Depending on where you live, funerals are more than gatherings to grieve the loss of a loved one. They’re also opportunities to celebrate a life well-lived and provide the chance to reunite with friends and family members. For this reason, many families will host a reception lunch directly following the funeral.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Traditional Funeral Dessert Ideas
- Southern Funeral Dessert Ideas
- Funeral Dessert Ideas From Around the World
If you’re planning a funeral service and reception for your loved one, it’s important to make sure your food and dessert choices are enough to feed everyone in attendance. If you’re attending a funeral with a potluck lunch afterward, you’ll want to bring a dessert with enough portions to at least feed your family plus one more.
Desserts don’t have to require a ton of preparation, complex storage, or serving instructions to be crowd-pleasers. Here are some delicious funeral dessert ideas that can feed a crowd. They’re simple, can be whipped up quickly, and are sure to bring comfort to those who need it most.
Traditional Funeral Dessert Ideas
When it comes to choosing desserts for a funeral reception, you might feel pressured to account for everyone’s dietary preferences and food allergies. While you can certainly keep these things in mind, don’t add more pressure to yourself than you’re already dealing with if it’s your own loved one’s funeral reception you’re planning.
In general, it’s best to keep it easy for yourself by sticking to simple, traditional recipes that can feed a crowd. If you have the time, choose one known crowd-pleaser and one dietary restriction-friendly dessert. Most traditional funeral desserts are simple and don’t require complicated recipes. However, many do contain typical allergens, so it’s best to label those that contain items like nuts and gluten.
Here are some of the best and simplest traditional dessert ideas.
1. Apple pie
Apple pie might win in the category of the most comforting dessert available. Though it is a staple for many holiday get-togethers, it’s also an ideal funeral dessert option that can feed many people. You might just find that your apple pie is the first dessert to disappear after guests have enjoyed the main dish at the funeral reception.
Make it easy on yourself and follow a simple Apple Pie recipe if you’re pressed for time. If you’re bringing the pie as an attendee and you have plenty of time to make it, consider switching up the recipe to give the dessert a personal touch.
2. Sponge cake
Sponge cake is a simpler and lighter version of a traditional yellow cake. This dessert can be offered to guests during the luncheon after a wake or viewing. Though sponge cake has a basic recipe, you can serve one or two different varieties of the same dessert.
A plate of brownies is a perfect dessert for people of all ages and is ideal for a funeral reception where adults and children will be in attendance. It can be elegantly displayed on a plate, cake plate, or platter with a dusting of powdered sugar over the top. Whether you make cake-like or fudge-like brownies to serve at a funeral reception, you can be guaranteed everyone will love them.
4. Lemon bars
Tasty lemon bars are a good option to offer funeral attendees who may not want a dessert that is super sweet. As with most desserts, lemon bars can be made in different ways with varied fillings and toppings. However, if you want to keep it simple, just go with a tried and true lemon bar recipe.
5. Chocolate chip cookies
Chocolate chip cookies are always a hit with adults and children alike. They’re also perfect for making ahead of time and transporting to a funeral luncheon. Although chocolate chip cookies have seen plenty of variety over the years, the basic recipe for chocolate chip cookies has stayed the same since the 1930s.
You can start with a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe if you need to whip up a batch in a hurry. However, if you have more time to spend and want to bring a more elegant chocolate chip cookie recipe, go all out with the Jacques Torres chip cookie recipe.
Southern Funeral Dessert Ideas
Ask anyone from the South, and they’ll tell you that healthy foods have no place at a funeral. Comfort foods are the only items spread out at a Southern funeral reception, and desserts are no exception.
Though many Southern dessert recipes use the simplest ingredients, the end result is a decadent dessert that comforts the heart and soul. Whether you’re planning a funeral reception in the South or you’ve been invited to a funeral with a potluck reception, take one of these simple and delicious dessert options with you.
6. Southern sweet potato pie
Sweet potato pie is an iconic recipe that is well-known and well-loved among people living in the South. This tasty dessert can easily be served at a funeral luncheon to provide friends and relatives with a sweet and slightly filling finish to the luncheon. If you’re following Grandma’s age-old sweet potato pie recipe, you’ll likely create enough filling to create two single-crust pies. If you’re pressed for time, go with a simple sweet potato pie recipe that everyone is still sure to love.
