Yes, we love day-long baking projects, and you can bet we’re going to labor over stunning cakes and pies worthy of Instagram stardom. But over holiday weekends, like Labor Day, what we love even more than a pièce de résistance is something that’s sweet, simple, and satisfying. For the best Labor Day dessert recipes, we thought we’d reach into our archives for easy, make-ahead summer desserts that follow the Nigella Lawson mantra: Minimum effort, maximum pleasure. Read on for the Labor Day desserts we can’t wait to make this summer. So here are 44 no-fuss, totally delicious, make-ahead dessert recipes to enjoy from now until Labor Day—from speedy peanut butter and chocolate bars to citrusy no-bake cheesecake.
1. Key Lime Pie
For an intense, juicy lime flavor, use a combination of both lime juice and lime zest when you make this Florida Keys classic. Don’t sleep on the graham cracker crust, made with unsalted butter and heavy cream, either; it’s as good as it gets.
Celebrate Labor Day with this make-ahead, all-American dessert. Prepare individual red, white, and blue cakes and stack them strategically so that when you cut a big slice, a stars and stripes pattern will appear just like magic.
Labor Day is all about honoring the achievements of American workers, so to celebrate, sit back, relax, and make this no-fuss, four-ingredient gelato recipe. It takes only a few minutes of prep work, so you can get back to celebrating in style.
Cap off the unofficial end of summer with this essential warm-weather dessert—homemade vanilla ice cream. Use pure vanilla extract or the seeds of a whole vanilla pod for extra-rich flavor. Once it’s churned and fully frozen, garnish a scoop or two with hot fudge, sprinkles, whipped cream, and, of course, a cherry on top.
There’s no sour cream in this cheesecake recipe, which is the ultimate make-ahead Labor Day dessert. But we promise no one will complain. Instead, 2 pounds of ricotta create a luscious, fluffy texture in each and every bite. The cake is studded with mini chocolate chips and sliced almonds and served with a velvety chocolate-coffee ganache.
When you’re craving a quick and easy Labor Day dessert that you can make ahead, consider this: a lime pudding with a butter graham cracker crumble. It’s a simple spin on a key lime pie in fun, single-serve portions.
For a patriotic twist on an old-fashioned oatmeal cookie, how about cookie dough made with pecan butter, rolled in oats, baked, and then filled with blueberry preserves? Bonus points if you made your own using fresh summer berries.
If you’re hosting a big party for Labor Day and want something that will please a crowd, this superior pound cake, created by Food52 resident Sohla El-Wally, hits the nail on the head. A combination of whole eggs, an egg yolk, and sour cream ensures that every bite is moist and buttery.
There may not be any blue here, but there is plenty of red and white in this Labor Day dessert to show off your all-American spirit. And hey, who’s to say you can’t sprinkle blueberries over the top for the final flourish of patriotism? Certainly not us.
Embrace the end of summer season with this showstopping berries-and-cream layer cake.
Ripe peaches take center stage in this summer cobbler that’s a rustic treat for a Labor Day dessert. A combination of almond extract and slivered almonds bring sweet flavor.
“Sometimes, you can’t beat a classic,” writes recipe author Posie (Harwood) Brien). “These versatile bars are loaded with coconut, chocolate, and nuts—use the basic template and add as many layers as you like: caramel, chopped candies, peanut butter, and so on are all very welcome.”
Everything you want in a lemon bar, and then some. “After testing a few recipes during a long time,” says recipe developer kuka. “I discovered that using confectioners’ sugar and corn starch in the crust, and adding just 1 cup ricotta to the filling, gave the bars just the right height.”
15. Olive (Oil) Cake
“This is a flawless, crisp-chewy, endlessly malleable olive oil cake blueprint you will want to pocket, even without the crazy-sounding addition of olives,” claims our Genius Recipes columnist Kristen Miglore. “But you should really suspend disbelief and give them a try.” Travels well, too.
Is there anything more make-ahead than cookies? Chewy cookie fans can rejoin in this oatmeal-raisin update on the fan-favorite recipe from the Quaker Oatmeal lid. A few tweaks from Posie make all the difference in the world.
“Four moist layers of carrot cake, filled and iced with the creamiest of cream cheese icings,” My Family Recipe contributing writer Richard Reutter says about his mother’s famous carrot cake. “It has remained one of my favorites to this day.”
In search of a marshmallow crispy treat with a little more going for it, Alanna “used chocolate, almond butter, coconut oil, and rice and maple syrups as the goo to bind the treats together, and topped them with a chocolate-coconut oil ganache.”
