Labor Day

44 Make-Ahead Dessert Recipes for Now Through Labor Day

Sweet, simple, and ready for summer.

July  8, 2021
Photo by Julia Gartland

Yes, we love day-long baking projects, and you can bet we’re going to labor over stunning cakes and pies worthy of Instagram stardom. But over holiday weekends, like Labor Day, what we love even more than a pièce de résistance is something that's sweet, simple, and satisfying. For the best Labor Day dessert recipes, we thought we'd reach into our archives for easy, make-ahead summer desserts that follow the Nigella Lawson mantra: Minimum effort, maximum pleasure. Read on for the Labor Day desserts we can't wait to make this summer. So here are 44 no-fuss, totally delicious, make-ahead dessert recipes to enjoy from now until Labor Day—from speedy peanut butter and chocolate bars to citrusy no-bake cheesecake.

Our Best Labor Day Desserts

1. Key Lime Pie

For an intense, juicy lime flavor, use a combination of both lime juice and lime zest when you make this Florida Keys classic. Don't sleep on the graham cracker crust, made with unsalted butter and heavy cream, either; it's as good as it gets.

2. American Flag Cake

Celebrate Labor Day with this make-ahead, all-American dessert. Prepare individual red, white, and blue cakes and stack them strategically so that when you cut a big slice, a stars and stripes pattern will appear just like magic.

3. Strawberry Buttermilk Gelato

Labor Day is all about honoring the achievements of American workers, so to celebrate, sit back, relax, and make this no-fuss, four-ingredient gelato recipe. It takes only a few minutes of prep work, so you can get back to celebrating in style.

4. Our Best Vanilla Ice Cream

Cap off the unofficial end of summer with this essential warm-weather dessert—homemade vanilla ice cream. Use pure vanilla extract or the seeds of a whole vanilla pod for extra-rich flavor. Once it's churned and fully frozen, garnish a scoop or two with hot fudge, sprinkles, whipped cream, and, of course, a cherry on top.

5. Ricotta Cheesecake Pie With Chocolate-Coffee Ganache

There's no sour cream in this cheesecake recipe, which is the ultimate make-ahead Labor Day dessert. But we promise no one will complain. Instead, 2 pounds of ricotta create a luscious, fluffy texture in each and every bite. The cake is studded with mini chocolate chips and sliced almonds and served with a velvety chocolate-coffee ganache.

6. Lime Posset With Graham Cracker Streusel

When you’re craving a quick and easy Labor Day dessert that you can make ahead, consider this: a lime pudding with a butter graham cracker crumble. It's a simple spin on a key lime pie in fun, single-serve portions.

7. Blueberry Pecan Oat Thumbprint Cookies

For a patriotic twist on an old-fashioned oatmeal cookie, how about cookie dough made with pecan butter, rolled in oats, baked, and then filled with blueberry preserves? Bonus points if you made your own using fresh summer berries.

8. Go-To Vanilla Pound Cake

If you're hosting a big party for Labor Day and want something that will please a crowd, this superior pound cake, created by Food52 resident Sohla El-Wally, hits the nail on the head. A combination of whole eggs, an egg yolk, and sour cream ensures that every bite is moist and buttery.

9. Raspberry & White Chocolate Tart With Cocoa Crust

There may not be any blue here, but there is plenty of red and white in this Labor Day dessert to show off your all-American spirit. And hey, who's to say you can't sprinkle blueberries over the top for the final flourish of patriotism? Certainly not us.

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

Embrace the end of summer season with this showstopping berries-and-cream layer cake.

11. Snickerdoodle Shortbread

Combine two adored treats—snickerdoodles and shortbread cookies—into one convenient make-ahead dessert for Labor Day.

12. Almond-Peach Cobbler

Ripe peaches take center stage in this summer cobbler that's a rustic treat for a Labor Day dessert. A combination of almond extract and slivered almonds bring sweet flavor.

