75 Perfect Desserts for Summer
Summer is all about finding bliss in downtime; and as we all know, bliss so often starts with dessert. Embrace the laid-back, sunny vibes of the season by making—and enjoying—a dessert that’s rich in flavor, yet doesnt feel quite as heavy as the sweets we reach for at cooler points in the year. Now is the moment for fluffy sheet cakes, bright cobblers, and refreshingly cold scoops of ice cream and other frozen treats. It’s also time to relish in the best seasonal bounty—we’re talking blueberries, watermelon, strawberries, cherries, peaches, blackberries, rhubarb, and yes, even tomatoes and zucchini. These summer-friendly cakes, pies, cobblers, icebox treats, and grilled desserts will suit any warm-weather occasion, even if it’s just being in the mood for something sweet.
Thyme-Scented Blueberry Pie
Flavored with thyme and lemon and packed with juicy whole berries, this pie earned rave reviews in our Test Kitchen, especially when made with in-season fruit. Our secret? Quick-cooking tapioca, which makes the filling firm but not gelatinous. Mixing the tapioca with a cup of mashed blueberries ensures that the thickener will distribute evenly and not form clumps in the filling.
Confetti Flower Cake
It may be hard to believe that this stunning layer cake could taste as delightful as it looks, but trust us on this one… it’s well worth cutting into. We create an all-natural “fun-fetti” look for this Confetti Flower Cake with edible flower petals flecked throughout the moist and delicate vanilla layers. Covered in a light, fluffy strawberry frosting (and a few more garnishing edible flowers for good measure), this wow-worthy confetti cake is the perfect centerpiece for your next special occasion—be it a birthday party or a wedding shower.
Peach Ice Cream
Stone Fruit Eton Mess
This fruit-filled yogurt dessert topped with cookie crumbs is a tasty and healthy treat.
Grilled Banana Split
This is a fun mashup between banana pudding and a sundae. You could even get the kids involved with this. Grilling the banana adds a little flavor, while charring the vanilla wafers makes for an interesting texture—together, it’s delicious. Banana pudding ice cream pulls everything together, so it’s definitely worth buying.
Watermelon Chiffon Pie
Yes, you can make a pie out of watermelon! The filling of this charmingly retro chilled dessert is made with fresh watermelon (not watermelon-flavored gelatin), so it has all of the fruit’s natural sweetness. The topping, a mixture of heavy cream and mascarpone cheese, is thick and rich and won’t melt as easily in the summer heat.
Sparkling Ice Cream Floats with Berries
Who knew the ultimate summer dessert would be the simplest you’ve ever made? These delightfully sweet and boozy floats take only a few ingredients and about two seconds to whip up, but trust us—they are always sure to impress. Rossini is a sparkling wine beverage, usually Prosecco-based, that is mixed with strawberries and raspberries. It is sweeter and fruitier than a rosé or other sparkling wine so it makes a delicious combination with rich vanilla ice cream (we especially love Häagen-Dazs brand here). We found a great one at Trader Joe’s for just about $6, but if you have a hard time finding rossini, you can definitely use your favorite rosé.
Puff Pastry Summer Fruit Shortcakes
These easy and impressive dessert stacks utilize the same almond-flavored marscarpone cream and macerated stone fruit that we use in this simple Puff Pastry Summer Fruit Slab Pie. However, rather than spreading the mixtures over a slab of baked puff pastry, you’ll be sandwiching them between cut, baked squares that stand in as an airy alternative to a traditional shortcake biscuits. You’ll want to wait until right before serving time to assemble your dessert. All of those glorious summer fruit juices are going to start seeping into your puff pastry and will lead to sogginess if prepared too far in advance.
Carrot-Zucchini Cake with Coconut-Cream Cheese Frosting
Zucchini makes a brilliant addition to carrot cake, adding a verdant note to the sweet carrot.
This show-stopping layered dessert will be a hit at your next luncheon or shower.
Tangy Lemon Cheesecake Bars
Classic lemon squares can contain 36g sugar per piece. We put a puckery cheesecake spin on ours--cutting sugar to just 6g per bar--which allows the bright citrus to shine.
Caprese Ice Cream Sundaes
This super-sophisticated, wow-worthy dessert is a great twist on two separate dishes. It takes some time, but it’s worth it, especially for a special occasion. Poaching tomatoes in simple syrup brings out their fruitier side. Paired with buttery and salty ice cream, you’ve got a smart and different winner. Here, it’s crucial to be gentle with the tomatoes: You’re turning them from a vegetable into a fruit culinary. If you’ve got an overgrown basil plant, use those leaves for the basil syrup; thyme sprigs would also work well here, if you’re looking for something a little different.
Deep Eddy Blueberry Lemon Drop Pop
These adult ice pops are the perfect refreshing summer treat. We made ours using Deep Eddy vodka as we find it to be exceptionally vibrant in flavor, but feel free to use your own favorite brand of flavored vodka. Raspberries would also be a delicious fruit to highlight in these bright and boozy pops.
Roasted Strawberry-Rhubarb Muffins with Pistachio Streusel
Featuring roasted strawberries and rhubarb, a delicate hint of cardamom, and a crisp pistachio streusel, these tender muffins say “spring” like no other. You can use frozen rhubarb when making these brunch-worthy muffins, just be sure to thaw fully and press out excess water with paper towels before roasting. Starting the oven at a higher temperature helps the muffins to brown and rise into a nice dome, and lowering it after 8 to 10 minutes allows them to finish cooking through.
Peach Bread Pudding with Bourbon Caramel
A spiked caramel sauce makes this bread pudding truly spectacular. Resist the urge to stir the caramel as it cooks, and watch it closely. Once it starts to brown, it can easily turn too dark and become bitter.
