Soooo…last spring I had started a post that pulled together my best summer desserts for parties.
And then COVID hit, so the *last* thing that people were doing last summer was having large gatherings. I decided to hold off. And so here we are again, and it’s time for awesome summer get-togethers!
What makes for a good summer party dessert?? Well, to me it’s 1) amazing and addictive, 2) great for hot weather, and 3) ideally can be made pretty easily in a large quantity. This rules out anything fussy, requiring long baking times (wow, the heat!), or that can’t deal with sitting around for a while (lookin’ at you, chocolate).
Because let’s face it, when you’re at a summer gathering—be it a pool party, family gathering, picnic, whatever—those desserts sit out for a while! So without further ado, here are some of my favorite desserts for summer parties and get-togethers!
Strawberry Shortcake for a Big Group
We’ll start with my all-timer—strawberry shortcake for a big group. Strawberry shortcake is truly my ultimate summer dessert, but often harder to do for more than a few people.
I made it my mission several years ago to find a recipe that could feed a horde. And honestly?? I think I like it better than even the individual shortcake biscuits. You can enjoy the original, or my slightly healthier version if you want room for a second helping 🙂
Bourbon Cherry Crisp with Brown Butter Streusel
When it hits fresh sweet cherry season, I go nuts! I buy them constantly and find all sorts of ways to use them in baking and cooking (and popping them straight into my mouth).
This bourbon cherry crisp combines uses rich brown butter and bourbon to elevate the natural sweet cherry flavor, and is crazy simple! You can use the delicious in-season fresh dark cherries, or frozen if that’s what you can get your hands on.
Almond Pavlova with Balsamic Berries & Whipped Cream
I got a little fascinated with the idea of pavlovas from all my Great British Baking Show viewing, but it was way easier than I’d imagined. You have to make it ahead, so keeps your last-minute time free, and is a great naturally gluten-free dessert option as well.
I also love to make this pavlova with my amazing 10-minute stovetop lemon curd or pink grapefruit curd instead of the berries…it’s so good!!! If you’re not feeling this particular topping, here’s another version of mini pavlovas with that grapefruit curd and berries.
One note, this is not as great to sit out in heat and humidity for long periods of time, so it may not be as great for a picnic.
No-Bake Reese’s Peanut Butter Bars
In hindsight as an adult…not sure where these got their name, since there’s nothing “Reese’s” in there. Just the famous flavor combo.
But these amazing peanut butter chocolate bars were a staple family dessert recipe for summer parties my entire life, and are totally addictive. As a bonus, they don’t require any baking, and are assembled super easily—no oven required!.
This classic Southern cake to me just screams “summer picnic”, something you’d see at a church potluck or family gathering. It’s sweet, dense, and spiced, packed with so many different flavors.
Banana cake. Pineapple. Warm spices. Light lemony cream cheese frosting. What’s not to love?!
The Most Amazing, Moist Lemon-Orange Pound Cake
This bright, fresh citrus pound cake manages to make both pound cake and bundt cake feel light and airy…quite the trick! And those flavors really scream “summer” to me. This is a crowd-pleaser dessert for any size summer party.
Easy No-Bake Cookies (a.k.a. Haystacks)
Another Midwestern family staple growing up, these chocolate no-bake cookies are perfect for summer. When it’s boiling hot outside, the last thing I want to do is turn my oven on.
And I truly can’t stop eating these…I made them for my neighborhood 4th of July block party last year and think I ended up eating half of them myself. These are another great naturally gluten-free option as well.
You can never go wrong with brownies, and these tahini brownies have a little bit of interest coming from the tahini as well. I’m a fan of keeping them pretty gooey (and add in dark chocolate chips, for good measure), and they’re super simple to make.
Lemon Cupcakes with Raspberry Frosting
Lemon and raspberry is one of the all-time great flavor combinations, and these lemon cupcakes with raspberry frosting are another fruity summer classic.
I also adapted these cupcakes into an even easier lemon raspberry jam swirl cake since I’m lazy and don’t love frosting all the individual cupcakes.
Banana Cake with Caramel Frosting
We’ve made my aunt’s banana cake recipe for eons (though I’m testing out a new, more indulgent one), but always with a cream cheese frosting.
But one time my sister had a brainwave about combining the banana cake with caramel frosting instead, for something a bit more special. And boy, is it…
I also love this banana cake with my favorite intense peanut butter frosting!
Peach Raspberry Cobbler
I’m fully on the record as being a fruit crisp person, so rarely make cobblers. But I made an exception for this jammy, soft peach raspberry cobbler, perfect for elevating that middle-of-summer fresh fruit that is just bursting with juices and flavor.
I have a few amazing easy crisps as well (including the bourbon cherry one above)…if you’re more in the mood for a crisp, this almond-cardamom peach crisp is a winner.
Almond Cake with Fresh Fruit
My gluten-free almond cake recipe includes a roasted fruit compote (which is delicious), but it’s amazing with fresh fruit and whipped cream as well…kind of a different take on fruit shortcake.
Only takes a couple minutes to whip up and get in the oven as well, which is always a bonus.
Peanut Butter & Jelly Ice Cream
This won’t work well for a big crowd, but if its just a small group then this peanut butter and jelly ice cream (made with canned coconut milk) is nostalgia and summer in a bowl.
I will basically eat anything with this flavor combo. And it’s dairy-free and gluten-free to boot.
Giovanna’s Amazing Authentic Tiramisu
Italy sure knows how to make the perfect dessert for summer parties…I learned to make my host mom, Giovanna’s, tiramisu while living in Italy, and it’s still a go-to for me.
Cold, creamy, boozy, coffee-y perfection. And not nearly as difficult as you might think.
Black Magic Chocolate Cake
Everyone needs a simple, perfect chocolate cake in their arsenal, and I actually have a couple that I switch between. If you don’t know the preferences of the people you’re serving, you can’t go wrong with a moist, easy, delicious chocolate cake.
I feel like I could go on and on, but hopefully I’ve given you tons of ideas for desserts for summer parties…whether 4th of July, a family reunion, or just a random Saturday.
You might also like my list of the best desserts for holiday gatherings and specifically the best gluten-free holiday desserts!
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