7. Pecan pie
Pecan pie is a mandatory Thanksgiving dessert in the South, and it’s typically on everyone’s Christmas dinner menu, but this tasty dessert works well for any gathering. If you need to create a simple dessert that can be plated quickly at a funeral reception, pecan pie is a great choice.
Whip up pecan pie using a classic recipe and spice things up by topping the pie with some whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
8. Peach cobbler
If the funeral you’re attending in the South happens to be in the summertime, then consider bringing a fan favorite: peach cobbler. The ooey, gooey dish full of sweet, stewed fruit is quite easy to prepare and takes about 30 minutes to bake. Peach cobbler is a fantastic choice for a quick funeral dessert that almost everyone will enjoy. You can use either fresh or thawed frozen peaches for almost any peach cobbler recipe.
9. Chocolate-mayonnaise cake
It’s no secret that Southerners love mayonnaise, and mayonnaise happens to be an ideal replacement for eggs and oil in any cake. Chocolate-mayo cake is a match made in heaven for most Southerners, and it can be made in no time with a very simple recipe.
To make the cake more visually appealing before serving at a funeral service reception, slice it into squares and sprinkle some chopped peanuts over the top.
10. Texas sheet cake
Texas sheet cake is probably one of the most popular desserts brought to all sorts of occasions in the South, including funeral luncheons. One of the reasons it’s such a popular choice is that you can bake large portions quickly and easily feed a crowd. Here is a simple Texas Sheet Cake recipe you can try at home before preparing a larger one for a crowd.
Funeral Dessert Ideas From Around the World
Funeral lunch receptions are not a uniquely American or western concept. Cultures around the world provide food after funerals for those in attendance, so dessert ideas from around the world are plentiful.
Here are four crowd-pleasing recipes from around the world that are meant to feed a large number of people.
11. Cake (multiple countries)
The cake is the most basic dessert option for any occasion in most countries. Most cakes can be incredibly simple and easily scaled to serve a crowd after funeral receptions, wakes, or viewings.
Cakes can also be elaborate and creative for occasions that call for it, such as celebrations of life. You might even choose to place a celebration of life cake saying on top of the cake in honor of the person whose life you’re celebrating.
Cake recipes are endless, but it's best to stick with a simple go-to recipe you know, such as one for a classic vanilla cake, chocolate cake, cheesecake, or fruit cake. These are also winners since most people are familiar with them.
12. Nanaimo Bar (Canada)
This mouth-watering dessert derives its name from the town of Nanaimo in Canada. A Nanaimo bar is a no-bake treat containing three layers of goodness made with graham crackers, creamy icing, and a chocolate glaze. It’s a crowd-pleaser, but if you’re unfamiliar with the recipe, it’s a good idea to try a simple Nanaimo bar recipe at home before making a large batch for the funeral reception.
13. Pakhlava (Azerbaijan)
Pakhlava is similar to Baklava, a popular dessert treat from the Eastern part of Turkey and much of the Arab world. The dessert is made of very thin sheets of phyllo dough and contains a variety of minced nut fillings glazed with syrup or honey. To make it easy to share, you’ll want to slice your Pakhlava into small squares before the funeral reception begins.
This dessert is more time-consuming than others on this list, but it can be made well ahead of time. A Tenable Pakhlava recipe is a great place to start if you wish to make the dessert yourself.
14. Ghoriba Bahla (Morocco)
Ghoriba Bahla are delicious, shaped-by-hand Moroccan shortbread cookies. Apart from the basic Moroccan shortbread recipe, some new recipes add toasted sesame seeds and almonds to the cookie mix.
These cookies can be made ahead, are easily transported, and can be served to a crowd during a funeral luncheon.
Provide Soul-Satisfying Desserts
The food at funeral luncheons should ideally be comprised of comforting favorites loved by everyone. Whether you’re making all the food yourself, ordering it, or bringing a few options to a potluck funeral luncheon, we hope we’ve given you plenty of ideas to try out.