Sure, I enjoy cobblers and cookies as much as the next person. But when it's a celebratory event, nothing quite takes the cake like … well, cake.
As I look back on my all my Fourth of July experiences, I always remember the festive spreads laid out along picnic tables or checkered table cloths on a beach or city roof, in a backyard or park. By July, it's hot in most places in the U.S., so chilled salads, savory grilled meats and ice-cold cocktails really hit the spot. As much as I love — and I mean love — a good mix of appetizers, main dishes like seafood, steak or a good, old-fashioned hot dog at summery gatherings, there's just something momentous about the part of the evening where Independence Day dessert is served.
If it's after dinner, the sun is beginning to provide some relief and a table full of treats takes me back to being a kid. While a red, white and blue popsicle is fun, let's skip the amateur desserts and go straight for the serious stuff: the cake. I'm talking campfire s'mores turned ice cream cake, fluffy vanilla cake piled high with fresh, juicy strawberries and a lemony meringue cake that tastes like if summer vacation and cumulous clouds had a baby. And don't even get me started on Jocelyn Delk Adams' melt-in-your-mouth, ooey-gooey butter cake (don't worry — it's listed below).
These cakes are so special that they deserve gold platters, but almost every one is surprisingly simple to make — many, without any baking at all! Still, it's Independence Day and who wants a gold platter when you can enjoy a slice on a paper plate that gets increasingly soaked in sweet moisture as the devouring carries on?
No-bake cakes and ice cream cakes
Pre-made cookies and store-bought ice cream make a lovely and easy dessert. Assemble it ahead of time and let it chill in the freezer until you're ready to dig in.
No need to turn on the oven! Featuring fresh fruits, rich golden Oreo cookies and homemade coconut whipped cream, this almost-vegan, no-bake icebox cake is the perfect dessert for summer parties. And it's great for parties because you can make it the day before!
We're big fans of shortcut desserts, which is why this showstopper makes the list of Fourth of July favorites! Make it look even more impressive by piping the whipped cream on top using a large star-shaped piping tip.
How pretty in pink is this no-bake, summery strawberry cake? The recipe is completely customizable and takes no effort to put together, with only 15 minutes of prep time, which is perfect when feeding a crowd.
Only super humans can look at this gorgeous icebox cheesecake without wanting to take a bite. As rich as this five-ingredient miracle is, it's surprisingly much lighter than a traditional no-bake cheesecake. Serve with a dollop of hot fudge for an extra indulgence.
Poke cake earned its title because it gets holes poked into it after baking to soak up all the liquid topping. They're super simple, moist and make for a very pretty slice on the plate. This one uses store-bought pound cake an a luscious sour cream topping, accented by beautiful, patriotic-colored berries. No baking required, just a couple minutes in the microwave.
This easy-peasy recipe uses the preformed shape of a tub of ice cream to make a truly stunning dessert. With some filling, pressing, freezing and topping, the result is a decadent ice cream cake with all that good s'mores flavor.
This is one is for all our devout Oreo lovers out there. It's so rich and flavorful, but still somehow light. Also, it only has five ingredients and lasts for months in the freezer … unless it all gets eaten first!
Horizontal slices of rich brownie cake make dramatic stripes in this striking frozen dessert, which features all the fixings of an old-fashioned sundae — and then some. Two kinds of ice cream — vanilla and strawberry — are used as the fillings, along with crunchy peanut butter and crushed raspberries.
At the end of a good meal everyone will say they're stuffed — until they see this ice cream cake. It is made from rich, buttery blondie; vanilla ice cream (filled with more blondie); and a soft, chewy, totally insane chocolate-caramel topping.
This simple cheesecake requires no baking and uses sweetened condensed milk for a smooth and decadent texture. It is delicious on its own or served with any topping of choice, from fresh berries to chocolate chips or even toasted coconut.
Who doesn't love an ice cream cake? Skip the store-bought cake (who knows how long it's been sitting in that freezer) and make your own! We cheat a little with the boxed cake mix, but let's keep that between us. Everyone else can just think you're a superhero.
Bigger is always better! This giant crispy cereal treat is an eye-catching delight and sweet way to finish off Fourth of July festivities. It also doubles as décor and adds a festive touch to your holiday table.
"I love icebox cakes! They're incredibly easy and make a great summer dessert. This cold and creamy treat is made with layers of pound cake, blackberries and sweet whipped cream," says Ree Drummond.
The kind of cakes you bake
This chocolaty dessert requires minimal baking and so is perfect for the dog days of June.
This authentic gooey butter cake has a chewy blondie texture bottom topped with a custardy cream cheese layer of perfection. It is the true, original St. Louis classic.
Who doesn't love the bold color contrast of rich, ruby-red velvet cake layers and cool white cream cheese frosting. It's as appealing to look at as it is to eat.
"Nowadays, most people use angel food cake or pound cake for this dessert, but I like the old-fashioned mix of the not-so-sweet biscuit with the sweetness of the strawberries and the whipped cream," says Trisha Yearwood.
"My family is a product of the Great Migration where they moved from the South, specifically Mississippi, to the Midwest, specifically Chicago," says Delk Adams. "Because of the historic significance of the Great Migration, Southern cuisine had a major impact on Midwestern cuisine. Pound cake, along with other soul-food classics, became a huge part of Illinois' food map and are shared in many homes across the state."
The sweet layers of the strawberry jam balanced with the soft whipped cream in between the light orange blossom spongecake layers is such a gorgeous mouthful of summer.
Fresh limoncello cake is fresh and vibrant with lots of zest. It's perfect for any summertime get-together.
Whether you like your carrot cake plain or with all the mix-ins, this recipe has you covered. Serve this sweetly spiced dessert with walnuts, raisins, coconut, and pineapple — or keep it simple with only shredded carrots in the batter. Either way, it's a guaranteed treat, especially when each slice gets a luxurious layer of cream cheese frosting.
This sunny cake takes red velvet from fall to summer with a lemony makeover. It's great for celebrating the special occasions like the Fourth when you want something bright and sweet. Instead of a stately layer cake, this recipe can be turned into 24 cute, individual cupcakes, too.
This is a vintage recipe that has been in Delk Adams' family for decades. "It was actually the very first cake I ever learned to bake," she says. "I suspect, not only because it is my mother's absolute favorite cake, but also because it was an unintimidating induction into the baking world, with results that even a nine-year-old girl could master."
This recipe from Milk Bar has one of the most underestimated flavors in the pastry world. Ground, freeze-dried corn, aka corn powder, lends an insanely fresh and natural depth, and allows you to make this cake all year round.
Duff Goldman layers this over-the-top cake with a luscious coconut and marshmallow meringue frosting.
We predict, once you make it for the Fourth, this pineapple upside-down cake will make an appearance at more than one special occasion!
This cake is just so impressive and fun when you slice into it. The combination of tart lemon and sweet, dark berries coupled with the rich buttercream frosting make this a refreshing yet decadent dessert.