13. Magic Cookie Bars

"Sometimes, you can't beat a classic," writes recipe author Posie (Harwood) Brien). "These versatile bars are loaded with coconut, chocolate, and nuts—use the basic template and add as many layers as you like: caramel, chopped candies, peanut butter, and so on are all very welcome."

14. Lemon Ricotta Bars

Everything you want in a lemon bar, and then some. "After testing a few recipes during a long time," says recipe developer kuka. "I discovered that using confectioners' sugar and corn starch in the crust, and adding just 1 cup ricotta to the filling, gave the bars just the right height."

15. Olive (Oil) Cake

"This is a flawless, crisp-chewy, endlessly malleable olive oil cake blueprint you will want to pocket, even without the crazy-sounding addition of olives," claims our Genius Recipes columnist Kristen Miglore. "But you should really suspend disbelief and give them a try." Travels well, too.

16. Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Is there anything more make-ahead than cookies? Chewy cookie fans can rejoin in this oatmeal-raisin update on the fan-favorite recipe from the Quaker Oatmeal lid. A few tweaks from Posie make all the difference in the world.

17. Caroline's Carrot Cake

"Four moist layers of carrot cake, filled and iced with the creamiest of cream cheese icings," My Family Recipe contributing writer Richard Reutter says about his mother's famous carrot cake. "It has remained one of my favorites to this day."

18. Hippie Crispy Treats

In search of a marshmallow crispy treat with a little more going for it, Alanna "used chocolate, almond butter, coconut oil, and rice and maple syrups as the goo to bind the treats together, and topped them with a chocolate-coconut oil ganache."

19. Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies With Rainbow Fennel Seeds

Our Table for One columnist Eric Kim loves the "malted nuttiness" and bitter, aniseed flavor of candied fennel seeds. Here, they provide a rainbow tweak to classic chocolate chip cookies.

20. Quick Peanut Butter & Chocolate Square Bars

Classic chocolate and peanut butter get turned into a no-bake cookie bar that's ideal for making ahead. Keep this one in your back pocket for Labor Day weekend.

21. Maialino's Olive Oil Cake

This is, according to Kristen, the olive oil cake that will ruin you for all others. Hailing from Maialino Restaurant in New York City, it can be made for breakfast in muffin form or even layered with mascarpone buttercream for birthdays.

22. Banana Bread Blondies

"My teenager doesn't like bananas, but he loves these blondies," writes one reviewer. "I have made these three times already. Definitely a keeper!"

23. Helen’s Summer Berry Pudding With Rose Cream

Baking expert Alice Medrich advises that you make this luscious summer pudding "at least one and up to 3 days ahead, so there’s never any last minute pressure." Sounds good to us!

24. Chocolate-Hazelnut Mousse

Who would say no to chocolate on Labor Day? This chocolate-hazelnut gem (also from Alice) is inspired by the "Gianduja Mousse" in the December 1995 issue of Sunset magazine.

25. Cinnamon Spice Marshmallow Crispy Treat S'mores

Still simple but even more special thanks to cinnamon and nutmeg, recipe author Kendra Vaculin's marshmallow crispy treats are spiced then dipped in melted semi-sweet chocolate for extra pizzazz.

26. No-Bake Peanut Butter Oreo Bars

Buttery Oreo crust, voluptuous peanut butter fluff, and more chocolate sandwich cookies strewn on top like streusel? Sign me up.

27. Fresh Blueberry Pie

"This is a brighter, lighter blueberry pie than you're used to," Kristen writes, "one that keeps all the texture and integrity of blueberries intact. You can use your go-to pie crust—just roll out a single crust and blind bake it."

28. Maya's Chocolate Fudge Sheet Cake

There's nothing more crowd-friendly than sheet cake—and chocolate sheet cake? Forget about it.

