24 Must-Make Cakes to Bake Before Summer Ends

Don’t let these sweet treats get away.

July 26, 2021
Photo by MJ Kroeger

You know how some people have a summer bucket list? Picnic on the beach, run the full loop around the park, eat at least one whole tomato per day (grape tomatoes excluded), read a book a week, catch a sunrise or two?

I have that, too...only my list consists exclusively of the cakes I want to bake while the summer's sweetest fruits are still here. Squidgy, buttery, lemony-bright, and good for wrapping in parchment and toting on the bus, these are the cakes I'll miss most once apple season's in full swing and we're flinging cinnamon, nutmeg, and cocoa like confetti.

Behold, the cakes to make while you can still find a good peach, and to fuel the rest of your summer bucket list, whether you're potlucking on the deck or roasting marshmallows over a campfire.

Our Best Summer Cake Recipes

1. Grandma’s Italian Cream-Filled Sponge Cake

Dan Pelosi (aka Grossy Pelosi is giving all of us a taste of his beloved grandmother's cooking with this light-as-a-cloud cake topped with an assortment of summer berries.

2. Lemon Raspberry Layer Cake

Here’s a sweet use of summer fruit like raspberries—make your own jam (or okay fine, buy store-bought) and then bake this luscious layer cake that’s ready for your next special occasion.

3. Vegan Peach Crumble Coffee Cake

Looking for an excuse to eat cake for breakfast? If you’re like me, the answer is yes, always! This dairy-free peach cake, which is perfect for summer, features a crumbly topping made from walnuts, spices, brown sugar, flour, and coconut oil.

4. Purple Plum Torte From Marian Burros

“For the handful of you who may not already be familiar with Marian Burros' iconic cake, it is arguably the most famous recipe ever to grace the pages of The New York Times,” writes recipe developer and Food52 co-founder Merrill Stubbs. This version, which is an adaptation of the original recipe, is just a little less sweet.

5. Chocolate Coffee Ice Cream Cake

If you want to make a cake for summer, it should be an ice cream cake and a chocolate-coffee one at that. I mean really, why bake anything else for a hot July day? The only thing you need to turn the oven on for is the brownie batter base, which is so fudgy and delicious that it’s worth the extra heat.

6. Nigella Lawson's Very Smart Strawberry Streusel Cake

Oh this is good. It’s so, so good. The dough base works double duty for both the super-moist cake batter and the buttery, crumbly topping in this twist on a strawberry shortcake. A combination of fresh strawberries and strawberry jam brings sweet, summer flavor that we love to take advantage of.

7. Dark Chocolate and Walnut Zucchini Bread

This quick-bread totally counts as a dessert. And it’s perfect for summer because the recipe calls for more than 2 cups of grated fresh zucchini, which is at its peak from June through August.

8. Crème Fraîche Plum Cake With Plum Caramel

Plenty of cake recipes call for sour cream, but recipe developer Sarah Jampel decided to change things up by using crème fraîche instead, which brings just as much body and moistness (and a little extra luxury).

9. Jodi Rhoden’s Sour Cream Pound Cake

The original recipe for pound cake called for equal parts of butter, sugar, eggs, and flour. Nowadays, the recipes for this classic cake have come a long way, but this version created by Emma Laperruque is delicious as ever.

10. Blueberry Lemon Cake

We’re always advocates for baking with fresh fruit, and come summer, nothing shines brighter than blueberries. And we think they taste even better when paired with the juice and zest of fresh lemons. Top each slice with a dollop of whipped cream.

11. Gingery Olive Oil Zucchini Cake with Poppy Seeds and Lemon Crunch Glaze

This super moist cake that springs bright, citrus flavors is inspired by a few different lemony cakes, but recipe developer Sarah Jampel manages, as always, to make this one feel like something entirely new and totally special.

12. Strawberry Cake for Mother's Day (and Other Days)

We know, we know, Mother's Day falls in the month of May. But don't let the title of this strawberry cake sway you from baking this all summer long. After all, it's when the berries are at their very best!

13. Tahini Cake with Blueberry Swirl

The nuttiness of tahini is a distinct flavor that pops up every so often in sweet treats like this blueberry cake and our only question is, why aren't we utilizing it more often for dessert?

14. Zucchini Cupcakes With Lemon-Dill Frosting

Hear us out: These may look like a ghoulish Halloween dessert, but they’re actually the perfect summer treat because of how much fresh grated zucchini is mixed into the batter. A combination of lemon and dill may sound like what you’d serve with fish or poultry, but it’s a lovely addition to the swirly, twirly frosting.

15. Simple Summer Peach Cake

Our readers voted this summer cake as their all-time favorite peach recipe, so we’d be remiss to not include it here. It’s a perfect example of how you can use fresh fruit for a seasonal baked good.

16. Erin McDowell's Strawberry Not-So-Short Cake

Food52’s resident baking expert Erin McDowell took everything we know and love about an old-fashioned strawberry shortcake and turned it into an epic dessert teetering with layer after layer of biscuits and cream.

