hard to pinpoint how the name came about, the dish is also known as the "Robert Redford dessert," the "next-best-thing to Robert Redford" and the "better-than-sex dessert." Sinfully rich, this pan dessert is similar to the chocolate delight dessert, with layers of cream cheese, whipped topping, and two kinds of pudding on a simple baked shortbread crust.

Easily adaptable to your taste, this layered dessert is very forgiving. You can use any pudding flavor you like, but nothing beats the combination of vanilla and chocolate with cream. Many toppings work well, and there are no restrictions as to how much or how little you can use on top. Decorate with whatever crunchy toppings you like, such as nuts, small chocolate truffles, or shavings of white or dark chocolate.

This is a wonderful dessert to make the day before, and it also makes amazing leftovers—if you're lucky enough to have some left—as the cakes only improve with the passing days. Keep in the fridge, covered, for up to four days.


For the Layers:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened

  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened

  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar

  • 4 cups frozen whipped topping, thawed, divided

  • 1 (5.1-ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix

  • 4 cups cold milk, divided

  • 1 (5.9-ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix

For Decorating:

  • Mini chocolate chips, optional

  • Chocolate shavings, optional

  • Toasted coconut, optional

  • Chopped pecans, optional

  • Toffee chips, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather ingredients.

    Ingredients for sex in a pan recipe gathered

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  2. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Combine flour, butter, and pecans and then press into a 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 16 to 20 minutes. Remove the pan to a rack and cool completely.

    Lightly browned pecan pastry covering the bottom of a rectangular baking pan

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  3. In a bowl, beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Beat in the confectioners' sugar and then fold in 2 cups of the whipped topping. Spread the cream cheese mixture over the cooled cookie layer with the help of an offset icing spatula.

    Cream cheese layer evenly spread in baking pan

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  4. Beat the package of vanilla pudding with 2 cups of cold milk. Spoon evenly over the cream cheese and whipped topping layer.

    Vanilla pudding layer evenly spread in baking pan

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  5. Beat the package of chocolate pudding with the remaining 2 cups of milk. Spread the chocolate pudding over the vanilla pudding layer.

    Chocolate pudding layer evenly spread in baking pan

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  6. Spread the remaining 2 cups of whipped topping over the chocolate pudding.

    Whipped topping layer evenly spread in baking pan

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  7. Sprinkle with miniature chocolate chips, milk chocolate shavings or curls, toasted coconut, toffee chips, chopped pecans, or a combination of two or more that suits your taste.

    Milk chocolate shavings sprinkled over whipped topping

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  8. Cover the pan and refrigerate the dessert until serving time.

    Square slice of sex in a pan layered dessert on a plate

    The Spruce Eats

Personalize the Layers

You can add or replace other tasty ingredients to this delicious, layered dessert:

  • Replace the second tub of whipped topping with 2 cups of fresh sweetened whipped cream and top the dessert just before serving time.
  • Substitute the frozen whipped topping with two envelopes of Dream Whip mixed with cold milk as directed on the package.
  • Replace the vanilla or chocolate instant pudding with butterscotch, cheesecake, banana, French vanilla, or pistachio instant pudding.

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