Independence Day is coming up, which means beer, BBQ, brats, burgers, fireworks, sparklers and—oh, yeah, did anyone bring dessert?

As a former professional pastry chef, I know how satisfying it can be to make the holidays extra-special with an "ooh-ahh" dessert for a party—or even just to enjoy yourself! And as a self-taught pastry chef, I know that not everyone has the equipment or skills to bake in the first place, much less make sweets as pretty as we'd sometimes like. Plus, even if you do have the skills, your kids probably don't, and any holiday celebration is more fun when you can get the kids involved.

Related: How 4th of July traditions defined my childhood

With that in mind, I've whipped up two easy-peasy 4th of July dessert recipes that are so simple to make and decorate that kids of practically any age can pitch in. Bon appetit and happy Independence Day!

Check out our super-simple 4th of July dessert recipes below.

Stars and Stripes Cream Pie

Serves: 12

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • Graham cracker pie crust
  • Jello vanilla pudding mix, 5.1 oz
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 4 TBS milk
  • 1 pint strawberries, halved
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream OR 1 canister of whipped cream (see notes)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (optional)

Steps:

  1. For the pastry cream filling, put the 2 cups of heavy whipping cream and box of vanilla pudding mix into a bowl. Mix with a mixer until the filling becomes very thick. If you want a different consistency, you can optionally add the 4 tablespoons of milk one at a time until the cream has thinned out a bit—just make sure it doesn't become too goopy or the pie won't cut cleanly.
  2. Spread the pastry cream filling in the graham cracker crust.
  3. To make the whipped cream, put the 1 cup of heavy whipping cream (and 2 tablespoons of sugar, if you prefer sweeter whipped cream) into a clean bowl. Using a hand or stand mixer, whip the cream at the highest speed you can without splashing the cream everywhere, increasing the speed as the cream thickens. Whip until it's quite thick and doesn't fall off of an upside-down spoon.
  4. Arrange the blueberries on top of the pastry cream in one quadrant of the pie. Overlapping your strawberries, make five lines of strawberries with space between the lines.
  5. Spread the whipped cream in the spaces between the strawberries. Place five dots of whipped cream over the blueberries to mimic the stars on the American flag.

Notes:

  • You can make this vegan/dairy-free by using the coconut fat solids from a can of coconut cream for the filling. Chill a can of full-fat coconut cream in the fridge overnight to separate the fat from the coconut water. (Yes, Jell-o pudding mix is vegan!)
  • If you're intimidated by making whipped cream from scratch, you can use a canister of whipped cream instead. Just make sure to spray the whipped cream onto the pie immediately before serving it—canned whipped cream melts within a few hours, even in the fridge.

Fireworks Surprise Cupcakes

Serves: 24

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • A box of cake mix in whatever flavor you'd like (plus the ingredients you need according to the box -- often eggs, oil and water)
  • A can of frosting
  • Blue sprinkles
  • 4 Twizzlers Pull 'N Peels
  • A box of Nerds
  • 6 packets of Pop Rocks

Steps:

  1. Prepare the cupcakes according to the directions on the box, except fill up just 12 cupcakes (most box mixes say that they make 18-24—feel free to fill the 12 molds up to the top). I strongly suggest using two cupcake liners per cupcake.
  2. When the cupcakes are totally cooled off (transfer to a plate and put them in the fridge or freezer if you need to), use a knife or spoon to carve out the middle of the cupcakes.
  3. Mix the Pop Rocks and Nerds together in a bowl. Fill the middle of the cupcakes with the candy mixture.
  4. Frost the top of the cupcakes, being careful not to get too much candy mixed in.
  5. Pour the blue sprinkles into a bowl. Turn each cupcake on its side and dip the edges of the frosting into the blue sprinkles, turning to coat.
  6. Cut the Twizzlers into thirds, making 12 pieces total. Peel the sections of candy back until about a half-inch above the bottom of the piece (so that the top part flops around and the bottom part is still together).

Notes:

  • You can make this recipe vegan by using ¼ cup of applesauce for each egg the box calls for. Most canned frostings are already vegan!
  • Try to serve these as soon as possible after making them. Pop Rocks start popping as soon as the packets are opened, so to get the full firework effect you'll want people to eat them while the Pop Rocks are still intact.

Fourth of July-Themed DIY Shortcake Bar

From Pamela Salzman

Serves: 8-9

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 37 minutes

Ingredients:

Shortcakes:

  • 2 cups flour (I like 1 cup whole wheat pastry and 1 cup all-purpose)
  • ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 Tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder
  • 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar + additional for sprinkling on top
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 cup heavy cream, half and half or whole milk
  • Whipped cream, whole yogurt or coconut milk cream
  • Fresh sliced strawberries or other seasonal fruit

Whipped Cream:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, optional

Steps

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place the flour(s), salt, baking powder and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse a couple times to blend. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles small peas or pebbles. Transfer mixture to a large bowl.
  3. Add the cream and blend with a fork until just combined.
  4. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead a couple times to bring the dough together. Roll out to a ¾-inch thick disc and cut into 2 ½ -inch circles with a round cookie cutter or small glass dipped in flour. Gather the scraps, roll again and cut more rounds until you have used up all the dough. Transfer the dough pieces to the prepared pan and space evenly apart.
  5. This is optional, but it creates a light golden color: remove 1 Tablespoon of cream from the cup for whipped cream and use that to brush the tops of the shortcakes. Sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake 17 minutes, or until puffed and lightly browned.
  6. Cool the shortcakes slightly on a wire rack.
  7. Whip the heavy cream with sugar until soft peaks form. Dollop on a split shortcake and serve with fresh berries.

Macarons

Have your kids help you sift the flower and squeeze the bag to create the top and bottom of the cookies.

Rice Krispie Treats

A crowd (and kid!) favorite! You can never go wrong with Rice Krispie treats, especially ones jazzed up with icing and sprinkles.