Summer desserts are as essential to backyard gatherings as hamburgers and hot dogs.
Labor Day usually signals the end of the season, but this year, add something new to your cookout fare with these four desserts, recently submitted by Mirror readers.
The blueberry cake Catherine Rumbarger of Bellwood makes has been in the family for more than 50 years. She got the recipe from her late husband, whose mother passed it on to him.
''I always use fresh blueberries,'' she said. ''I don't use frozen.''
Rumbarger said the cake can be topped by white icing, ice cream or just milk - everyone in her family has his own preference.
3 tablespoons shortening
1 cup sugar
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup milk
2 teaspons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
11/2 cup blueberries
Beat the shortening, sugar and egg together by spoon. Combine flour and milk; pour slowly into batter, and add baking powder and vanilla. Slowly fold the blueberries into the batter.
Coat a glass baking dish with non-stick cooking spray; bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 50 to 55 minutes. The cake will be golden brown on the top when it's done.
When Margaret Rupert of Altoona was diagnosed with diabetes 18 years ago, her favorite foods - sweets - were no longer on her menu. So she came up with a way she could still safely enjoy treats.
"My favorite dessert of all was Jell-O, any flavor," she said. "So, I decided to use sugar-free Jell-O to sweeten cakes, pies and cookies."
Rupert said even her family and friends who aren't diabetics enjoy Sugar-free Key Lime Cheesecake.
"They like it. They eat it," she said. "They say they can't tell the difference."
Any flavor of Jell-O can be substituted for Key Lime, Rupert said.
Sugar-free Key Lime Cheesecake
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
6 tablespoons margarine, melted
Mix together in a 9-inch pie plate. Press the crust mixture onto the bottom and up the sides.
1 box sugar-free Key lime Jell-O
18 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
18 ounces sugar-free Cool Whip
Mix Jell-O according to directions on package; cool in refrigerator for 30 minutes. Beat cream cheese with electric mixer until smooth. Combine Jell-O and cream cheese with mixer; fold in 4 ounces of Cool Whip.
Pour into prepared pie crust; refrigerate until firm. Top each slice with a spoonful of remaining Cool Whip.
Donna Kensinger of Martinsburg has been making Peaches and Cream Dessert for at least 10 years.
''I cut it out of a magazine a long time ago and made it for my family,'' she said. ''They all seemed to like it.''
The first time someone tries the dessert, it can be tricky, Kensinger said. The key, she said, is read over the recipe carefully and assemble the dish mentally before you start.
''Truthfully, I always make it with fresh peaches,'' she said. ''I always peel them and slice them and sugar them while I make up the batter, then drain them and save the liquid.''
Peaches and Cream Dessert
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 4-serving size package regular vanilla pudding mix
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
16 ounces of sliced peaches, canned or fresh
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
In a mixing bowl, stir together flour, pudding mix and baking powder. Combine egg, milk and melted butter or margarine; add to the dry ingredients.
Mix well; spread in a greased 8-inch-by-8-inch-by-2-inches deep baking pan. If using canned peaches, drain them, reserving 1/3 cup liquid. Chop peaches; sprinkle atop batter. Beat cream cheese, reserved liquid and sugar together. Pour over top peaches in pan. Combing the 1 tablespoon of sugar and the cinnamon. Sprinkle over pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes. Cool.
Mississippi Mud Pie is a versatile dessert, according to Tina Henderson of Bedford - and she would know. She's been making it for 22 years.
"I make it to take to a lot of places, like the family reunion," she said. "Sometimes I make it just because my husband says, 'When are you going to make it again?'"
Henderson said the dish is very easy to make. She sometimes puts a healthier spin on it by substituting sugar-free, fat-free pudding mixes, skim milk, fat-free Cool Whip and whole wheat flour.
Mississippi Mud Pie
1 cup chopped nuts
1 stick of butter
1 cup of flour
Mix together and bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Cool.
8 ounces cream cheese (softened)
1 cup cool whip
1 cup powdered sugar
3 cups milk
1 small box chocolate pudding
1 small box vanilla pudding
Mix together until thick.
Cool Whip and chopped nuts
Cool layer 1. Mix layer 2 and spread over layer 1. Spread layer 3 over layer 2, and top with layer 4. Chill for 1 hour.
Mirror Staff Writer Ashley Gurbal is at 946-7435.