7 Light and Bright Spring Desserts

Gooey custards and chocolate cakes were great all winter, and we’ll happily greet them again next year. Now, we’re ready to freshen up dessert with all sorts of fruit and some citrusy zing. Rhubarb is starting to pop up, and berries will be arriving in just a bit, so it’s time to start planning out all the delicious goodies to make over the next few months.

Classic dessert lovers will go nuts for a jazzed-up blueberry shortcake, while those looking to make something impressive for guests can revel in a gorgeous bowl of lemon mousse. There’s nothing like these light-as-air desserts to help you forget about record snowfalls. Celebrate the warmer weather with one of these goodies today.

Source: iStock

1. Fresh Strawberry Cupcakes

Food coloring is one way to make a beautifully hued cake. Using strawberries is an even better way. These Fresh Strawberry Cupcakes from Sally’s Baking Addiction get a triple hit of the sweet spring fruit with fresh berries and strawberry yogurt in the cake, while a hint of jam makes for a perfectly sweet topping.

Make a quick strawberry puree and fold it into the batter before baking. While the cakes cool, whip up the cream with jam, sugar, and vanilla. This delicious topping is lighter than frosting but every bit as tasty. Yes, they’re pretty and pink, but no guy will complain after a bite of one of these delicious treats.

Ingredients:

Cupcakes

  • 4 to 5 large strawberries
  • 1⅔ cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup strawberry yogurt (Greek or regular)
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Strawberry whipped cream

  • 1½ cups heavy whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ⅓ cup strawberry jam

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 12-count muffin pan with cupcake liners. Set aside.

Slice strawberries and place in a food processor or blender. Pulse until strawberries are a chunky puree. You should have about ⅓ cup. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt butter in the microwave. Stir in sugar; the mixture will be gritty. Stir in egg, yogurt, milk, and vanilla extract until combined.

Slowly mix dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until no lumps remain. Fold in the strawberry puree. Batter will be thick.

Divide batter among cupcake liners and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

In a large bowl, whip the cream, sugar, and vanilla extract together on high speed until stiff peaks begin to form, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the strawberry jam and continue to beat for another 30 seconds. Add more strawberry jam if you’d like a stronger flavor or a pinker color. Please note the whipped cream will be thinner with the more jam you add.

Frost the cupcakes with the strawberry whipped cream. Cover and store cupcakes in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Whipped cream may be made 1 day in advance and stored in the refrigerator. Serve cupcakes chilled.

Source: iStock

2. Fresh Lemon Mousse

Chocolate mousse might be classic, but there’s nothing like a little bit of lemon to shake off the chill of winter. Food Network’s Fresh Lemon Mousse will have you thinking spring in no time. Start by making a lemon custard by whisking eggs, lemon juice, lemon zest, and salt over a double boiler until it gets nice and thick. Let the mixture cool and then fold in whipped egg whites and cream. A final addition of lemon curd makes the pucker-inducing flavor pop.

Ingredients:

Mousse

  • 3 extra-large eggs
  • 3 extra-large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup good bottled lemon curd, room temperature

Sweetened whipped cream

  • 1 cup heavy cream, cold
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Sliced lemon, for garnish

Directions: In a large heatproof bowl, whisk together the 3 eggs, 3 egg yolks, 1 cup of sugar, the lemon zest, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for about 10 to 12 minutes until the mixture is thick, like pudding. Take off the heat and set aside for 15 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours, until completely chilled.

Place half of the egg whites and a pinch of salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and continue to beat until the whites are stiff and shiny. Carefully fold the beaten whites into the cold lemon mixture with a rubber spatula. Place cream in the same bowl of the electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on high speed until the cream forms stiff peaks. Carefully fold the whipped cream into the lemon mixture. Fold in the lemon curd and pour into a 7-inch diameter, 3-inch deep soufflé dish.

Place the remaining 1 cup of cream, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on medium and then high speed until the cream just forms stiff peaks. Spoon the whipped cream into a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip. Decorate mousse with sweetened whipped cream and lemon slices that have been cut into quarters. Chill and serve cold.

