Summer fruit is flooding the farmers’ markets, so it’s time to get your dessert on—from simple cakes and cobblers to no-bake desserts, and from stone fruit to berries, here are 15 tips for making easy summer fruit desserts.
You don’t necessarily need to turn the oven on, but even if you do decide to bake, you’ll still want to skew lighter than usual. And maybe employ some shortcuts, like store-bought pie crust (because sometimes, especially in summer, we love a time-saving hack).
But whether you want something cold and creamy, something light and bright, or simply whatever’s easiest, you’ll find a perfect summer fruit dessert idea below:
1. Give It a Dip
No, not in chocolate, though that’s another fantastic option. Mixing up an easy, creamy dip (the Cinnamon Fruit Dip recipe above has just five ingredients) is almost effortless yet feels so fancy. It’s a great way to entice any kids who aren’t enthusiastic fans of fruit already, too.
2. Make Stovetop Jam and Use It in Inventive Ways
Do you have too much summer produce on your hands? Not to worry—making jam is our go-to method for preserving the goodness of summer fruit. It’s less complicated than it sounds. Start with a basic recipe and follow the steps to can it, so you can enjoy it all winter. If you don’t want to bother with canning, eat it right away!
Your jam will last up to a week in the refrigerator and is not just for slathering on toast; try it spread between the layers of a cake, dolloped inside a s’more or no-bake thumbprint cookies, stuffed into fritters, swirled into (or melted and poured over top of) ice cream, baked into bars, or melted and brushed onto a fruit tart as a shiny, tasty glaze. It can also help intensify the flavor of a fruit salad, or even make a quick cocktail (or mocktail) when you stir a spoonful into a spirit-based drink or simple seltzer water, perfect for when you’re too full for dessert but still want something sweet. Get our Fragrant Blueberry Jam recipe.
3. Rescue Stale Bread with the Power of Fruit
Summer fruit offers the perfect solution to saving stale bread. Classic summer pudding is made with fresh fruit (ideally berries) and slightly past-its-prime bread—the bread soaks up the fruit juices and turns the entire dessert into a sweet and moist, cake-like confection. And there’s no baking involved. Get our Almost Summer Pudding recipe.
Related Reading: 11 Ways to Use Stale Bread
4. Chill Out with Fruity Ice Cream or Frozen Yogurt
Our ice cream machine is our very best friend all summer. Once you master a basic formula, like any of these easy frozen yogurt recipes—many of which don’t require an ice cream maker—you can adapt it to fit whatever summer fruit or dessert you have on hand. For example, add in a raspberry swirl with some quick-cooked fruit or make extra streusel from a pie recipe and stir that into the ice cream. Bake sugar cookies and crunch them up, then crumble them over top with fresh sliced strawberries. The world is your oyster—or, your empty ice cream bowl.
Related Reading: 8 Ways to Make Ice Cream Without an Ice Cream Maker
5. Make a Classic Move and Master Pie Crust
Stone fruit and berries basically beg to be turned into pie. So before summer ends, perfect your pie crust technique so that you can eat your daily servings of fruit in the form of pie (why not?!). The most important thing to keep in mind is to start with very cold butter or shortening. Keeping the fats cold in pie dough allows the butter or shortening to stay in lumps, which melt during baking into flakes. If you overwork the dough and warm the fat before baking, your crust will be leaden and dense instead of light and flaky. But once you get the hang of it, the added bonus is that you can make it ahead of time and stash it in the freezer for impromptu baking sessions.
6. Or Use Store-Bought Pie Crust in New Ways
Despite just extolling the virtues of homemade pie dough, we’re not against store-bought crust! It’s a great shortcut in our Easy Berry Cobbler recipe, which you can also make with peaches or a mix of stone fruit if you like. We draw the line at store-bought whipped topping, though—and homemade whipped cream is way easier than you might think.
7. Pair Any Fruit with Fresh Whipped Cream
In hot summer heat, eating dense chocolate cakes or overly sweet pudding isn’t really our thing. But light and airy whipped cream is a perfect partner to any ripe fruit. You can simply combine the two in a fool, or bring in a baked element, like shortcakes or layer cake; see our Strawberry Whipped Cream Cake recipe, our Easy Berry Butter Cake recipe, or our Blackberry Angel Food Layer Cake recipe (above) for some delicious examples.