29. Vegan Chocolate Birthday Cake With Super-Fluffy Frosting

"Disappointed by vegan buttercreams," Kristen says, "Anita Shepherd consulted the back of a Cool Whip container and spied a whole lot of corn syrup. She turned to its more wholesome equivalent: brown rice syrup. Added on its own, the syrup made the frosting sleek and glossy, but still heavier and stickier than she wanted. But she discovered that the syrup helped stabilize the base enough that adding almond milk (a whole cup!), made it poof into pillowy ripples in the mixer."

30. Atlantic Beach Pie

You've seen this pie all summer (and you've probably eaten it, too). As one of our most popular recipes this summer, we couldn't not add it to this list for Labor Day, could we?

31. Rhubarb Cherry Hibiscus Crumble

We love this warm, gooey, ruby-red crumble with whipped cream or ice cream on top. The hibiscus adds nice flavor and, of course, gorgeous color.

32. Yogurt & Berry Tart With a Pecan Crust

"I often will eat fruits and nuts plus yogurt for breakfast," says recipe author fiveandspice. "This is basically a fancified version of that very simple breakfast. And look how pretty it is!"

33. Homemade Cracker Jack

An updated version of the old-school classic, this homemade caramel popcorn is airy, crisp, and buttery with crunchy-salty peanuts for even more flair.

34. Rocky Road

Because there's always room for more chocolate, especially on a long holiday weekend.

35. No-Bake Lime Cheesecake

This silky, citrus-forward cheesecake is an excellent make-ahead option, since it actually recommends that you chill it in the fridge overnight before serving up slices. Bonus: You won't need to turn on the oven.

36. Dad's Kitchen Sink Cookies

These super-chewy kitchen sink cookies are all about the add-ins, from M&Ms to chopped dried apricots. Bake up a batch and keep them in the freezer for later.

37. Sticky Banana-Cocoa Bars

"This is one of the best ways to use up a bunch of bananas that are about to go bad," writes food writer and culinary tour guide Carlos C. Olaechea of his sticky banana-cocoa bars. They also happen to be one of our favorite make-ahead desserts—prep them the day before and let them rest in the fridge overnight.

38. Blueberry Lemon Cake

This tender, summer-perfect cake gets its bursts of brightness from whole, fresh blueberries and lemon zest and juice. Even better, it keeps well in an airtight container for up to a few days.

39. Banana Pudding Icebox Cake

"Banana pudding gets icebox cake–ified, becoming a no-bake, no-cook dessert to keep on hand all summer long," writes Big Little Recipes columnist and food editor Emma Laperruque of this super-chill icebox cake.

40. Ice Cream Cake

This cake is perfect for making ahead—especially if you have a spacious freezer. Start with your favorite simple cake layer, then top with a few corresponding ice creams, sauces, and crunchy bits. Store in the chill chest and take out when you're ready to dig in.

41. Cookies & Cream Frozen Yogurt

Crunchy chocolate creme sandwich cookies, tangy Greek yogurt, churned together into a silky, gorgeous oblivion. Make a double batch and store it in the freezer, then take out and top with hot fudge.

42. Yuzu Coconut Cake With Caramelized Sugar Crust

Pound cake always tastes better the next day, right? Softer, richer, full-er with flavor. This one is no exception, with a crusty, sugary crust and a subtle hint of citrus running throughout.

43. Strawberry & Butterscotch Whipped Cream Cake

Stir together this simplest-ever vanilla cake from Jami Curl, then let it sit for a while...a long while! On the day you're ready to enjoy it, mix together a strawberry compote and butterscotch sauce to drizzle all over the top.

44. No-Bake Cheesecake With a Pretzel Crust

Another no-bake cheesecake, this time with a salty-sweet pretzel crust and a spectacular berry top-off.

What desserts are you making this Labor Day? Let us know in the comments below.
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Katie is a food writer and editor who loves cheesy puns and cheesy cheese.

1 Comment

Hara M. August 26, 2019
My company definitely has a sweet tooth. So, I'm baking a dark chocolate cake with coconut walnut filling that uses Dulce de leche and chocolate ganche frosting.