Grandpa's Favorite Summer Desserts Are Like Nostalgia On A Plate

It’s called sweet summertime for a reason.

cherry dump cake

It’s called sweet summertime for a reason. Actually, we can think of dozens of reasons summer is sweet, especially in the South. “It doesn’t take much to make summertime memories,” says lifestyle writer Patricia Shannon. “Unlike other seasons, most of it centers on being outside and left to our own devices from dawn until dusk. It’s a kind of joy that requires no material things aside from what’s all around us.” What’s something that’s all around us during summertime? Fresh produce. Lucky for Grandpa, much of it stars in some of his favorite summer desserts. From Easy Peach Pie to a Triple-Berry Sonker, these seasonal desserts will bring you right back to Grandpa’s kitchen. Who needs the ice cream truck when you have nostalgic treats like homemade Strawberry Milkshakes and Banana Split Cake right at home? Retro Grandpa favorites like Magic Cookie Bars and Blueberry Hand Pies were practically made for summer picnics. And it wouldn’t be a list of Grandpa’s favorite summer desserts without No. 1 on the call sheet—Peach Cobbler. It’s time to add a few sweet memories to your season and bake something with Grandpa. 

01 of 27

Pecan-Peach Cobbler

Pecan-Peach Cobbler
Beth Dreiling Hontzas

Peach cobbler just might be Grandpa’s Number 1 favorite summer dessert. We dolled up refrigerated pie crust with chopped toasted pecans and sugar.

02 of 27

Classic Chess Pie

plates with slices of chess pie
Photographer: Jen Causey, Prop Stylist: Christina Daley, Food Stylist: Ana Kelly

If it ain’t broke…You know the rest. The beauty of this pantry pie is in its simplicity. Since you’re making it during summertime, top it with some fresh, colorful berries and a dollop of whipped cream. 

03 of 27

Chocolate Delight

Ouida’s Chocolate Delight
Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Styling: Christine Keely

Grandpa might know this retro layered dessert as another name (it goes by many!), but the taste is just as sweet as he remembers. This recipe came to us from Erin Napier’s grandmother’s collection

04 of 27

Heavenly Key Lime Pie

Heavenly Key Lime Pie

Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

A classic for a reason, you can never go wrong with Key lime pie for cooling off in the summertime. Just be sure it’s yellow, y’all!

05 of 27

Mamie Eisenhower's Chocolate Fudge

Southern Living Mamie Eisenhower Chocolate Fudge cut and ready to serve

Fred Hardy II; Food Stylist: Karen Rankin; Prop Stylist: Christine Keeley

Some people might picture little squares of fudge in those pretty holiday tins, but we think there’s no bad season for a batch. This recipe from the 1950s will taste just like Grandpa remembers it. 

06 of 27

Lemon-Lime Poke Cake

Lemon-Lime Poke Cake in a rectangle blue pan
Photographer: Greg DuPree, Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer Prop Stylist: Audrey Davis

“Poke cakes popped up in American kitchens around 1970, first appearing in a print advertisement intended to increase Jell-O sales,” writes Contributing Editor Sheri Castle. This easy summer dessert actually starts with a box of cake mix, but the poke method makes it taste better than homemade. 

07 of 27

Banana Pudding

Banana Pudding

Jennifer Davick

We can’t keep count of how many times a supper at Grandma and Grandpa’s house was finished off with classic Banana Pudding for dessert. Surprise Grandpa with a batch of your own this summer. 

08 of 27

Cornbread & Sweet Milk

Damaris Phillips Cornbread & Sweet Milk Recipe
Damaris Phillips

Grandpa may remember this dish with slight variations, but the concept is the same. “In the Southern Appalachian Mountains, people are crazy for their Cornbread and Milk, a concoction made by crumbling leftover cornbread into a tall drinking glass and topping it with milk. It's usually buttermilk, although some people prefer ‘sweet milk,’ a vernacular term for regular fresh milk,” writes Contributing Editor Sheri Castle. “In some corners, people call this Crumble In, or simply Bread and Milk."

09 of 27

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Icebox Pie

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Icebox Pie
Photographer Victor Protasio, Food Stylist Ruth Blackburn, Prop Stylist Christine Keely

This sweet, chilled pie recipe can be made up to two days in advance, so it’s the ideal way to prepare for the big family cookout. Just be sure to wait to make the whipped cream and top the pie with it until just before serving for the best result. 

10 of 27

Blueberry Cobbler with Buttermilk-Cornmeal Topping

Blueberry Cobbler with Buttermilk-Cornmeal Topping in a bowl and casserole dish
Ann Taylor Pittman/Southern Living

Buttermilk, cornmeal, and of course, “a good amount of melted butter” give this super-Southern rendition of classic blueberry cobbler “an intriguing texture that sets this cobbler apart” and “a gooey butter-cake sort of feel,” writes Test Kitchen Pro Ann Taylor Pittman. 

11 of 27

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
Photographer: Jennifer Causey Food Stylist: Ana Kelly Prop Stylist: Kay Clarke

Grandpa is always on the hunt for ways to use his heirloom cast-iron skillet. Though it’s often reserved for savory recipes like fried chicken or cornbread, this nostalgic cake is a cast-iron staple. 

12 of 27

Spiced Rum-Peach Dumplings

Spiced Rum-Peach Dumplings
Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller

Grandpa loves old-fashioned apple dumplings in the fall, but this peach recipe from Georgia chef Scottie Johnson will immediately become a seasonal staple for him. Crescent rolls and a citrus soft drink are a few store-bought shortcuts that make quick work of this recipe. 

