Easy Summer Desserts Featuring California Ingredients

Easy Summer Desserts Featuring California Ingredients

By Rachael Medina
Staff Writer July 14, 2020

Sweet grilled peaches, a refreshing lime popsicle, and a slightly tart berry pie—these easy summer desserts are what California dreams are made of. Whether you prefer fruity dessert recipes or have a hankering for summer pie like your grandma used to make, getting creative with the Golden State’s plentiful produce can turn all your ideas into the mouthwatering treats you’ll crave for years to come.

From blackberries and basil to plums and figs, there are all kinds of incredible summer produce grown in California’s diverse landscapes, so you’ll never have to choose between eating seasonally and having a wide variety of dessert options. Since in-season fruits naturally taste delicious, it’s easy to avoid added sugars or complicated cooking instructions—though there are endless possibilities for complex desserts, too—and confidently please any palate. With so much to choose from, the toughest part of planning your summertime desserts is figuring out what to make first. Read on to discover your new favorite summer dessert recipes. 

Our Favorite Summertime Desserts

Fruity, fresh, and vibrant flavors are the best additions to summer desserts, and thanks to California’s cornucopia of fruits and vegetables, there’s no end to the delicious treats you can make. From strawberry shortcake and cherry pie to grilled peaches and watermelon popsicles, there are too many incredible combinations to count. Whether you’re looking to host an all-day bake fest at your house or searching for a simple guilty pleasure to quell your sweet tooth, these fresh recipes are sure to satisfy.

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The Best Summer Desserts For Parties

Whether you’re planning a summer bash with your close friends or hosting a festive celebration with your housemates, you can’t go wrong with a thoughtful dessert—but with these easy summer dessert recipes, you won’t have to spend hours in the kitchen. 

Whether cooked over a fire or in an oven, s'mores are classic summer desserts for parties that are bound to be enjoyed by guests of all ages.

S’mores

S’mores are a summertime classic that needn’t be saved for your occasional camping trips. These ooey-gooey treats are so easy to make and offer a great bonding opportunity at any social gathering. 

Set out all the ingredients and (safely) light the firepit for a traditional experience, or opt for oven-roasted s’mores if you’d rather stay inside. No matter how you choose to warm up your dessert, you’re sure to enjoy the indulgent taste of these California-inspired s’mores

Serves 8

Ingredients

1 package organic honey graham crackers from Berkeley’s Annie’s Homegrown

1 package Sonoma’s Smash Mallows

4 bars gourmet chocolate from San Francisco’s Dandelion Chocolate (or another amazing California chocolatier)

1 package local raspberries, strawberries, or pitted cherries

 

Directions

Indoors

  • Preheat oven to 400˚F
  • Break 16 graham crackers in half and separate in two
  • Line a baking sheet with half of the graham crackers, and top each cracker with one Smash Mallow 
  • Bake for 3–5 minutes, or until marshmallows are golden brown and puffy
  • Lay out chocolate bars, fruit, and remaining graham crackers
  • Remove tray from oven, and serve immediately

 

Outdoors

  • Light fire pit
  • Break 16 graham crackers in half and separate in two
  • Lay out marshmallows, skewers, chocolate bars, fruit, and graham crackers
  • Roast marshmallows over the fire and assemble your perfect s’more
Popsicles can keep you cool on a warm summer day, so use fresh California berries to create your own.

Popsicles

Since popsicles were invented in California and they’re made ahead of time, popsicles are incredible party treats. For the most flavorful summer dessert pops, use a mixture of your favorite summer fruits from your local CSA box—such as apricots, blackberries, blueberries, watermelon, peaches, or strawberries—and be prepared to freeze them overnight.

Watermelon-Mint Popsicles

Serves 6

Ingredients

5 cups cubed watermelon, seeded and divided

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves

½ tablespoon local honey

 

Directions

  • Puree 4 cups watermelon cubes, lime juice, mint leaves, and honey
  • Chop remaining cup of watermelon into small cubes, and divide evenly into molds
  • Stir pureed popsicle mix and pour evenly into molds
  • Insert popsicle sticks and freeze overnight

 

Blueberry-Lemon Popsicles

Serves 6

Ingredients

2 ½ cups blueberries, divided

¾ cup apple juice

1 teaspoon lemon juice

4 tablespoons honey

 

Directions

  • Puree 2 cups blueberries, apple juice, lemon juice, and honey
  • Cut remaining half cup of blueberries, and divide into popsicle molds
  • Stir pureed popsicle mix and pour evenly into molds
  • Insert popsicle sticks and freeze overnight

 

Blackberry–Lime Popsicles

 

Serves 6

Ingredients

4 cups blackberries, divided

1 ½  tablespoon fresh lime juice

4  tablespoons local honey or organic cane sugar

Directions

  • Puree 3 cups blackberries, lime juice, and honey or organic sugar
  • Cut remaining cup of blackberries, and divide into popsicle molds
  • Stir pureed popsicle mix and pour evenly into molds
  • Insert popsicle sticks and freeze overnight

 

California's Best Fruity Dessert Recipes

If you’re looking for a healthy, flavorful dessert for a cookout or for a Friday night, these recipes always make good options. 

