Warm weather is here: 10 easy desserts to bring to your next picnic or potluck

Mackensy Lunsford
Southern Kitchen

It's picnic season once again. And though just about any old thing tastes better when eaten outside on a perfectly warm day, dessert can make your picnic perfect. Sweets are also a hit at potlucks where the tables are laden with one casserole after another. 

Here are some of our favorite easy-to-make, easy-to-transport and, most importantly, delicious desserts.  

The cookies, balls and brownies

Cast Iron Chocolate Chip Cookie

Cast-iron chocolate chip cookie: This dessert is, in a word, perfect. First of all, it’s a giant chocolate chip cookie. Second, it’s made and served in a cast-iron skillet, so hello, crunchy crust. You can serve this straight out of the skillet or slice it up and store in Tupperware for easy transport. Bring a thermos of milk for an extra special treat. Get the recipe

Kentucky Bourbon Balls: The bourbon ball was first created by Rebecca Ruth Candy in 1938. Now a staple of distillery tours throughout Kentucky, these bourbon balls make a perfect picnic or potluck treat — but do keep in mind that they're lightly alcoholic. Get the recipe

Decadent Chocolate Brownies

Decadent chocolate brownies: Few will complain when you bring a big batch of chocolatey brownies to the potluck. These are perfect, in that they straddle the line between gooey and cake-like for the ultimate in brownie goodness. Get the recipe

Cocktail:The Puritan Cocktail, a martini variation, is a spirit-forward classic

Recipes:8 of Southern Kitchen's best recipes for healthier Southern comfort food

Fruity and not so fruity cakes

Best banana cake: Have overly ripe bananas on your kitchen counter? You're one step closer to the perfect banana bread, muffins or cake. This incredibly moist cake features mashed bananas, buttermilk, vanilla extract and loads of butter. Buttermilk and lemon juice add a little tang for a lovely balance. Get the recipe

Strawberry Cake

Mawmaw’s Strawberry Cake: Jell-O and cake mix make this cake simple to put together. Strawberries add a refined touch, but the fact that this recipe calls for frozen fruit means you can keep the ingredients for this ultra-moist and flavorful cake in your kitchen year-round. Get the recipe

Vanilla pound cake: A Southern classic that's always welcomed at a picnic or potluck, this one's extra easy to commit to memory. It uses an actual pound of butter and almost a pound of flour for a dense, rich cake that's good enough to serve plain, but even better with a heap of soft whipped cream and fresh berries. Get the recipe

Pineapple upside-down cake: The original recipe for this surprisingly easy-to-make cake calls for canned pineapple, but we've updated it with fresh pineapple, which makes for a showstopper of a dessert. Slicing the fruit is probably the hardest part of making this dessert. You won't regret it. Get the recipe

The pies have it

Chocolate Chess Pie

Chocolate chess pie: At its heart, chess pie is supremely simple. Its only requirements are pantry staples: lots of sugar, a few eggs, butter and a bit of flour or cornmeal to hold it all together. The extra bitterness from the cocoa and richness from the cream in this more modern version balances out the sugary sweet filling. This rich recipe was originally developed for the holiday table, but we say this pie knows no season. Get the recipe

Strawberry-rhubarb slab pie: A slab pie can feed a crowd. As with other fruit pies, you can make this one in advance and freeze it, then pop it in the oven on the day you plan to serve it. It's a beautiful way to make the most of spring's abundance. Get the recipe

Peanut butter icebox pie: Though this recipe takes four hours to freeze, it only takes a few minutes to throw together the five ingredients that form its base. With a store-bought pie crust and premade whipped cream, this is one of the easiest desserts you'll have in your repertoire. Note: If you can’t fit all of the filling into the pie shell, just scoop the leftovers into a small bowl and leave it on your kitchen counter with a spoon. It will find a home. Get the recipe

Mackensy Lunsford is the food and culture storyteller for USA TODAY Network's South region and the editor of Southern Kitchen.

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Reach me: mlunsford@southernkitchen.com