15 Picture-Perfect Desserts for the Fourth of July
It’s time to celebrate—and eat! Show off your patriotic spirit with these fun, festive, and colorful Independence Day treats.
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The stars (and stripes) of the show
Dessert is delicious, no matter how you slice it, but there’s something particularly wonderful about picture-perfect, Fourth of July–themed treats. Practically bursting with patriotism, these dishes also have just the right amount of kitsch and whimsy with their reds, whites, and blues. Whether you’re heading to a socially distanced party with friends or keeping it small with just your immediate family this year, these desserts will be the stars of your Fourth of July celebration—sometimes, quite literally!
Fruit flag cake
Is it really the Fourth of July if you don’t have a flag cake? The quintessential patriotic dessert, this Cool Whip–topped version has a pecan crust and layers of cream cheese and vanilla pudding hiding under its fruity stars and stripes. Assemble it in a 13×9-inch baking dish, like this one from Pyrex, which comes with its own handy lid so you can tote it around easily. Just be warned: This dessert will go fast, and your secret recipe probably won’t be a secret for long. “I took this patriotic dessert to a luncheon and came home with dozens of requests for the recipe! It was quite a success,” says Flo Burtnett of Gage, Oklahoma. “People told me it looked as good as it tasted.” Pair your favorite desserts with these festive Fourth of July appetizers.
Independence Day cookies
Stars and stripes forever—unless you’re talking about these delectable sugar cookies, which will disappear in minutes. The secret ingredients that make them irresistible? Cream cheese and a hint of lemon extract. Aside from a set of rectangular and star-shaped cookie cutters, all you need is a little bit of patience to achieve perfection. The key to success is to chill the dough for at least two hours so it’s easy to handle, a step that almost everyone skips when making cookies but really shouldn’t. Not only are these cookies worth the wait, but they also store and travel well. “I volunteer with a group that bakes treats for military personnel serving overseas,” says Susan Whetzel of Pearisburg, Virginia. “We really like to send these soft sugar cookies because they ship well and taste great!”
You can never go wrong with fudgy brownies. But for Independence Day, you can add a festive flair to this party favorite with chocolate frosting and red, white, and blue icing. To pipe the stars perfectly, use a pastry bag. This cake-decorating kit from Kootek comes with 36 stainless steel icing tips, making this a worthwhile investment to take all of your desserts up a notch. Plus, at $14.99, it’s truly a no-brainer. Here are another 25 kitchen gadgets you’ll wish you had years ago.
Patriotic ice pops
It’s a fact of life: Kids love frozen treats. Of course, parents don’t always want them to have all of the sugar and preservatives that often come with store-bought options, so why not make your own? These healthy pops come together quickly by blending and freezing just a few good-for-you ingredients—vanilla yogurt, honey, and berries. (Yes, that’s it!) “We whip up a big batch with multiple flavors so [the kids] have many choices, but these patriotic red, white, and blueberry ones are always a favorite!” says Shannon Carino of Frisco, Texas. All you need is a blender and a set of popsicle molds. These silicone molds from Milimoli not only have 10 slots for popsicle-making but also come with a funnel and 62 popsicle sticks.
Crackling star pops
Regular old Rice Krispies treats get a patriotic makeover with this Crispy Star Pops recipe. For even heating and less of a chance of burning, use a Dutch oven—like this enameled version from Lodge, which has nearly 11,000 near-perfect reviews on Amazon—to melt the butter and marshmallows. Mix in the cereal, press into a baking pan, and cut out star shapes with a cookie cutter. Top with melted white chocolate and red, white, and blue sprinkles, and finish them off with a popsicle stick for easy eating. “Serve them as an after-picnic dessert. Or slip them into cellophane bags, tie on ribbons, and give them as favors,” suggests Colleen Sturma of Milwaukee.
No matter how much you love baking, sometimes you just don’t want to turn on the oven, especially on a hot summer day. This no-bake Star-Spangled Lemon Icebox Pie solves that problem. Plus, if you have young kids, you can get them to do the work for you—at minimum, arranging the berries in a star pattern, says Lauren Katz of Ashburn, Virginia. Or, if you want to get them to practice their math and measuring skills, in addition to their cooking ones, give them the ingredients and a 9-inch pie plate and let them have at it! On July 4th or any other day, enjoy these 11 fun backyard games with the whole family.
Check out this clever and nostalgic recipe created by Darlene Brenden of Salem, Oregon. “The sound of the ice cream truck has even my husband running out to the curb with money in hand,” she says. “Our neighborhood has a big potluck on the Fourth of July, so I decided to make cookies that resemble Bomb Pops. These were a big hit!” To make, divide your dough into three parts, then use different food colorings and flavor extracts (blueberry, raspberry, and lemon) in each. After refrigerating the 10-inch-long blocks, cut them into quarter-inch slices, press each with a fork to get that classic ice-pop look, bake, and let them cool fully on wire racks before serving. This three-tiered Wilton Excelle Elite rack lets you cool lots of cookies without taking up lots of space. Pro tip: You can turn these cookies into “pops” by putting frosting in the middle of two and inserting a popsicle stick.