13 of 27

Blueberry-Lavender Hand Pies

Blueberry-Lavender Hand Pies
Antonis Achilleos; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

These nostalgic handheld sweets will bring Grandpa back in time. He’ll want to save one to enjoy the next day with his morning coffee. 

14 of 27

Millionaire Pie

Southern Living Millionaire Pie cut and ready to serve

Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

Want Grandpa to feel like a million bucks? Whip up this retro no-bake pie for him this summer! It’ll take you a minuscule 10 minutes of hands-on time. 

15 of 27

Triple Berry Sonker With Dip

Berry Sonker with Dip
Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Styling: Mary Clayton Carl Jones

A sonker is similar to the fruit cobblers Grandpa knows and loves, but it’s the vanilla sauce called “dip” that takes it above-and-beyond delicious. We used a combination of blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries, but you can throw in whichever combination and ratio of berries Grandpa prefers. 

16 of 27

Coca Cola Chocolate Cake

Coca Cola Chocolate Cake

Antonis Achilleos; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Kathleen Varner

There are plenty of ways Grandma and Grandpa have whipped up a stunning cake using soda over the years, but Coca Cola Chocolate Cake is undoubtedly the family favorite. “This Fudgy Coca-Cola Frosting is the reason I'm giving up store-bought icing for good,” writes Senior Homes and Features Editor Betsy Cribb.

17 of 27

Strawberry Milkshake

a parfait glass with strawberry milkshake
Jessica Furniss/Southern Living

Bring Grandpa back to the soda shop with a homemade strawberry milkshake. Instead of strawberry ice cream, our five-ingredient recipe starts with fresh summer strawberries.

18 of 27

McLeod Farms' Fresh Peach Pound Cake

McLeod Farms Fresh Peach Pound Cake
Photographer Victor Protasio, Food Stylist Margaret Dickey, Prop Stylist Chistina Daley

Grandpa loves Old-Fashioned Pound Cake any time of year, but for the summer months, a Fresh Peach Pound Cake is a seasonal must-make. “I try new recipes all the time, and this was my favorite from this summer!” wrote one five-star reviewer. “It’s delicious. I’ve shared it with friends in multiple settings and everyone loves it.”

19 of 27

Magic Cookie Bars

Magic Cookie Bars
Photographer: Jennifer Causey Food Stylist: Emily Nabors Hall Prop Stylist: Audrey Davis

Whether you call them Magic Cookie Bars or Hello Dolly Bars, these delightful treats are perfectly crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside. These would be a great baking project for the kids to help Grandpa with in the kitchen. 

20 of 27

Banana Split Cake

Banana Split Cake
Photographer Victor Protasio, Food Stylist Ali Ramee, Prop Stylist Heather Chadduck

This Banana Split Cake is absolutely precious in presentation, but it’s even more yummy once you slice into it. This chilled, no-bake dessert was made for hot Southern summers.

21 of 27

Easy Peach Pie

peach pie on a table with a bowl of peach pie with an ice cream sccop
Ann Taylor Pittman/Southern Living

“Unlike many peach pie recipes, which add cinnamon and/or nutmeg to enhance the flavor, we stir in a little vanilla extract for a peaches-and-cream vibe,” writes Test Kitchen Pro Ann Taylor Pittman. Since we utilized refrigerated pie crusts, this delicious pie only needs 20 minutes of hands-on time. 

22 of 27

Plum-Berry Cornmeal Sheet Cake

Plum-Berry Cornmeal Sheet Cake
Alison Miksch

An old-fashioned, not-too-sweet cornmeal batter, tons of fresh summer fruit, and a large enough size to feed a crowd at the family reunion make this sheet cake the ideal dessert for the season.

23 of 27

Death by Chocolate

Death by Chocolate
Micah A. Leal

Some of our favorite vintage dessert recipes start with a packet of instant pudding, including this layered delight. Since it’s made in your trusty 9- x 13-in. dish, it’s perfect to bake-and-take to summer celebrations. 

24 of 27

Cherry Dump Cake

cherry dump cake

“As the name implies, all we must do to make one is to strategically dump (sprinkle or spoon, actually) a dry cake mix and a few other convenience products into a baking pan and pop it in the oven,” writes Contributing Editor Sheri Castle. “There's nothing dumpy about that idea, or the finished product, which resembles a tender cakey cobbler.” Instead of fussing with a cherry pie this Fourth of July, Grandpa will be just as smitten with Cherry Dump Cake.

25 of 27

South Carolina Coconut Cream Pie

South Carolina Coconut Cream Pie
Southern Living

Even though we try to use fresh produce as often as possible in the summertime, there’s something we can’t resist about a cool cream pie recipe. We used a pre-made pie crust to save you time, but you can always make one from scratch. 

26 of 27

Pig Pickin' Cake

Pig Pickin' Cake
Southern Living

You might be wondering, “What is Pig Pickin’ Cake?” But Grandpa has been enjoying a slice at summer cookouts for decades. 

27 of 27

Mama’s Rum Cake

Mama's Rum Cake
Peter Frank Edwards

If the grandparents are hosting an adults-only party this summer, there’s no better boozy dessert to serve than a classic rum cake. This one comes from the beloved Mama Dip’s Kitchen in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 

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