17. Lemon Curd Sponge Cake

This may look like a classic lemon meringue pie from the top, but it’s actually a spongy, summery cake that has toasted sliced almonds and lots and lots of freshly squeezed lemon juice in the filling.

18. Raspberry Cake With Swirled Meringue

There are fresh raspberries in both the buttery cake and the glossy meringue topping for this summer cake recipe.

19. Plum-Nectarine Upside-Down Skillet Cake

Two kinds of summer fruit—plums and nectarines—are arranged for this cake, which is baked in a cast-iron skillet. “It's humble, simple, and good—and you'll have enough time to get out of the kitchen, frolic outside, and eat cake, too,” writes recipe developer Sarah Jampel. Who could argue with that?

20. Ice Cream Cake

Keep things simple with this fan-favorite ice cream cake, which calls for an assortment of your favorite flavors of ice cream (Pistachio! Vanilla! Strawberry! Coffee! Cookies and cream!). Layer it with hot fudge, Magic Shell (oh yeah, the good stuff), and a prebaked cake for the perfect summer dessert.

21. 1-2-3-4 Cake with Raspberry Buttercream

The secret behind the name is that all of the ingredients we call for are in proportions of 1, 2, 3, and 4 (think 1 cup of butter, 2 cups of sugar, 3 cups of cake flour, and 4 eggs). If you can count to 4, you’ve got this.

22. Lemon Chiffon Layer Cake

Transport your taste buds to cloud nine with this light-as-air lemony cake made with a combination of whipped egg white and egg yolks, plus a citrusy lemon curd, simple syrup, and lemon chiffon cake (is that enough lemon for you?).

23. White Cake Cupcakes With Mascarpone Whipped Cream & Berries

Inspired by a classic light, white wedding cake, these cupcakes created by our resident baking expert Erin McDowell are lovely for a bridal shower, baby shower...or you know, a Thursday afternoon when you’re craving something sweet. Top them off with an assortment of fresh summer fruit. Instead of a cream cheese frosting, they’re frosted with mascarpone whipped cream.

24. Oreo Ice Cream Dessert

You don’t need much to make this ice cream cake recipe for summer. Just a package of classic Oreos, your favorite vanilla ice cream, chopped German chocolate, and evaporated milk. It’s the ultimate make-ahead dessert for summer.

What's on your summer cake bucket list? Tell us in the comments below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Jimothy Zhang
    Jimothy Zhang
  • will
  • Cosmic Lemon
    Cosmic Lemon
  • Ebkkfc0102
  • Jan Parnell
    Jan Parnell
I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.


Jimothy Z. August 3, 2021
Great list
will August 2, 2021
Where is the recipe for the introductory photo of this article? (Lots of berries on top of a filling). Thanks.
will August 2, 2021
I just read through all the comments and found the recipe.
Kathryn A. August 5, 2021
so where is the recipe? That is the one I want to try!
Cosmic L. August 2, 2021
The image of the cake is what brought me here but there’s about 4 or 5 on this list that I will definitely be trying <3
Ebkkfc0102 August 2, 2021
Thank you Sierra
Ebkkfc0102 August 2, 2021
Nope that is not the one
Ebkkfc0102 August 2, 2021
Jan P. August 2, 2021
If you scroll to the bottom of the email that brought you to the 23 cakes there's a video demonstration for the cake you all are asking about.
Ebkkfc0102 August 2, 2021
Ditto to the max…I want the pictured recipe also…
Rickiam August 2, 2021
I expect more from Food 52 than this nonsense of posting a photo of a dish that is not included in the article.
Rhea August 5, 2021
I couldn't agree more. I spent too much time trying to find it.
Patrick August 2, 2021
I agree. Why use a photo of a dessert that doesn't have the recipe for it. Absurd. Talk about "bait & switch."
Laurie M. July 31, 2021
Please share the fruit tart recipe too
sierrathomp_ August 1, 2021
It’s not a tart! It’s the Cream Filled Italian Sponge Cake! You can find it here!
food52 August 2, 2021
George August 2, 2021
Why did you picture it as the main part of your story yet never included it in your story, so frustrating, I looked all over for it, you guys really need to re-think how you write stories...
Katheryn's K. August 2, 2021
It's not the first time, this happens often and is very annoying.
Katheryn's K. August 2, 2021
Thank you for this. Like the others it was the main reason I clicked on the article. How goofy, I mean there is no other food site I read that does this and it happens often on Food52.
Cosmic L. August 2, 2021
It’s not that serious, George. Just enjoy the cake :)
George August 2, 2021
It's not that serious person with no real name, however, if you are going to do something, do it well, no go back to your hole.
food52 July 29, 2021
The recipe for the fruit tart? Which is the reason I clicked in the first place…are you going to share that one please?!
sierrathomp_ August 1, 2021
It’s not a tart! It’s the Cream Filled Italian Sponge Cake! You can find it here!
Bunny Z. July 29, 2021
Where is the recipe for the fruit tart picture featured with the article?
tmsky June 29, 2017
many thanks