In case you were wondering, this is why we set off fireworks on the Fourth of July.
“These sweet little parfaits take everything that’s good about cheesecake and make it way easier. You get the rich creaminess, graham cracker crunch, and bright berry flavor all in a fun individual portion,” notes the Taste of Home Test Kitchen. Plus, if you’re having a socially distanced get-together, individual portions are the way to go to reduce potential germ transmission. While you can layer your ingredients in any glass or dessert dish, these quilted mason jars are also a great option since they have their own lids—which is great for chilling in the fridge, displaying on a busy table, and keeping bugs away.
Beignets and berries
We’re about to let you in on a life-changing secret: Beignets seem hard to make, but they’re actually super easy—as long as you have the right equipment. That means you need a good deep fryer, like the well-rated, easy-to-clean T-fal stainless steel deep fryer, which comes with a removable basket. While this Springtime Beignets and Berries recipe simply calls for a dusting of powdered sugar and an assortment of berries to arrange around your beignets, you can also make a quick berry whipped cream and pipe it inside for a fun surprise, says Kathi Hemmer of Grand Junction, Colorado. By the way, Disney just shared its Mickey Mouse beignet recipe—and now you can make it at home.
Spiked ice cream
“It’s about time someone created an ice cream sundae just for adults!” says Emory Doty of Jasper, Georgia. “I frequently make this dessert to use up juicy berries during peak summer months.” So, what makes this a grown-up recipe, exactly? Vodka-spiked strawberries and blueberries! The fancy dark-chocolate sauce and slivered almonds don’t hurt, either. Serve in old-fashioned ice cream glasses for the perfect touch. This sturdy six-piece set from Glokers comes with stainless steel spoons with extra long handles, so you can gobble up every last bit of yummy goodness.
Sweet berry salad
Confectioners’ sugar, cream cheese, and heavy whipping cream put a decadent spin on a traditional fruit salad. Plus, “when blueberries and strawberries aren’t in season, you can substitute frozen berries with equally good results,” notes Karen Wenzel of Conroe, Texas. But perhaps best of all, this Two-Berry Fluff Salad whips up quickly and you don’t have to wait for baking or chilling time to dig in. Just mix up the “fluff” and eat! To do that, you’ll need a good handheld mixer, like the Cuisinart Power Advantage Plus; it has nine speeds and a bevy of attachments, which you can store right in a clear, attachable, plastic storage case, so you never have to rip apart your kitchen cabinets to find what you need.
Make sure you know the one simple trick that will make your strawberries last longer.
This Watermelon Feta Flag Salad is proof that you can have something delicious without derailing your diet on the Fourth. Featuring arugula, blueberries, feta cheese, watermelon, and a light vinaigrette, this savory fruit salad makes a pretty addition to any dessert table. Arrange it on a simple rectangular melamine tray to let it take center stage. Melamine is a particularly good idea for outdoor celebrations since you don’t have to worry about potentially shattering it; it’s durable, BPA-free, and dishwasher-safe.
Frozen lemonade for the Fourth
This frozen lemonade is a drink and a dessert all in one! “This patriotic drink is as pretty as it is tasty,” notes Shawn Carleton of San Diego, who created this festive concoction. “Layering cherries, blueberries, and lemon juice, we created a striped lemonade that sings with Fourth of July pride.” Aside from a handful of ingredients, you’ll need a good blender, like this 72-ounce, 1,000-watt Ninja, to get the perfect crushed-ice consistency.
Beautifully layered berry pie
A variation on a classic, this Red, White, and Blue Berry Pie is bound to be your family’s new favorite. It’s made with blueberries and raspberries, as well as a sweetened cream-cheese and Cool Whip layer, and reviewers rave that it has “amazing flavors” and comes together easily, especially with a premade pastry shell. Put it in a pretty pie dish—like this 9-inch version from Emile Henry, which is extremely durable and scratch-resistant—and it’ll go from oven to fridge to table. Check out these 50 pies for 50 states to find out which is tops where you live.
Red, white, and blue striped jello
Talk about a show-stopping centerpiece on your dessert table. “Almost as spectacular as the fireworks, this lovely [dish] makes quite a ‘bang’ at our July 4th meal,” says Sue Gronholz of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. “It’s exciting to serve, and our guests loved the cool fruity and creamy layers.” This Patriotic Gelatin Salad takes a little time, since you’ll need to let the separate layers chill and set in a 10-inch fluted tube pan, but the result is certainly worth it.
Next, check out these vintage photos of Fourth of July celebrations.
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