Summertime Sweets

Cool treats for hot days

Key Lime Pie Bars feature graham crackers, ground pecans and cinnamon.

Photography by Jeff Amberg

Summertime Columbia is hot, humid and sticky! As the days of needing a bowl of warm soup are distant memories, now is the time to reach for something cold and refreshing. Whether you’re heading to the beach, hosting a backyard barbecue or just looking for something to satisfy your sweet tooth, these recipes will have you covered.   


Watermelon Sorbet

Watermelon is a summertime staple. It’s hard to believe it can get even better!


1 cup sugar

1 cup water

8 cups chopped seedless watermelon

2 tablespoons lemon juice

In a small pan add sugar and water and bring to a boil. Cook until the sugar has dissolved and set aside to cool. Puree watermelon in batches and place in a large bowl. Add sugar syrup and lemon juice; mix well. Place in a 13-by-9-inch dish, cover and freeze until firm.

Puree frozen mixture before serving to achieve a “sorbet-like” texture.


“Skinny” Strawberry Ice Cream Sandwiches 

24 graham crackers

2 cups fresh strawberries, roughly chopped

1 (8-ounce) container of whipped topping (can be low fat)

Dipping chocolate (optional)

Combine chopped strawberries and whipped topping; mix well. Spread the whipped topping and strawberry mixture on half of the graham crackers, and top with the other half, making “sandwiches” with the mixture. Freeze for 2 hours until set. Follow the instructions of your dipping chocolate so that the chocolate is melted and ready for dipping. Dip one corner of each sandwich into the chocolate (optional).


Sangria Ice Pops

A fun and refreshing treat for adults, and only four ingredients!


1 cup pomegranate juice (orange juice, cherry juice or pineapple juice can be substituted if you prefer)

1 cup fresh raspberries

2 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 cups red wine 

Combine the red wine and sugar in a saucepan and heat until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and cool. Stir in pomegranate juice and set aside.

Divide the raspberries evenly into ice pop molds. Pour the sangria on top of the fruit into the molds. Freeze overnight and enjoy!



Ice Cream Sandwich Cake

Kids and adults will love this super simple dessert that can be put together in no time.


12 ice cream sandwiches 

1 (12-ounce) jar premade caramel sauce

12 ounces whipped topping, thawed

1 bag Heath® bar toffee bits or candy topping of your choice

Line a 13-by-9-inch casserole dish with ice cream sandwiches, breaking them to fit the entire surface of the pan. Pour the caramel sauce over the top of the ice cream sandwich layer. Spread the whipped topping over the caramel and sprinkle with Heath® bar toffee bits. See, told you it was easy!


Key Lime Pie Bars

Sweet, tangy and just what summer is all about.


12 large graham cracker rectangles, crushed

2 tablespoons ground pecans

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 stick unsalted butter, melted

3 egg yolks, room temperature

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

4 teaspoons lime zest (approximately 3 limes)

1/2 cup key lime juice (regular limes are fine if you can’t find key limes)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper. In a mixing bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, pecans, sugar and cinnamon. Add the melted butter and stir to combine. Press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside, leaving the oven on.

In an electric mixer, whisk the egg yolks for 2 minutes. Add the condensed milk and continue to whisk for another 2 minutes, scraping down the sides before adding the lime zest and lime juice. Continue to mix on low for 2 additional minutes. Pour the filling into the crust and bake for 15 minutes. Cool completely, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Slice and serve chilled.



Peach Tart

Peaches are a summertime favorite in South Carolina, and this tart is quicker than a pie but just as impressive!


1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed

3 large peaches, sliced thin

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 large egg

Powdered sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a mixing bowl toss the peach slices with lemon juice. 

Unfold the puff pastry on to the baking sheet and lightly score the dough by cutting a 1-inch border around the edge. Prick the pastry all over with a fork. Arrange the peach slices so that they are slightly overlapping each other in three rows inside the border of the pastry.

In another bowl, whisk together the egg with a splash of water. Brush the edges of the pastry with the egg wash. Bake the tart for 30 to 35 minutes until golden brown and puffed. Remove the tart and let it cool before dusting with powdered sugar. Slice into squares and serve.



Cherry Coke Floats 

A nostalgic and delicious treat that will take you back to your childhood.