8. Go No-Bake & Harness the Power of the Icebox
No one really wants to turn on their oven in sweltering heat, but the good news is that you don’t have to in order to make dessert. We’ve got plenty of inspiration to turn to when you need to satisfy a sweet tooth. Ice creams, popsicles, mousses, puddings, and icebox cakes are all excellent choices for no-bake desserts. Get our Blackberry Chocolate Icebox Cake recipe, or Jessie Sheehan’s Strawberry Icebox Cake recipe (above) for some fruity examples of the form.
Icebox Cakes: Recipes for the Coolest Cakes in Town, $13.12 on Amazon
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Related Reading: This Easy Lime Icebox Cake Is Perfect for Summer
9. Macerated Berries Are the Best
“Macerate” sounds fancy, but all it really means is to soak your fruit in sugar. The sugar helps draw out the juices of the fruit, turning your berries or peaches into a syrupy, chunky sauce. From there, you can stir it into yogurt or ice cream or eat it straight from a spoon! Try the technique here with our Angel Food Cake with Herbed Strawberries recipe. (It also features one of our other favorite things to do with summer fruit: grill it.)
10. Grilled Fruit Is Also Great
Applying a little smoky heat to fruit is a brilliant move and perfect when you already have the grill on anyway. A few of our favorite iterations include grilled stone fruit filled with streusel, grilled figs on top of ice cream, and grilled bananas served any way you please. We also love baking in cast iron skillets on the grill; see this blueberry peach cobbler recipe for inspiration.
Related Reading: Everything You Need to Know About Grilling Fruit
11. Make a Fruity French Pancake
If you’re not familiar with the eggy French dessert already, clafoutis is an easy yet elegant way to showcase any summer fruit you like. It’s similar to a Dutch baby; you can mix the batter in a blender or by hand, then pour it over the fruit and watch it puff up in the oven. It’s still delicious once it deflates. Cherry clafoutis is classic, but try this blueberry clafoutis recipe or pick your favorite fruit clafoutis.
12. Waffles Can Be Dessert Too
Waffles might sound staunchly breakfast-like, or even like wintertime fare. But we love them for summer dessert, and hear us out. Waffles don’t require your oven, and you can make them in advance. They’re a perfect blank canvas for everything from peach ice cream to sliced strawberries to blueberry sauce. Our favorite base for these experiments is our Buttermilk and Brown Butter Waffle recipe: try it out and tell us what summer flavor combinations you come up with!
13. Get into a Slump
Slumps don’t sound wildly appetizing, but you’d be surprised. They belong to a group of recipes, along with buckles and crumbles and cobblers, that utilize summer fruit. The techniques are similar for each: The filling is baked fruit and the topping is some sort of buttery, floury biscuit or streusel. Once you practice the basic recipes for each, you can experiment with spices and fruits to match whatever is in your farmers’ market. Get our Nectarine and Blueberry Slump recipe.
14. Tart It Up
We love showcasing summer fruit in a pretty but simple summer tart. Buy a prebaked shell, or make one yourself, and fill it with pastry cream. Then top the tart with whatever fruit you have around. Next, learn the secret trick that bakeries use to pretty up their tarts (and that we already divulged in Tip #2): Melt berry jam in a saucepan over low heat until it turns to liquid. Then use a pastry brush to lightly glaze the fruit. The result is a show-stopping pastry that will impress your friends, no culinary school degree required. Try it out using our Strawberry Tart recipe, or our more casual but equally beautiful Rustic Blueberry Tart recipe (at the top of this page) and Raspberry Tart recipe.
15. Don’t Be Afraid to Put Fruit in Your Crock-Pot
Slow cooker desserts are a great middle ground when you want something baked but can’t bring yourself to crank up the oven. Our Slow Cooker Peach Crumble recipe is a perfect summer treat, but Mango Tapioca Pudding proves tropical fruit takes well to the Crock-Pot treatment too. You can also use it to make Blueberry Butter (then refer back to our ideas for using jam in brand new ways to make the most of it all summer long).
Bonus Tip: Don’t Forget About Summer Veggies Either!
Don’t think the rest of your farmers’ market haul has to end up in savory dishes. Just as sweet summer fruits are great in salads, savory main courses, sauces, and more, summer vegetables can be great in sweet applications. Get creative and turn your entire CSA box into dessert—try our Zucchini Bread recipe, our Zucchini Cupcakes recipe, or something less expected, like a sweet tomato sorbet recipe, sweet corn ice cream, or even fudgy eggplant brownies.
Posie Harwood wrote the original version of this story in 2015. It has been updated with additional images, links, and text.