The warm days and plentiful sunlight hours of summer are beginning their annual descent into the cool, dusky evenings of fall, which for me means two things. First, I want to make good on the sunshine hours remaining with as many beach picnics and barbecues as I can manage before retreating into the Netflix-and-chill of the colder months. Second, it means time to ease up on sanctions imposed by notions of swimsuit season this year and reclaim dessert as a major food group in the picnic or barbecue spread.
One-bowl desserts are here to maximize both sweetness and time spent on a blanket or at a picnic table during the last weeks of summer. “One bowl” means a single bowl or pot is needed in which to do all the work, before the mixture goes into the pan or shell to bake or freeze. You wash a single bowl and maybe a small complement of measuring devices and cleanup for your sweet masterpiece is done in scarcely two minutes.
Nearly every major type of classic dessert from cakes to cookies to custards has “easy” versions with clever shortcuts when you’re trying to earn points for taste but not necessarily technical skill. (You can save those showpiece recipes for the holidays. There’s a reason those fall in the colder months.) Low on prep and maintenance but high on fun and flavor, these 14 desserts will ensure that the body of water you spend the most time in before it gets too cold is the lake or pool rather than the kitchen sink. How’s that for having your cake and eating it, too?
Speaking of eating cake, I measure my life in two parts: the time before I learned you could use a pint of melted ice cream in place of eggs and butter in cake recipes, and the time after. Welcome to your own age of enlightenment. You can write about it in your “what I did on my summer vacation” (or staycation, as the case may be this year) essay. Get the Melted Ice Cream Chocolate Chip Cake recipe.
Related Reading: More Ways to Turn Melted Ice Cream Into Dessert
Wilton Non-Stick 9” Fluted Tube Pan, $14.59 from Amazon
Also known as a Bundt pan. Isn’t it time you had one? (Especially now that you know about the melted ice cream trick.)
This. This is what we’re trying to be about at the end of summer when the beach beckons. You can make an elegant chocolate mousse involving a double boiler, separately whipped egg yolks and whites, and multistep process of folding and praying. Or you can just jazz up some conventional chocolate pudding mix with some extra cocoa and whip it into a frenzy with heavy cream and have an equally elegant chocolate mousse in about one minute. Your choice. Oh hey did someone just install a tire swing? Get the Easy Chocolate Mousse recipe.
All the best parts of tiramisu—the creamy, fluffy ricotta; the booze and coffee (Kahlua delivers both at once); and the cocoa flavor that complements all the rest so well (but in the form of bittersweet chocolate chunks and shavings instead of a mere whisper of cocoa powder)—are accounted for and made even better in this easy dessert dip. You could still serve ladyfingers on the side if you like, but shortbread cookies and strawberries work well too. Whisk it by hand in the serving bowl and you won’t need to dirty your stand mixer. Get our Tiramisu Dip recipe.
Poke cake is the people’s champion as a way to infuse tremendous flavor and moisture into the simplest, humblest cake recipes. Crushed pineapple squishes out of every bite of this easy yet decadent cake, and what’s more summer than pineapple? Might I also recommend pairing with a piña colada while you’re in the pineapple spirit? Get the Pineapple Poke Cake recipe.
All that summer sun adds streaks of blond to your hair as well as to your brownies. Buttery, nutty cookie bars that are on-theme, portable, and utensil-free? Better make a double batch while you’re at it. You’ll just need one really big bowl. Get our Nutty White Chocolate Blondies recipe.
Yes, beans. No, you won’t taste them—just dark chocolate with hints of cinnamon and chili powder. And the batter is all blitzed up in a food processor before being scraped into your pan. After the brownies set overnight, you have a fudgy, decadent dessert that also happens to be gluten-free and vegan so everyone can enjoy it. Get our Mexican Chocolate Black Bean Brownie recipe.
Here’s another dessert where the difference between the classic version and the cheater version is negligible when so many summer diversions are at hand. You can make your own graham crackers and a high-end, labor-intensive lime curd, or you can let a store bought crust and sweetened condensed milk do the heavy lifting and call it a day. A day at the beach, that is. Either way you have a creamy, zesty pie awaiting you at the end of it. Get the Key Lime Pie recipe.
Related Reading: What Is the Difference Between Limes and Key Limes?
Icebox cakes, along with bread puddings, are desserts whose inventions I hope resulted in someone getting knighted or memorialized in statue. Layers of Oreos melt into a chocolatey whipped cream for a creamy, cakey, frozen outcome that recollects a classic ice cream sandwich, with barely more effort than simply unwrapping one. Get the Oreo Icebox Cake recipe.
And then there are dump cakes, which perhaps lack the old-timey, quaint associations of icebox cakes, but are nonetheless genius inventions whose components are simply dumped into the vessel in which they will be cooked. Here, a single skillet transforms precisely five ingredients into a bright and fruity dessert that can be served warm or cold. Optional: add ice cream. (Right. “Optional.”) Get the 5 Ingredient Blueberry Skillet Dump Cake recipe.
If Christmas in July is a thing, then a snowball fight in August surely follows, amirite? These delightful, no-bake, super simple cookies are a sweet treat right out of the fridge, leaving you feeling like there’s precious little to fight about anyway, snowball or otherwise. Get the Coconut Snowballs recipe.
The name “clafoutis” sure makes it sound technical and upscale, when really it’s almost a dump cake scented with almond and dotted with cherries. You have my permission to sound as pretentious as possible when presenting your clafoutis, and nobody need know you spent all of ten minutes constructing it. Get our Cherry Clafoutis recipe.
Summer is for us all to feel like kids again, except with higher allowances and more flattering swimwear. So go ahead and have one of these peanut butter and marshmallow bars for lunch, and maybe you’ll just be transported enough back to a time with no self-consciousness. Have a run through the sprinklers while you’re at it. Get the Fluffernutter Bars recipe.
Save the scratch pie crust for some rainy October weekend and instead celebrate what remains of summer now with a mountain of juicy berries and a sweet little store bought crust to (barely) keep it all together. Get our Easy Berry Cobbler recipe.
Related Reading: 15 Easy Ways to Turn Summer Fruit into Dessert
No bowl, no recipe, no cleanup required. You know the drill. See our favorite s’mores combos.
Header image courtesy of Chowhound.