10 Summer Wedding Desserts That Are Fun Alternatives to Cake

With these mouthwatering options, your guests will definitely want seconds.

Ice cream cones and cupcakes

Photo by Holtz Wedding Photography

There’s nothing more celebratory than indulging in a delectable dessert after you’ve tied the knot. Although serving cake at your reception is a time-honored tradition, there are so many creative options for a summer wedding that will set your big day apart from the rest. Maybe you and your spouse are looking to swap the classic confection with something unexpected, or perhaps you’re looking to provide more variety by supplementing the star of the show with your favorite post-dinner treat. Either way, switching up your main dessert is an opportunity to honor the season, showcase your personality, and make a statement. 

If you’re saying “I do” during the warmer months, you have an abundance of fresh produce available to enhance the flavor and presentation of your sugar fix. While options like strawberry shortcake and peach cobbler all incorporate ingredients grown during the season, you can also lean on the surrounding landscape to decorate your treats, such as donuts topped with pressed flowers. With frozen options, like a DIY ice cream sundae station, your guests will be able to withstand the summer heat. To recall fond memories of bonfires on the beach or summer carnivals, s’mores and cotton candy are other tasty and nostalgic candidates.

For some more ideas, we tapped the experts to gather a list of their all-time favorite treats for the warmer season. Ahead, the top 10 summer wedding desserts your guests will love.

Meet the Expert

  • Esther James is the lead cake designer of Barbados-based With Love by Esther James. She’s been creating wedding cakes since 2016.
  • Jill Freiberg is the owner and executive chef of Jillicious Foods & Events in Brooklyn, New York. She has been catering weddings for more than 25 years.
  • Heather Anne Leavitt is the owner of Sweet Heather Anne, a wedding bakery in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She has 13 years of experience in the wedding industry.
Ice cream cart at wedding with flavor sign

Photo by Logan Cole Weddings

Ice Cream Sundae Bar

Between the balmy summer temperatures and a crowded dance floor, there’s no doubt that your guests will be breaking a sweat. To help your friends and family keep cool, a make-your-own ice cream sundae bar is the perfect after-dinner treat. “Ice creams and sorbets provide a refreshing, colorful option that offers an interactive element at weddings for guests to have fun building their own unique flavors with toppings,” cake designer Esther James says. 

Besides the classic flavors of chocolate and vanilla, consider multicolored and seasonally-appropriate choices, such as mint chocolate chip, cotton candy, and mango. Guests can adorn their creations with fresh fruit, such as cherries and strawberries, or childhood favorites, like rainbow sprinkles and chocolate syrup. For a fun twist, serve the scoops in waffle cone bowls, so loved ones can enjoy them while mingling. If you’re throwing a vintage-inspired soirée, bring in an old-fashioned ice cream stand as the backdrop. Hosting an adult-only event? Jill Freiberg of Jillicious Foods & Events suggests selecting boozy ice cream made with brandy, rum, or bourbon, and then displaying the dessert in a martini glass with sprinkles around the rim.

S’mores Station

A golden marshmallow and melted chocolate stuffed between graham crackers is a finger-licking treat that captures the carefree days of childhood summers. To transport guests back in time, serve a s’mores station at your reception. If your venue allows it, Freiberg recommends toasting the marshmallow filling over mini tabletop fire pits in copper vessels filled with sea glass. You can also elevate the setup with different ingredients, whether it’s Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in place of chocolate or homemade cookies as the sandwich. To really go all out, gather guests around a bonfire to roast marshmallows. “It's also a nice activity for people who aren't into dancing and would rather chill by the fire,” Heather Anne Leavitt of Sweet Heather Anne remarks. Although a waterfront venue naturally lends itself to this dessert, s’mores also make an ideal accompaniment to backyard weddings.

Strawberry Shortcake Bars

Strawberries are one of the many delicious fruits that are in season during the summer months. Leavitt suggests shortcake bars infused with this fresh berry to conclude your celebration. By incorporating this type of local produce into your dessert, your final course will taste even more flavorful and high-quality. With a taste that’s light and refreshing, this treat won’t weigh you down, so you’ll have ample energy to dance the night away. For a convenient and elegant presentation, serve in glasses with an acrylic stem. Then, top with fresh slices of strawberries for another nod to the season.

Popcorn and cotton candy at Wedding

Photo by Heather Anderson Photography

Cotton Candy

Fluffy mounds of cotton candy will curb your sweet tooth and make an aesthetically pleasing display at any summer wedding. Since this treat comes in a variety of hues, choose varieties that compliment your color palette, from pink and purple to yellow and orange. If you’re hosting a celebration with a carnival theme, hiring a food truck to serve this dessert will produce the right atmosphere and introduce an interactive component. You can also look to cotton candy to embellish other menu items, whether it’s to top off cupcakes or your signature cocktails.

Key Lime Pie

With tangy lime filling and a crunchy graham cracker crust, key lime pie is representative of summer. The bright green hue will coordinate well with the vibrant shades that come to life from June to August, especially if it’s part of your color scheme. With this type of pie, you can even include the ceremonial cake cutting. “We have a few waiters cutting the pies that we set up on a beautiful table displaying the ingredients from the pies,” Freiberg describes. Garnished with a mound of whipped cream, lime zest, and a slice of the citrus fruit, your guests won’t be able to resist. 

Piña Colada Cupcakes

Cupcakes have become a popular wedding cake alternative in recent years. For a unique flavor that tastes like a summer vacation, James suggests piña colada. With this choice, you’ll get the classic cake texture without needing all of the plating and utensils. “Guests can nosh on small bites over the course of the evening instead of indulging in a large slice of cake in the hot weather,” Leavitt notes. For garnishes, complete with coconut shavings, a moscato cherry, and a mini paper umbrella. We love this option for weddings with tropical aesthetics by the beach

Donut wall featuring a spectrum of galaxy-inspired donuts

Photo by Abigail Miles

Donut Wall

Another dessert trend that has taken the wedding world by storm is a donut wall. Not only do donuts come in a variety of flavors, but they also provide a burst of color, especially if you include sprinkles and different types of frosting. For seasonal options, consider blueberry, strawberry, coconut, and even s’mores. “To personalize the dessert even more, we create a number of sweet dipping sauces for the donuts,” Freiberg says.  “Think chocolate, Nutella, or raspberry.” To enhance the display, decorate the wall with seasonal flowers for garden weddings and display fun signage with play-on words, like “A Hole Lotta Love,” for a playful addition.

Peach Cobbler

Nothing screams summer quite like a slice of peach cobbler. This is one dessert that James can’t recommend enough. Since peaches are at their peak in the warmer months, this cake alternative will feature the fruit at its freshest and most vibrant point. Vanilla ice cream will provide a creamy, contrasting texture, while a dusting of powdered sugar will amplify the sweetness.

wedding churros

photo by henry + mac

Mini Churros

To Freiberg, mini churros are a sugary treat that will leave your guests wanting another serving. Make them summer wedding-worthy with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, a sprinkle of cinnamon, melted chocolate, and dulce de leche dipping sauces. If you just want the fried dessert without the extras, wrap them in packaging branded with your custom crest.

Lemon Curd

Lemon curd is another colorful dessert that uses fresh summer ingredients. It’s sweet and sour and extremely versatile. Guests can enjoy the spread by the spoonful, or you can use it to upgrade raspberry cupcakes or blueberry scones. If you decide to serve it solo, displaying the dessert in mason jars is a suitable option at rustic functions on a farm or vineyard.

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