25 Carefree Desserts for Summer Entertaining

Do summer entertaining right! Here are 25 of our favorite crowd-pleasing desserts, any of which would look great on a picnic table. From blueberry cake to s'mores cookies to gluten-free vanilla cake, take your pick!

Fresh strawberry mousse in a glass
Sally Vargas

When it comes to warm-weather desserts, there are a few very key considerations:

1. You don’t want something that’s going to get gooey or wilt in some way if the festivities are outside, so stay away from things that melt easily unless you have a definite way to keep them cool!

2. You want something that’s easily portable, so fancy things that are perishable, delicate, or have elaborate toppings are probably out of the question, too.

3. All that, and it's got to be delicious and eye-catching, too—right?!

You'll find many recipes below that use fresh seasonal fruits, satisfy chocolate cravings, cool you off, or cater to dietary needs—all that serve a big crowd for all your summer entertaining.

  • Berry Tart

    Berry Tart
    Elise Bauer

    There’s something so appealing about the jewel-like appearance of berries nestled in a pastry crust. This one is all about the fruit.

  • Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

    Elise Bauer

    Another classic winning combo—and you don’t even have to turn on the oven, either! Make them ahead of time and refrigerate.

  • Blueberry Cake

    Blueberry Cake
    Elise Bauer

    Two whole cups of blueberries fill this cake with their sweet goodness and give the dessert a lovely rustic presentation.

  • Watermelon Granita

    Two glasses with watermelon granita topped with lemon slice.
    Alison Bickel

    This refreshing dessert is so easy to make. Blend just three ingredients—watermelon, honey, and lemon juice—together and freeze. Scrape the granita with a fork every hour until it's an icy treat.

    Continue to 5 of 25 below.
  • Classic Ice Cream Sandwiches

    Ice Cream Sandwich Dessert - ice cream sandwiches in a row
    Simply Recipes Team

    Does any dessert say summer more than an ice cream sandwich? Keep them frozen until it's time to serve dessert, and then enjoy the kudos when you carry them out, cold, refreshing, and full of memories.

  • Gluten-Free Chocolate Banana Cupcakes

    Gluten-Free Chocolate Banana Cupcakes
    Megan Gordon

    When your summer entertaining guest list includes those with special dietary needs or food allergies, these gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and nut-free, vegan cupcakes must be on the dessert menu.

  • Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

    Close up of chewy chocolate chip cookie bars stacked in a serving dish.
    Marta Rivera

    Do you really want to be tied to the hot oven, changing out sheet after sheet of cookies as they bake? These bars are just as good as chocolate chip cookies, but one pan full is all it takes. Nuts are optional.

  • S'mores Cookies

    Chocolate Chip and Marshmallow S'mores Cookies
    Emma Christensen

    Just add a campfire! No, but seriously, these cookies give you the taste of s’mores but with a lot less mess—no hot fire or oozy marshmallow to contend with here!

    Continue to 9 of 25 below.
  • Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble Bars

    Crumble Bars with Rhubarb and Strawberry
    Irvin Lin

    Take two of the best offerings from late spring and early summer: strawberry and rhubarb. Layer them over rich pastry dough and top with crumbles. Bake, slice, and share.

  • No-Bake Cheesecake

    A cake stand with No bake cheesecake topped with fresh strawberries with a slice removed.
    Mihaela Kozaric Sebrek

    If you avoid using your oven in the summer as often as possible, this dessert is for you. The most heat this cheesecake sees is 30 seconds when you dissolve gelatin in the microwave to stabilize the cheesecake.

  • Easy Dump Cake from Scratch

    How to Make Dump Cake from Scratch
    Cindy Rahe

    Despite the unfortunate name, this cake is delicious. Flour, butter, fruit, and that’s it. Use whatever fruit you have on hand.

  • Sweet Cherry Pie

    sweet cherry pie
    Elise Bauer

    You can use fresh or frozen cherries in this pie, but in the summer, we definitely suggest using fresh. A little almond extract and a small amount of sugar will bring out their brightness, and your summer party pie will be a hit.

    Continue to 13 of 25 below.
  • Texas Sheet Cake

    Texas Chocolate Sheet Cake
    Cindy Rahe

    This crowd-pleasing chocolate cake topped with pecans is the size of Texas! Not really, but it's baked on a 13- x 18-inch sheet so it serves 36!

  • Fudgy Chocolate Brownies

    Fudgy Brownie Bites
    Emma Christensen

    Brownies are an obvious choice, right? Easy to transport: Check. Crowd pleaser: Check. Chocolate, but won't melt in the sun: check.

  • Lemon Poppy Seed Bundt Cake

    Lemon Poppyseed Bundt Cake
    Cindy Rahe

    Between the swirly pan and the swirls from the glaze, this Lemon Poppy Seed Bundt Cake is a real show stopper—regardless of the shape of your bundt pan.

  • Banana Sheet Cake

    Banana Cake (Banana Sheet Cake)
    Elise Bauer

    There's a lot of potential for dressing this baby up—such as sprinkling mini chocolate chips or fresh blueberries on top of the cream cheese frosting!

    Continue to 17 of 25 below.
  • Strawberry Mousse with White Chocolate

    Strawberry Mousse with white chocolate
    Sally Vargas

    Fresh strawberries are all throughout this elegant dessert that's perfect for a smaller summer gathering. It takes several hours to chill so it's perfect to make ahead.

  • Apple Pie Bars With Crumble Topping

    apple pie bars with crumble topping
    Irvin Lin

    Easy to make, easy to transport, and a great use of fresh apples when they appear in the summer. Makes 16 servings, but if it's one of many desserts, cut smaller squares if there's a big crowd.

  • Classic Lemon Bars

    Lemon Bars Recipe - lemon bars on blue plate
    Alison Bickel

    These tart lemon bars made with velvety lemon curd on top of crisp buttery shortbread crust are hard to resist. Make these, and you'll be the hit of the summer party.

  • Old Fashioned Peach Pie

    Peach Pie
    Cindy Rahe and Elise Bauer

    Fresh summer peaches fill this pie that fills an easy homemade crust, Bake up to 4 days ahead of time, and make-ahead dessert has never been more delicious!

    Continue to 21 of 25 below.
  • Blueberry Crumb Bars

    blueberry bars
    Cindy Rahe

    A layer of blueberries turns jammy when it bakes in between a shortbread base and a crumb topping, satisfying a blueberry pie craving, but in an individual, hand-held way.

  • Strawberry Mascarpone Tart

    Strawberry Mascarpone Tart
    Elise Bauer

    Strawberries on top of a sweetened mascarpone base will sing when you brush on a balsamic glaze. Make your own tart crust, or buy a tart crust to make this a no-bake dessert.

  • White Cake

    Easy white cake topped with frosting and on a plate.
    Irvin Lin

    Light and tender, this white cake frosted with a whipped cream/cream cheese frosting is simple and crowd-pleasing. Versatile, it's easy to switch up the frosting or turn it into cupcakes.

  • Gluten-Free Vanilla Birthday Cake

    gluten-free vanilla sheet cake with chocolate frosting
    Megan Gordon

    It doesn't have to be anyone's birthday to bake this gluten-free vanilla cake with chocolate frosting. It's the perfect dessert for guests who can't tolerate gluten.

    Continue to 25 of 25 below.
  • Peanut Butter Cookies

    A plate of Peanut Butter Cookies.
    Michelle Becker

    These peanut butter cookies belong in the cookie hall of fame. Make a big batch for the get-together. They'll go quickly!