Dessert Recipes for Summer

Favorite summer fruit desserts made lighter.

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

Reviewed By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD

What makes a summer dessert different from any old dessert? Usually, dessert recipes for summer are all about fruit -- think of strawberry shortcake and peach pie. After all, ripe and ready fruits come a-calling all summer long, from berries and cherries to tree fruits: peaches, plums, pears, and apricots.

Since I grew up in California, a lot of my own summer dessert memories revolve around the strawberry. My mom made a mean strawberry cheesecake. And I remember whipping up a couple of batches of strawberry shortcake every July, starting when I was old enough to hold a pastry cutter. My husband fondly remembers fruit crisps a la mode being served in his kitchen on warm summer nights.

Fruit desserts usually involve pastry, streusel topping, biscuits, or batters. They're called everything from crisps and cobblers to crumbles and buckles. From what I can tell, a crumble looks like a crisp, with crumb topping featuring the likes of sugar, oats, flour, butter, and nuts. A buckle, meanwhile, seems to be a fruit filled cake with a crumb topping.

No matter which fabulous summer dessert you're whipping up, keep these tips in mind to trim some calories and boost the fiber and nutrients:

  • You can usually use less sugar in the fruit portion than the recipe says. Start by using 1/4 or 1/3 cup less per cup of sugar the recipe calls for.
  • If a recipe calls for both white sugar and brown sugar, cut back on the white sugar first. The brown sugar usually adds extra color and flavor to the dessert.
  • Replace half the white flour called for with whole-wheat flour. Whether you're making a piecrust or biscuits, this 50/50 rule of thumb usually works.
  • The fat ingredient can usually be cut back by 1/4 to 1/3. You can substitute another, less fatty ingredients, to make up the difference in moisture. Try light cream cheese, low-fat buttermilk, or fat-free sour cream.
  • If the recipe calls for melted butter or shortening, you can often switch to canola oil instead, and use a little less than called for.
  • Start collecting recipes for summer desserts, like pie crust, that call for canola oil or vegetable oil instead of shortening or butter. I know they're out there, because I've developed some of them.
  • When a dessert recipe for summer calls for half-and-half, use fat-free half-and-half or whole or low-fat milk instead.
  • If you're serving a summer dessert a la mode, try to find a light ice cream that still tastes great but has less fat and calories per serving than most. You can usually find a wonderful light vanilla ice cream with 100 calories and 3 or 4 grams of fat per half-cup serving.

3 Fruity Dessert Recipes for Summer

Here are three dessert recipes to add to your collection, all light, and all featuring summer fruit.

Blueberry Buckle

1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons less-fat margarine with 8 grams fat per tablespoon
1 large egg (use higher omega-3 eggs, if available)
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup unbleached white flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons low-fat milk or fat-free half-and-half
2 cups fresh blueberries (other berries can be substituted)

Crumb Topping:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unbleached white flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons less-fat margarine, with 8 grams fat per tablespoon

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 9" round or square baking pan with canola cooking spray.
  • Add 1/2 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons margarine, and a large egg to a large mixing bowl and beat on medium to blend well.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together the whole-wheat flour, white flour, baking powder, and salt. Add half of the flour mixture to sugar mixture in mixing bowl, along with half of the milk. Repeat with remaining flour and remaining milk, beating just until blended.
  • Stir in the blueberries gently with a mixing spoon and pour into prepared pan.
  • For topping, add 1/4-cup sugar, 3 tablespoons flour, cinnamon, and 2 tablespoons margarine to small bowl and blend with a fork. Sprinkle crumb mixture over the cake batter, breaking the crumb mixture into small pieces with your fingers if necessary.
  • Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until texture seems firm in the center of the cake. Serve warm or cold.

Yield: 12 servings

Per serving: 178 calories, 4 g protein, 33 g carbohydrate, 3.7 g fat, 0.7 g saturated fat, 18 mg cholesterol, 2.5 g fiber, 210 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 18%.