Oh hey, scorching summer weather! Wow, did that come on quick in some parts of the country. That also means I’m making a quick switch from baked goods to some lighter summer desserts.
A winter of sheltering in place means we did more than our fair share of quarantine baking, and I know I’m not alone! While those brownies and cookie experiments may have been just what we needed while we watched movies and snuggled under blankets, now I’m craving some lighter summer desserts and treats. You know, the kind that weigh you down before late-night sunsets and warm weather strolls.
So check out these favorite tricks of mine that helps you take care of that sweet tooth — with a lighter touch.
Just note that a lighter summer dessert doesn’t mean less sugar necessarily; these are not “lite” recipes. I’m just looking for some sweets that feel perfect after dinner on the back porch — hopefully with friends. Wow, have I missed them.
At top: grilled peaches with yogurt at Living Kitchen Wellness; blood orange sorbet at The Missing Lokness
Related: 7 easy icebox pie recipes you can make for summer entertaining. Or, just for whenever.
7 tricks for lighter summer desserts that still satisfy
Not only will you find some clever tricks here that might inspire your own ideas, but these recipes are all *chef’s kiss* for summer! Enjoy!
1. Grill fruit to make a common summer dessert a little fancier
Move over, fruit salad! I’m heading to the backyard to grill up these easy grilled peaches with yogurt from Living Kitchen Wellness. Grilling caramelizes the natural sugars in the peaches for an over-the-top delicious dessert that still feels light and summery. And we’ve been long-time fans of grilled fruit recipes, should you want to experiment with some others.
You can even grill fruit indoors, on a cast-iron pan — we highly recommend this one for the price — if you don’t have a backyard in which to host that requisite Weber Grill we all love. Either way, it’s a really satisfying dessert that goes a step further than your average pot luck fruit bowl.
Related: Impressive fruit dessert recipes for your next party
2. Switch to sorbet from ice cream
I know summer is typically time time we celebrate ice cream season, and I would never say no to ice cream! But if you want to lighten up your classic icy summer desserts a bit, sorbet does the trick while still giving you all the refreshment. This blood orange sorbet recipe from The Missing Lokness looks amazing, and with this classic recipe, you could substitute nearly any frozen fruit you’re craving for a similar result.
Of course you could also go with one of these 10 gourmet popsicles if you’ve got kids at the table — and we’ve also got tips for making them boozy if you don’t!
Tip: If your only popsicle molds are shaped for the kids, consider investing in an affordable classic silicone popsicle mold like this one for around $15. Not that we don’t all enjoy ice pops shaped like zombies.
3. Use chocolate as a garnish, not the main event
Adding chocolate as an accent to your dessert — in the crust or a chocolate drizzle on top — is a great way to get everyone’s favorite into a lighter dessert recipe for summer.
Since summer is all about those icebox pies for me, I had to share this Raspberry Sorbet Icebox Pie recipe at Food, Folks and Fun. It is one of my very favorites! Plus it’s so easy.
My personal favorite hack is to make the crust with any leftover Thin Mints you might have, instead of a pre-made Oreo pie crust. You will not regret it.
Related: 7 healthy ways to get your chocolate fix
4. Brighten dense desserts with citrus
Even a dense cake can be made significantly more summery when you add citrus flavors. It magically becomes bright and light, with a burst of flavor that excites your palate after a winter dominated by chocolate and spice. My personal favorite is lemon poppy seed bundt cake, and the recipe for this one at Nourished Endeavors is heaven.
To lighten it even more, skip the heavy cream-based icing, and use a glaze made with 1/2 cup lemon juice and just enough powdered sugar to give it a pourable texture.
5. Get that carb satisfaction from crepes
If you’re still craving chocolate in carb form (we get it) but don’t want something as dense and heavy as a brownie or a thick slice of chocolate cake then try crepes! The strawberry and Nutella crepes at Apple of my Eye are made with thinner-than-thin pancakes, layered with Nutella and strawberries (as you might have guessed) but what makes it a particularly great recipe for summer desserts is that you ease up on the fillings to taste. If you only need a little taste Nutella, you’re set!
This makes it rich and decadent without being heavy all —the just-right dessert for summer entertaining, or even a fun after-dinner treat with the kids.
Note that while a non-stick pan works just fine for crepes once you get the hang of it, there’s something really indulgent about having a dedicated crepe pan if you make them a lot. This Le Creuset Nonstick Crepe Pan is a splurge, but quite a few have it on our wish lists!
7. Switch from a dense cake to an airy soufflé
This is more of a new recipe to incorporate into your repertoire than a cooking trick, but it’s such a good one!
If you’re going to turn your oven on this summer anyway, skip the heavy baked goods and try to master (or, in my case, simply attempt) a spectacular soufflé. First, be sure you have a set of 4-oz ramekins on hand — they’re so useful for all kinds of reasons if you don’t have a set yet. Then, check out this airy, light lemon soufflé recipe at Simply So Healthy and prepare to get excited! They even happen to be low-carb and keto-friendly. How’s that for a lighter summer dessert?