Summer Dessert Alternatives (That Won't Melt!)

Summer is such an appealing time of year to hold special celebrations, retreats, conferences, and business meetings. Clients flock to venues with gorgeous outdoor spaces, sometimes with ambitious ideas about the way their events will look, feel, and taste.

On occasion (perhaps more often that we care to admit), these ambitious ideas are outside of the realm of possibility due to heat, direct sunlight, or exposure to rain, pests, and the like. It can be uncomfortable to address a client’s disappointment when dreams conflict with safe food service or presentation, but you can turn the situation around. When you need to steer your imaginative—but slightly impractical—clients toward summer-safe desserts, it helps to have an arsenal of delectable ideas to draw from.

We consulted Anthony Cuellar, Pastry Chef at Wente Vineyards, and asked him to help us brainstorm some summer dessert alternatives that won’t melt. We hope this list makes you as hungry as it has made us!

Mini Pavlova with lemon curd

Refreshing desserts to help beat the heat

If you’re having an event outside on a hot day, the traditional sorbets and ice cream aren’t your best options. If you still want to serve something refreshing that will hold up a bit better, try a Pavlova with Lemon Curd and fresh berries. Or, serve Semifreddo, which offers the feel of ice cream, but won’t melt as easily. Desserts with citrus profiles are always refreshing for guests.

Finger foods

Clean up can be a concern on hot days. Servers need to clear quickly and efficiently to avoid swarming pests in addition to general unwanted clutter. Cream puffs are great finger foods for passing at outdoor events. Don’t restrict yourself to “plain old cream in a puff”—although the traditional version is delicious. Be creative with your flavors. Try “Creamsicle” or your favorite ice cream flavors.

You can also pass mini nut bars or fresh fruit tartlets at an outdoor event. If you station your finger foods, make sure you choose a sheltered area out of direct sunlight, and present small amounts that are replenished frequently to avoid spoilage.

A savory dessert option for the cheese lovers in the audience can include a sweet jam and herbs or the crunch of a pepper sliver. Photo courtesy Hagerty Photography - http://www.hagertyphotography.com/

Think outside the box

Dessert is a fun time to introduce your guests to something different. Sometimes those who aren’t usually adventurous will stray a little farther from their safety zones at dessert time. Give them some savory dessert options by adding cheese and herbs (although avoid stationing cheese desserts in the sun!). Or, try an ethnic dessert favorite, like Gulab Jamun, Red Bean Buns, or Sesame Balls.

You can also put a new twist on an old favorite. Banana Splits might not be your best hot-weather option, but frozen chocolate covered bananas with sundae toppings can easily take their place.

Prepare for humidity

Stay away from anything with a meringue topping if you expect humid weather. Macaroons should also be avoided. Neither type of dessert holds up well in humid weather.

Summer can be an intimidating season for catering professionals and planners who care about food presentation, the way their menus are received by guests, and also the health and safety of their diners. Even if you are the world’s biggest fan of ice cream, don’t focus on regret. Look at all of the inventive and delicious dessert alternatives you can introduce to your guests during the hot months of summer, and let your creativity show you ideas you never even considered possible.

Opening photo courtesy Lara Lam Photography - https://www.laralamweddings.com/

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Heather Jones

Catering Sales Director

Heather Jones is the Catering Sales Director for Wente Vineyards, a family-owned property that is home to a winery and vineyards, a golf course, restaurant, and a handful of unique facilities for hosting weddings and special events.