Classic chocolate and peanut butter get turned into a no-bake cookie bar that’s ideal for making ahead. Keep this one in your back pocket for Labor Day weekend.
This is, according to Kristen, the olive oil cake that will ruin you for all others. Hailing from Maialino Restaurant in New York City, it can be made for breakfast in muffin form or even layered with mascarpone buttercream for birthdays.
“My teenager doesn’t like bananas, but he loves these blondies,” writes one reviewer. “I have made these three times already. Definitely a keeper!”
Baking expert Alice Medrich advises that you make this luscious summer pudding “at least one and up to 3 days ahead, so there’s never any last minute pressure.” Sounds good to us!
Who would say no to chocolate on Labor Day? This chocolate-hazelnut gem (also from Alice) is inspired by the “Gianduja Mousse” in the December 1995 issue of Sunset magazine.
Still simple but even more special thanks to cinnamon and nutmeg, recipe author Kendra Vaculin’s marshmallow crispy treats are spiced then dipped in melted semi-sweet chocolate for extra pizzazz.
Buttery Oreo crust, voluptuous peanut butter fluff, and more chocolate sandwich cookies strewn on top like streusel? Sign me up.
“This is a brighter, lighter blueberry pie than you’re used to,” Kristen writes, “one that keeps all the texture and integrity of blueberries intact. You can use your go-to pie crust—just roll out a single crust and blind bake it.”
There’s nothing more crowd-friendly than sheet cake—and chocolate sheet cake? Forget about it.
“Disappointed by vegan buttercreams,” Kristen says, “Anita Shepherd consulted the back of a Cool Whip container and spied a whole lot of corn syrup. She turned to its more wholesome equivalent: brown rice syrup. Added on its own, the syrup made the frosting sleek and glossy, but still heavier and stickier than she wanted. But she discovered that the syrup helped stabilize the base enough that adding almond milk (a whole cup!), made it poof into pillowy ripples in the mixer.”
You’ve seen this pie all summer (and you’ve probably eaten it, too). As one of our most popular recipes this summer, we couldn’t not add it to this list for Labor Day, could we?
We love this warm, gooey, ruby-red crumble with whipped cream or ice cream on top. The hibiscus adds nice flavor and, of course, gorgeous color.
“I often will eat fruits and nuts plus yogurt for breakfast,” says recipe author fiveandspice. “This is basically a fancified version of that very simple breakfast. And look how pretty it is!”
An updated version of the old-school classic, this homemade caramel popcorn is airy, crisp, and buttery with crunchy-salty peanuts for even more flair.
34. Rocky Road
Because there’s always room for more chocolate, especially on a long holiday weekend.
This silky, citrus-forward cheesecake is an excellent make-ahead option, since it actually recommends that you chill it in the fridge overnight before serving up slices. Bonus: You won’t need to turn on the oven.
These super-chewy kitchen sink cookies are all about the add-ins, from M&Ms to chopped dried apricots. Bake up a batch and keep them in the freezer for later.
“This is one of the best ways to use up a bunch of bananas that are about to go bad,” writes food writer and culinary tour guide Carlos C. Olaechea of his sticky banana-cocoa bars. They also happen to be one of our favorite make-ahead desserts—prep them the day before and let them rest in the fridge overnight.
This tender, summer-perfect cake gets its bursts of brightness from whole, fresh blueberries and lemon zest and juice. Even better, it keeps well in an airtight container for up to a few days.
“Banana pudding gets icebox cake–ified, becoming a no-bake, no-cook dessert to keep on hand all summer long,” writes Big Little Recipes columnist and food editor Emma Laperruque of this super-chill icebox cake.
40. Ice Cream Cake
This cake is perfect for making ahead—especially if you have a spacious freezer. Start with your favorite simple cake layer, then top with a few corresponding ice creams, sauces, and crunchy bits. Store in the chill chest and take out when you’re ready to dig in.
Crunchy chocolate creme sandwich cookies, tangy Greek yogurt, churned together into a silky, gorgeous oblivion. Make a double batch and store it in the freezer, then take out and top with hot fudge.
Pound cake always tastes better the next day, right? Softer, richer, full-er with flavor. This one is no exception, with a crusty, sugary crust and a subtle hint of citrus running throughout.
Stir together this simplest-ever vanilla cake from Jami Curl, then let it sit for a while…a long while! On the day you’re ready to enjoy it, mix together a strawberry compote and butterscotch sauce to drizzle all over the top.
Another no-bake cheesecake, this time with a salty-sweet pretzel crust and a spectacular berry top-off.
What desserts are you making this Labor Day? Let us know in the comments below.