6 cups Coca-Cola® (or diet cola)

2 cups vanilla ice cream  

4 to 6 tablespoons cherry syrup (such as grenadine)

Maraschino cherries and whipped cream (for garnish)

Add about 1/2 cup of vanilla ice cream to four glasses. Pour soda over the ice cream, then add the grenadine syrup and stir. Garnish with whipped cream and a cherry on top.


Ice Cream Cupcakes

Two delicious treats combined into one.


24 cupcakes, baked, cooled 

3 cups ice cream

1/4 cup sprinkles, if desired

Whipped cream or your favorite frosting (chocolate or vanilla)

Start with 24 cupcakes that have been baked and cooled. You can use your favorite flavor box mix, or your favorite from scratch recipe. Place the cupcakes on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper and make room for a second cookie sheet lined with wax paper in the freezer.

Scoop ice cream into a bowl and let it soften for a few minutes. Stir in sprinkles, then place the bowl in the freezer to firm while you prepare the cupcakes. Otherwise, just have your favorite flavor ice cream in the freezer and ready to use.

Using a paring knife, cut a large circle (about the size of a half dollar) in the top of the cupcake. Cut down almost to the bottom of the cupcake, then lift out the cut part. You should end up with a cone-shaped chunk of cake. Slice the bottom of the cone off of each of the cupcake pieces. (You need to make the piece of cake smaller, because the cupcake will be filled with ice cream.)

Scoop about 1 to 2 tablespoons of ice cream into the center of each cupcake. Place the top back on and press gently. Put the cupcake on the cookie sheet in the freezer. Continue until all of the cupcakes are filled and in the freezer.

Cover the cupcakes with plastic wrap (leaving them on the cookie sheet) and freeze for at least 4 hours before serving. When ready to serve, have your frosting or a thawed carton of whipped topping ready. Remove a cupcake from the freezer, frost as desired and serve immediately!

Tip: Prepare all of the cupcakes for the ice cream, then work in batches of 3 to 4 cupcakes, filling with ice cream and placing them on the cookie sheet that’s in the freezer. That way the ice cream won’t melt out of the cupcakes.


Strawberry Lemonade Bars

Why drink your strawberry lemonade, when you can eat it?


Crust and Crumble Topping

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Pinch salt, optional and to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch square pan with foil and spray with cooking spray; set aside. Lining the pan will really help with cleanup and is recommended.

In a large, microwave-safe bowl melt the butter, about 1 minute on high power. Add the sugars and whisk to combine. Add the flour, optional salt and stir to combine. Mixture will be very dry and sandy with some larger, crumble pieces. Set a heaping 3/4 cup crumble mixture aside. Transfer remaining mixture to prepared pan, and using a spatula or your fingers, pack the mixture to create an even, smooth, flat crust; set aside.



1 large egg

1/2 cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt OR sour cream 

1/3 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

In a medium bowl, add the egg, Greek yogurt, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla, and whisk to combine or beat with a handheld electric mixer until smooth. Add the flour and whisk to combine or beat with a handheld electric mixer until smooth.

Evenly pour filling over the crust and jiggle pan to help distribute it or smooth it with a spatula; set aside.


Strawberry Layer
2 cups heaping diced strawberries (fresh or frozen, or a combo) 

1/3 cup granulated sugar (or 1/2 cup if berries are sour)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons lemon zest, or to taste

2 teaspoons cornstarch

About 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour. (If using fresh berries, you may not need any flour, and if using frozen berries you will likely need 2 tablespoons.)

In a separate medium bowl, add all layer ingredients except flour and toss to combine. Evaluate mixture; If it’s very thin and runny add up to 2 tablespoons of flour to help thicken. If using fresh berries, you may not need any flour. Evenly distribute strawberry mixture over the filling in pan set aside with crust, smoothing it lightly with a spatula. Evenly sprinkle with the reserved heaping 3/4 cup crust mixture. Bake for about 60 to 75 minutes (place pan on a cookie sheet for insurance against overflow if your pan is quite full), or until edges are bubbling quite vigorously and there’s some bubbling in the center. Crumble topping should appear set and very pale golden. Place pan on a wire rack and allow bars to cool for at least 2 hours (overnight is even better) before slicing and serving.

These recipes were developed by the ladies at Lillian’s Eatery & Bakery.