Strawberry Shortcake Shake
This minimal ingredient milkshake is a show-stopping, drool-inducing tall glass of strawberry shortcake heaven. When topped with a cake and strawberry skewer and drizzled with a luscious syrup, this gorgeous dessert might just be better than the real thing.
Nectarine-Blueberry Frozen Yogurt Pie Bites
These mini fro-yo pies get their sweetness from fruit and just a touch of honey.
Strawberry Poke Pound Cake with Strawberry Glaze
Poke cake meets pound cake in this must-make spring dessert. A perfectly moist, dense vanilla pound cake (with a delightful hint of almond) is filled with a fresh strawberry filling—adding to the cake's tender crumb and providing the perfect fruity sweet-tart flavor balance. Finish the whole thing off with an eye-catching fresh strawberry glaze, and you have a supremely awesome cake on your hands. Be warned, if you share this pound cake with friends, you'll need to be ready to share the recipe as well.
Raspberry-Lime Tart with Pistachio Crust
This tart is pleasantly limey, with a delightful pistachio-forward shortbread crust. It requires minimal baking, but has a beautiful presentation, with fresh raspberries adding a nice touch. You can find shelled, raw pistachios at the grocery store, but roasted, salted shelled pistachios will work just fine. Look for limes with smooth skin: They have thiner skins, and will yield more juice. Garnish with chopped pistachios and whipped cream to offset the tartness from the curd and the raspberries.
Grilled Pound Cake with Meyer Lemon Simple Syrup
Pound cake chars up really nicely on the grill and gets even grill marks. Don’t skip the syrup, because it’s packed with flavor. If you can’t find Meyer lemons, regular lemons will work just fine. The simple syrup will hold up for two weeks, so you can definitely make it ahead of time—or make extra and save it for later.
Blueberry Pound Cake Muffins
What’s better than blueberry muffins? Blueberry pound cake muffins. These are sweet, fluffy, and rich, with a crispy caramelized top. The blueberries add color and flavor, and the lemon zest adds just enough tartness.
Mini Rhubarb Ginger Crostatas
The filling in these pies is on the tart side, so they're especially good with vanilla ice cream. Semolina flour in the dough is optional but adds complexity and crunch.
Aperol Spritz Cake
The delicate blance of sweet, bitter and citrus that makes the cocktail so refreshing also makes for an unusual citrus cake.
Blueberry Sorbet “Cupcakes”
These sweet “cupcakes” made of fresh blueberry sorbet are a delightful, cooling lemon-berry treat with a cookie crunch on the bottom and fluffy whipped cream on top. They’re the perfect dessert for any summer gathering. The cupcakes can be made well in advance, simply top with fresh whipped cream right before serving.
Nicole Rucker's cookbook Dappled is all about baking with fruit. The genius behind this particular recipe is that no baking is required—just overripe summer fruit and sandwich bread. As Rucker writes, "I challenge you to find a more dramatic, striking dish than a classic summer pudding. The saturated slices of white bread encasing the fruit, soaked in the vivid juices of ripe berries, have always reminded me of a can of pure magenta paint tipping over onto a white drop cloth. It’s also another way to turn leftover bread and bruised ripe fruit into an impressive dessert."
Oreo Icebox Cake
This decadent Oreo icebox cake is incredibly easy to make and requires only six ingredients. It’s a perfect dessert for kids birthday parties that doesn’t require heating up the kitchen. As is, this cooling cake offers a delightful cookies-n-cream flavor profile, but feel free to switch things up by using your favorite Oreo cookie flavor.
Mixed Berry Cream Pie with Double Chocolate Crust
Brushing red currant jelly onto the berries makes them shine, like those fruit tarts you see in bakeries. If you can't find red currant jelly, use strawberry jelly (don't subsitute jam or preserves).
When we set out to create the best basic blueberry scone recipe, we knew it needed to be buttery and tender, but not cakey or overtly sweet—dense for sure, but not dry. These deliver on every front. While these blueberry scones are divine as-is, you can customize the recipe with whatever flavor add-ins you like. Try mixing in some spices—we found that ground ginger and ground cardamom (about 1/4 teaspoon each) to be great aromatic flavor compliments to the blueberries—or you could add a little fresh citrus zest to the dough. If you like your scones on the sweeter side, we’ve also included a simple citrus glaze recipe to drizzle over top. You can use fresh lemon or orange here; we actually used a combination of both with very tasty results. In order to prevent soggy blueberry scones, wait to glaze them until you’re ready to serve.
Texas Sheet Cake with Fudge Icing
Somehow, Texas claimed the sheet cake as its own in the mid-20th century, perhaps because of the pecans, an ingredient that grows in abundance throughout the Lone Star State. The defining element is its shape--and, of course, the icing, which has to be heated and poured on the warm, just-out-of-the-oven cake. The result is a rich, chocolaty treat that's iconic in Texas.
Served hot or at room temperature, nothing says summer like a fresh fruit cobbler. When the dish first comes out of the oven, the fruit juice will be a little thin, but it will thicken as the cobbler sets and cools down. Peaches and blackberries come together in this easy to assemble recipe, but feel free to substitute your favorite berries or stone fruits. You can make the crumble topping mix ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator.
Strawberry-Banana Pudding Icebox Cake
Strawberries add brightness to this fun take on banana pudding. Instead of the usual vanilla wafers, use graham crackers, which make neater slices. An instant hit with your family and guests, this recipe makes delicious use of the fresh strawberries you pick up at the local farmers’ market.
Green Tea-Ginger Ice Cream
Creating the coolest scoops is as easy as 1, 2, 3.