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 11 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 in the Easy Berry Cobbler recipe you see above; it uses store-bought pie crust because sometimes, especially in summer, we love a time-saving hack.
But you’ll find something for everyone (not to mention every skill level and energy level) below:
1. 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, swirled into (or melted and poured over top of) ice cream, 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. Get our Fragrant Blueberry Jam recipe.
2. 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 stale 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: Easy No-Bake Dessert Recipes for Stress-Free Summer Entertaining
3. Chill out with fruity ice cream or frozen yogurt.
Our ice cream maker is our very best friend all summer. Once you master a basic recipe, like our Easiest Frozen Yogurt recipe, 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 ice cream. Bake sugar cookies and crunch them up, then crumble them over ice cream. The world is your oyster—or, your empty ice cream bowl.
Related Reading: 7 Ways to Make Ice Cream Without an Ice Cream Maker
4. 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.
5. Stick with lighter desserts.
In hot summer heat, eating dense chocolate cakes or overly sweet pudding isn’t really our thing. Instead, try some of our favorite recipes that are lighter and airier: just the thing for warm evenings spent outside. Make our Strawberry Whipped Cream Cake, our simple Olive Oil Cake (topped with the fruit of your choice), our Easy Berry Butter Cake, or our Angel Food Layer Cake with Blackberries (above).
6. 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).
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Related Reading: An Easy Icebox Cake Template for Making Them Your Own
7. 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.)
Related Reading: Why You Should Be Grilling Summer Fruit
8. Consider waffles.
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!
9. Learn about slumps.
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.
10. 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 #1): 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.
11. 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.