Source: iStock

3. Key Lime Pie With Lime Meringue

Bring serious flavor to your next dessert by making this Key Lime Pie with Lime Meringue from Chef David LeFevre. Bake up a simple graham cracker crust, let it cool, and then fill with a stove-top lime curd. A crown of fluffy meringue spiked with lime zest makes for a more impressive topping than the usual whipped cream.

New to meringue? It’s really simple, but completely impressive. Whip egg whites and then drizzle in sugar syrup in a thin stream with the mixer running. Continue to beat the mixture until it’s thick, glossy and cool. Torching the meringue is optional, but it’ll add an extra layer of flavor.

Ingredients:

Crust

  • 1½ cups fine graham cracker crumbs (from 11 to 12 graham cracker rectangles)
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted

Filling

  • 3 large eggs
  • ⅔ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup fresh lime juice (preferably from Key limes)
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

Meringue

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1 kaffir lime leaf, very finely chopped, or ½ teaspoon lime zest
  • 1 lime

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs and the sugar. Pour the melted butter over the mixture and stir until the crumbs are moistened and look like wet sand. Transfer the mixture to a 9-inch pie plate and use the bottom of a measuring cup to compact the crust across the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Bake until the crust is golden brown, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the pie crust from the oven and set aside to cool.

In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and lime juice. Cook the mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly, until it thickens, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and transfer the filling to a heat-safe container. Press a piece of plastic wrap flush over the curd so a skin doesn’t form. Once the curd is completely cooled, after about 1 hour, remove the plastic wrap and use and immersion blender to incorporate the butter 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing well between additions, until all of the butter is added and the lime curd is completely smooth. Scrape the curd into the prebaked pie shell, press a piece of plastic wrap flush over the top so a skin doesn’t form, and refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.

In a small saucepan set over medium heat, add the sugar and water and stir carefully until the mixture resembles wet sand. Cook, without stirring, until the sugar-water mixture reaches 240 degrees Fahrenheit on an instant-read thermometer, about 15 minutes. The sugar-water mixture will turn syrupy and golden brown in color.

While the sugar mixture cooks, whip the egg whites. To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add the egg whites and whip on medium-high speed until they form soft peaks, 6 to 7 minutes. Add the chopped kaffir lime leaf or lime zest and beat until incorporated.

Remove the pie from the refrigerator and discard the plastic wrap. Use a rubber spatula to top the lime curd with the meringue, using an offset metal spatula or butter knife to spread the meringue and create soft and pointy peaks.

Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and preheat the broiler to high. Place the pie in the oven and broil until the meringue browns, 1 to 3 minutes, or use a handheld torch to caramelize the meringue. Zest the rind of the lime over the pie and serve.

Source: iStock

4. Strawberry Tart With Mascarpone Filling and Almond Shortbread Crust

Something about a tart just seems fancy. It’s pretty similar to making a pie, but the perfectly crimped sides make it look like something that a professional pastry chef made. Impress your friends by whipping up this Strawberry Tart With Mascarpone Filling and Almond Shortbread Crust from Cooking for Keeps. A simple shortbread starts with creamed butter and sugar. Add in some almond extract, all-purpose flour, and almond flour, then refrigerate the dough until ready to use.

Rolling and baking the crust is as difficult as it gets, and it’s a cinch. All that’s left is whipping up a mascarpone and jam filling, filling the crust, and arranging some fresh berries on top. It’s sure to impress and you won’t even have to break a sweat.

Ingredients:

 Shortbread crust

  • 1½ sticks butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract
  • ½ cup ground almond meal or flour
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour

Filling

  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups sliced strawberries

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter 6 individual or one standard-size tart pan.

In the bottom of a stand mixer on medium speed, beat butter and sugar until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add in extract and a pinch of salt. Turn down the mixer to low and add flour, a little bit at a time until incorporated. Form into a disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

When ready to roll, place dough between two sheets of plastic. Roll out until the dough is about ⅛- to ¼-inch thick. If you are using one pan, you should be able to take the top sheet of plastic wrap off and transfer to the buttered pan. If you are making mini tarts, use each tart pan to outline circles of dough. You may need to take the scraps and roll again to make 6 tarts. Place dough in greased pan, prick with a fork, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Let cool.

