Our 10 Best Summer Baking Tips

No need to store the apron and shelve the cookbooks just because it is too hot to bake.

Pat York
How to Make Meringue
Photo: Jennifer R. Davick

Here are some easy tips to follow so you can enjoy delicious sweet treats not only year round, but especially in the summertime.

1. Cookie dough needs to go into the oven as soon as possible. The butter in cookie dough will start to melt if left out in a warm kitchen, which will change the texture of baked cookies. If necessary, chill dough in the refrigerator between batches to keep it firm. Make our all-time favorite cookies.

2. Take advantage of seasonal produce. With an abundance of sweet and juicy fruit at the markets, there is no need to spend a lot of time (and heat up the kitchen) with elaborate desserts. With a few additional ingredients and minimal extra sugar, you can create delicious cobblers, pies, and no-bake desserts. Get our peach cobbler recipe and other no-bake desserts.

3. Tops of cheesecakes often crack and sink, keeping them from looking as good as they taste. To make the cheesecake prettier (and add flavor), top it with macerated fruit or a layer of sweetened sour cream. Here are a few of our favorite cheesecakes.

4. For a crisp Southern-style cornbread crust, pour cornbread batter into a sizzling-hot cast-iron skillet — the drippings should hiss and sputter as soon as the batter hits the pan. Because, let’s be honest, what goes better with a summer veggie plate than a wedge of hot cornbread? Don’t miss this delicious cornbread crust dessert.

How to Make Meringue Pie
Photo: Jennifer R. Davick

5. Summer Ice-box pies deserve beautiful, fluffy toppings. To achieve mile-high meringues, make sure the bowl and beaters are clean and completely dry. Chill in refrigerator until time to use. Spread the meringue over top of pie, sealing the edges. Try our key-lime ice-box cake recipe.

6. Keep your kitchen cool and do your baking in the early morning. Bake and freeze unfrosted cake layers and pound cakes. Cakes shrink when frozen and expand when thawed, which can cause the frosting to crack. Place baked, completely cooled, unfrosted cake layers on baking sheets, and freeze until firm. Wrap each frozen layer in plastic wrap and aluminum foil, and place in large zip-top freezer bags; freeze up to one month. Thaw at room temperature. Try filling and frosting the cake layers while they are still partially frozen — this makes for super-easy spreading, with no crumbs. If possible, help keep your kitchen cool by baking cake layers early in the morning, then freeze until ready to use. Get our most amazing pound cake recipes.

7. Grease baking pans with solid vegetable shortening, unless otherwise specified. Margarines with a high liquid-to-fat ration and butter (which is about 20 percent water) can cause cake layers to stick to pans.

How to Soften Butter

8. Soften butter correctly in order to achieve the best results. Remove butter from the refrigerator 2 hours before using; let stand in a cool, shaded spot. Do not be tempted to hasten the process and put the butter where the hot summer sun will start melting it. Over-softened butter is partially melted and cannot be creamed into sugar or used to make a smooth frosting; it is simply too liquidy. Test softness by gently pressing with your index finger. If an indentation remains, and the stick of butter still holds its shape, it’s ready to use. Try some of our luscious cake recipes.

9. Measure dry ingredients accurately when baking. Extra sugar or leavening will cause a cake to fall; too much flour makes it dry.

10. Decorate like a pro—without a pastry bag. Spoon your favorite homemade frosting or purchased ready-to-use variety into a zip-top plastic freezer bag. Do not seal the bag. Snip a hole in one corner of the bag. Pipe desired shapes or letters onto brownies, cakes, or cupcakes. For best results, we recommend practicing a few shapes on wax paper to find the perfect one and to get a feel for working with the bag and frosting. See our best cake decorating ideas.