Memorial Day

23 Memorial Day Desserts for the Unofficial Start of Summer

Anyone can pull these off, promise.

May  3, 2022
Photo by Bobbi Lin

After all the barbecues, burgers, beach trips, and backyard hangouts, what's the best way to end Memorial Day weekend? With a sweet treat, of course. But not just any sweet treat—one that's easy enough to put together in the hubbub of the big weekend; one that's tasty and carefree enough to help you ease back into the most dreaded of Tuesdays.

These 23 simple dessert recipes fit the bill, for Memorial Day and, frankly, all summer long. Check 'em out and let us know if you give any a try.


Best Memorial Day Dessert Recipes

1. Maialino's Olive Oil Cake

You know that old saying, "When there's a will—plus a nine-inch cake pan, a whisk, and two rental house mixing bowls—there's a way?" Yeah, that's about this olive oil cake. True story: I once made it in a particularly sparse rental kitchen without any cup measurers, and it was still gone in 15 minutes.

2. Berries With Rosé

Just when you needed another excuse to open more rosé, this sophisticated—yet wildly simple—dessert blows into town, and steals the show. It's excellent topped with whipped cream, or you can swap in your favorite ice cream flavors. Oh, and save any leftover rosé syrup for cocktails.

3. One-Step, No-Churn Coffee Ice Cream

This brilliant Nigella Lawson recipe is basically magic: It yields creamy, airy ice cream with zero cooking, zero churning, and zero fussing. Your wand to wave? A whisk. Serve the ice cream as-is, straight from the freezer, or make like a three-day weekender and crumble cookies over the top.

4. Berry Summer Pudding

For a juicy, berry-filled bread pudding that tastes like it took all day to make, look no further than a loaf of sandwich bread. In this recipe from Food52's Merrill Stubbs, you'll use it to line a bowl, which you'll then layer with barely cooked fresh berries, and more bread. Weigh the whole thing down to chill overnight, and as Merrill writes, "The result is the essence of summer: The bread absorbs the juices and melts into a sweet, fragrant sponge, and when you cut into the pudding, the berries tumble out like so many rubies and sapphires."

5. Chocolate Chip Cookies With Maple & Olive Oil

These caramel-ly, rich cookies are studded with pools of chocolate, and just so happen to require little more than a whisk, bowls, and some baking sheets to whip up. Oh, and did we mention they're vegan? They're vegan.

6. Classic Icebox Cake

Whipped cream and chocolate wafer cookies to the rescue! If you can stack, you can make this festive chocolate icebox cake. It's equal parts summery and simple.

7. Swedish Gooey Chocolate Cake

This deeply decadent, fudgy chocolate cake takes just five ingredients and 20 minutes; no sifter, stand mixer, or double boiler in sight.

8. Homemade Vanilla Pudding

If there's a more straightforward vanilla pudding recipe around, we haven't met it! This one—which asks only for a whisk, a saucepan, gentle heat, and something to stir—is the perfect blank canvas for toppings.

9. Totally Homemade, Ridiculously Easy Hot Fudge Sundae

These stunning ice cream sundaes with hot fudge require merely a whisk, plus a pan and spoon for the fudge. Psst: Don't skip the cherry on top.

10. Blueberry Pecan Oat Thumbprint Cookies

Slightly fruity, slightly nutty, all easy-as-heck. Sohla shows us how to make nut butter from scratch to fashion these cookies with, but no pressure—use your favorite store-bought brand (may we recommend the selections from Big Spoon Roasters?).

11. Salty-Tangy Preserved Lemon Bars

Upgrade your classic lemon bars by using funky, pleasantly salty preserved lemons. Though the ingredient is typically used as a savory condiment, it plays very nicely with the buttery-sweet shortbread crust that acts as the base of this dessert.

12. Chocolate Cake With Peanut Butter Frosting & Salty Peanuts

The definition of "looks hard; actually isn't." Want a layer cake, but don't want to wait for baking and cooling and cutting of a thicker circular cake? Use two sheet pans to create them instead.

13. No-Churn Chocolate Soft-Serve

And if you haven't gotten your chocolate fix yet (us either!), try your hand at this no-churn soft-serve. It's got enough of a boozy kick to wake up your taste buds, so choose a liqueur whose flavor you love (we're partial to Kahlua or amaretto).