Beat mascarpone, cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract together in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer. Spread filling evenly in tart shells. Top decoratively with sliced strawberries. Serve.

Source: iStock

5. Lemon Coconut Tartlets

Lime and coconut seem to pair up all the time. Change things up a little bit with these Lemon Coconut Tartlets from Food.com. These are as easy to make as they are to eat. Simply purchase mini tart shells, sprinkle with coconut, and fill with a lemon batter. Bake them in a 375-degree Fahrenheit oven and they’re ready to go.

Prefer to make your own tart dough? Go for it! Just be sure to start this project a day in advance.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
  • ⅓ cup lemon juice
  • ½ cup sweetened coconut
  • 32 miniature tart shells

Directions: In a bowl, combine sugar and flour. Beat in eggs, lemon peel, and juice by hand.

Divide the coconut among the tart shells. Pour lemon mixture over the top of coconut. Bake in a 375-degree Fahrenheit oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until filling is set. Cool before serving.

Source: iStock

6. Rhubarb Sundaes

Transform a sundae into something more spring-appropriate by swapping hot fudge out and replacing it with an easy rhubarb compote. These Rhubarb Sundaes from Every Day with Rachael Ray make a refreshing dessert any time. The compote is made from just jam, sugar, rhubarb and a sprinkle of cinnamon. That means it can be dessert tonight!

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound fresh or frozen rhubarb, thawed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons strawberry jam
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 quart vanilla ice cream
  • Crumbled gingersnap cookies, for garnish

Directions: In a medium saucepan, cook rhubarb with sugar over low, covered until very tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in jam and cinnamon. Let cool 10 minutes. Divide ice cream among 6 bowls. Top with rhubarb sauce and cookies.

Source: iStock

7. Blueberry Shortcakes With Lemon and Thyme Biscuits

Give blueberries a chance to shine in these Blueberry Shortcakes With Lemon and Thyme Biscuits from Bon Appétit. Cook up the fruit with a bit of powdered sugar and water for just 10 minutes to make a tasty, and pretty, topping. The biscuits start with a standard flour and butter mix but get a hint of thyme and lemon zest to brighten things up once the buttermilk is added. Roll out the dough, cut into rounds, and bake them for about 15 minutes.

Though this recipe calls for blueberries, any type of fruit will do. And feel free to play with different combinations. We like biscuits flecked with orange zest and rosemary topped with a blackberry compote.

Ingredients:

 Berries

  • 4 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed, drained well
  • ⅔ cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water

Biscuits

  • ¾ cup chilled buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup golden brown sugar, packed
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into ⅓-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon raw sugar
  • Vanilla ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream

Directions: Combine blueberries, powdered sugar, and 2 tablespoons water in large saucepan. Stir over medium heat until berries are slightly softened and syrup coats spoon, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a medium glass bowl. Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line large rimmed baking sheet with silicon baking mat, smooth side up, or parchment paper. Mix buttermilk, lemon peel, and thyme in a small bowl. Whisk next 5 ingredients in a large bowl to blend, breaking up any large clumps of brown sugar with fingertips. Add butter and rub in with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk mixture and stir with fork just until blended.

Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface. Knead gently just until dough comes together, 4 to 5 turns. Pat dough out to ¾-inch thick round. Using 3-inch diameter cookie cutter dipped in flour, cut out dough rounds. Gently gather dough scraps and pat out to ¾-inch thickness. Cut out additional rounds, for 6 rounds total. Transfer dough rounds to prepared baking sheet, spacing apart. Sprinkle dough rounds with raw sugar.

Bake biscuits until golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool slightly.

Using serrated knife, carefully cut biscuits horizontally in half. Place bottom half of each biscuit on each of 6 plates. Spoon blueberries and syrup over, dividing equally. Cover with biscuit tops. Place scoop of ice cream or dollop of whipped cream alongside each and serve.

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