Fresh-baked cherry pie makes for a quintessential and satisfying summertime dessert.

Cherry Pie

Is there a better way to savor sweet, plump California cherries than in a pie? We think not, so treat your guests (or yourself) with this comforting, deeply satisfying dessert.  

Serves 8

Ingredients

Chilled pie dough

¼ cup cornstarch

½ cup honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon salt

4 ½ cups fresh cherries, pitted

1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into small squares

1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream

Sugar, to taste

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 400˚F
  • Bring chilled dough to room temperature
  • Combine cornstarch, honey, vanilla extract, lemon juice, and salt in a bowl
  • Add cherries to the bowl and mix gently
  • Flour surface, and roll half of the warmed dough into a circle that covers your pie plate and leaves an extra 1-inch edge around the perimeter
  • Gently press dough into pie plate
  • Spoon cherry filling onto the pie crust, leaving most of the liquid in the bowl
  • Add squares of butter on top of filling
  • Roll out the other half of the dough, and place it on top of the pie filling
  • Fold the bottom crust over the top crust, and pinch the edges together to crimp
  • Cool for 5 minutes in the freezer
  • Meanwhile, mix together egg yolk and heavy cream
  • Remove pie from freezer, brush the crust with egg and cream mixture, and sprinkle with sugar
  • Cut slits in the top of the pie, and bake for 20 minutes
  • Reduce heat to 350˚F and continue baking for 30 minutes, or until crust is golden 
  • Remove from oven and cool for 2 or more hours before serving
Sweet, juicy peaches are transformed when grilled and topped with California-made ice cream.

Grilled Peaches

Summertime means it’s grilling time, so why not throw your dessert into the mix? This easy recipe is very customizable, too, making it an excellent choice for groups and celebrations when you want to skip out on loads of added sugars. 

Serves 6

Ingredients

4 ripe peaches

2 graham crackers, crushed

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon local honey

Salt, to taste

California olive oil

 

Directions

  • Preheat grill to medium-high heat
  • Cut peaches in half and remove pits
  • Oil grill surface and peach halves
  • Grill peaches for 4–6 minutes, or until tender
  • Crush graham crackers and mix with cinnamon
  • Drizzle honey over peach halves and sprinkle with salt and graham cracker mixture
  • Serve immediately

 

(Pro tip: Top the peaches with a scoop of your favorite California ice cream for a truly decadent experience.)

Coconut milk and strawberries can be combined into a delicious, vegan-friendly frozen treat.

Vegan Coconut-Strawberry Ice Cream

Cool down with this dairy-free summer treat to reinvigorate your love for vegan ice cream. Substitute the strawberries for cherries, boysenberries, or blueberries, and make this smooth dessert all season long. 

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 pint strawberries, hulled and quartered (about 2 cups)

¼ cup natural cane sugar

1 teaspoon cornstarch

½ tablespoon lemon juice

2 cans full-fat coconut milk

¼ cup honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon salt

 

Directions

  • Combine strawberries, sugar, cornstarch, and lemon juice in saucepan 
  • Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally
  • Reduce to a simmer and continue cooking for five minutes, or until thick 
  • Remove from heat and cool on the counter until room temperature
  • Blend coconut milk, honey, vanilla extract, and salt until thoroughly combined
  • Pour coconut milk base into an ice-cream maker, and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions (typically around 30 minutes)
  • Spoon a third of the ice-cream base into a freezer-safe loaf or pie pan
  • Using a knife. swirl in a third of the strawberry mixture 
  • Repeat until all the ice cream and strawberry mix are combined
  • Freeze for at least 4 hours, or until firm

 

Now that you’ve got the dessert covered, you’re ready to sit back and enjoy your summer. 

Staff Writer
Rachael Medina

Staff Writer Rachael Medina

Rachael Medina is the staff writer and content manager for California.com. She was born and raised just outside the Mojave Desert in Southern California and moved to the redwood forests of Humboldt C…

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1 comment


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  • Erin C Lincoln | Jul, 17

    OMGoodness all these recipes are so yummy sounding! Thank you! Reply

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