14. Miso Peanut Butter Cookies With Sesame & Chocolate

Stuffed with what feels like all things savory and sweet, these cookies have a ton going on, but that's why we love 'em. The recipe makes a big batch, so freeze half the dough for a rainy day and thank yourself later.

15. Sohla's Go-To Vanilla Pound Cake

And for the epitome of simple, streamlined, and so-good, look no further than Sohla's A+ pound cake. Her recipe also happens to be chock-full of secrets for pound-cake success, so go on, take a peek, won't you?

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

Instead of making a bunch of little strawberry shortcakes, make one giant one! An entire pound of butter and a pint of buttermilk are used to make the biscuit dough, so it’s flaky and moist (unlike the dried-out dough of your nightmares). It’s the ultimate crowd-friendly dessert for a Memorial Day picnic.

17. Valencia Orange & Aperol Ice Pops

The zest and juice of California Valencia oranges, plus a little bit of orange flower honey, bring a bright, citrusy flavor to these refreshing ice pops.

18. Saltine Cracker Brownie Ice Cream Sandwich

This icebox treat lands somewhere in between brownie a la mode and traditional ice cream sandwiches. The recipe serves 25, which should be more than enough to go around at your Memorial Day fête.

19. Strawberry Coconut Ice Pops

These totally vegan ice pops require only four ingredients—fresh sliced strawberries, full-fat coconut milk, sugar, and vanilla extract.

20. Rose Levy Beranbaum's Fresh Open-Faced Blueberry Pie

Hear us out—we know it’s a little controversial to serve a blueberry pie without a double crust, but this recipe allows you to appreciate the full bounty of juicy summer blueberries waiting for you on the inside...err, outside, I guess.

21. Chocolate Coffee Ice Cream Cake

There’s no question that this caffeinated ice cream cake is destined to be served for dessert on Memorial Day. It will keep everyone awake (even after they’ve eaten a few too many burgers or sticky barbecue ribs) and cool off as the summer rays kick in.

22. Effortless Angel's Food Cake

Bake this light-as-the-air angel’s food cake and dress it up any which way. Might I suggest a berry compote with freshly whipped cream and a teeny-tiny bit of lemon zest?

23. Strawberry Buttermilk Gelato

Even if the ice cream truck makes the rounds on Memorial Day, how fun will it be to set up your own DIY ice cream bar with this extra-creamy, extra-silky gelato at the center of it all? The sweet berries are a delicious contrast to the slight tang you get from the buttermilk—and the pinkish-red color is festive as can be for the holiday.

What's your go-to dessert for long weekends? Let us know in the comments!

This roundup was updated in May 2022 by our editors with even more delicious Memorial Day recipes.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • MP
    MP
  • Lynn D.
    Lynn D.
  • V
    V
  • Laurence Tillett
    Laurence Tillett
  • k83sy
    k83sy
Ella Quittner

Written by: Ella Quittner

Ella Quittner is a contributing writer and the Absolute Best Tests columnist at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.

8 Comments

MP May 23, 2022
Where is the strawberry graham cracker dish????
 
k83sy May 23, 2022
https://food52.com/recipes/87800-strawberry-rhubarb-icebox-cake-recipe
 
Lynn D. May 3, 2022
Where is the recipe for the strawberry graham cracker cake pictured at the top of this article?
 
Loraine M. May 5, 2022
I had the same question! I clicked on the article because of that cake and had to google it. Here you go: https://food52.com/recipes/87800-strawberry-rhubarb-icebox-cake-recipe
 
arhodeland May 18, 2022
Yeah! They should link to it in the article...
 
V May 30, 2021
Crowd favorite and requested all the time - chocolate and butterscotch pudding cake - literally 2 boxes each of jello cook n serve pudding (gotta be cook n serve, not instant!) and graham crackers. Line a 9x13 glass bake pan with graham crackers, then alternate layers of pudding flavors, separating each layer with graham crackers. I do a choc/butterscotch marble effect on final layered make it look pretty. Place in refrigerator until set covered in plastic wrap (not touching the top). Overnight or while gone for a day trip or skiing, etc., is best. Cut and serve lasagna style, but with whipped cream on top
 
Laurence T. May 24, 2019
You MUST include here the No Churn Lemon Ice Cream! So fast, so wonderful, so “summer”. And so perfect paired with a slice of Louisa’s Cake.
 
Loraine M. May 5, 2022
Louisa's cake is the best. Its my go-to cake when I have people over or when I want to have cake around to snack for a few days