Fireworks. Freedom. Stars and stripes. Independence. Liberty. Cake.
Nothing says “Happy Birthday, America!” like a cake. And not just any cake. This cake.
Honestly, can a dessert get any more patriotic than a flag inside of a cake?
I didn’t think so.
This cake is four layers of red, white, and blue goodness covered in fluffy, white buttercream frosting. Beautiful and delicious. Clearly a necessary addition to your patriotic baking repertoire.
There’s no better way to celebrate the birth of America than with a cake. So get baking! The guests at your Fourth of July barbecue will thank you.
Happy Independence Day! And God Bless America!
Independence Day Flag Cake
Technique courtesy of Secret Life of a Chef’s Wife
Active time: 2 hours
Start to finish: 6 hours
You can use any version of white cake you want, boxed or from scratch. The recipe I used is at the end of this post.
You will need (3) 9-inch layers:
1 layer colored blue
1 layer colored red
1 layer left white
Bake layers according to recipe or directions. Let completely cool. I made mine a day in advance and stored them in the refrigerator.
Level off tops of cakes if needed. One you have your red layer, your blue layer, and your white layer, slice the red and white layers horizontally with a long, serrated knife. This will be easier if your cakes have been refrigerated and are still cold. Cut them as evenly through the middle as you can. These layers form the stripes of the cake.
Next, take one red half-layer and one white half-layer and stack them on top of one another. Take the whole (uncut) blue layer and set it in front of you. Place the stacked red and white layer on top of the blue layer. Check that they are evenly centered on top of one another.
Using a circle template as a guide, cut a circle centered through all three layers of the blue, white, & red. For this 9-inch cake, I used a 5-inch bowl as a template. Try to get as close to this measurement as you can so the color ratio looks right. Cut carefully and thoroughly, making sure you get all the way through all 3 layers.
Next, separate the blue from the red and white layers. Take the middle out of the blue. You won’t be using the blue circle for this recipe, so set it aside. You now have a donut-shaped ring of blue. This will be the star field of your flag.
Remove the outside ring from the red & white layers. These will not be used, so set them aside. You should have a 5-inch circle consisting of 1 white half-layer, and 1 red half-layer. These will be the top stripes of your flag cake.
Take the uncut white half-layer and center it on a cake stand. Spread a 1/8–1/4-inch layer of frosting over the top. Keep it as even as you can. Lay the uncut red half-layer on top of the frosting, making sure it is centered. These make up the bottom two stripes of your flag. Frost like the last layer. Make it as even as you can.
Next, take the blue donut circle and center it on top of the bottom stripes layer. Using a small offset spatula or knife, spread a very thin layer of frosting around the inside of the blue ring. You don’t really want to see this layer of frosting; it’s just to help adhere the layers. Plus, too much frosting, and your circles won’t fit inside.
Take the white 5-inch circle and set it carefully, but firmly, inside the blue ring. Push it down as far as you dare. You want it as even with the blue as you can get it. Spread a thin, thin layer of icing over the white that is inside the blue ring. Place the red circle on top and press down carefully, trying to make the top layers even.
Now you are ready to frost! The recipe below makes about 5 cups of frosting. You will need all of it for a 9-inch cake. Put a nice, thick layer on the outside of the cake. You need to make up for the not-so-much frosting on the inside.
Keep the cake refrigerated until ready to serve. You can pull it out a bit ahead of time to take the chill off. To slice the cake, use a sharp knife that has been dipped in very hot water and wiped dry. It makes very clean cuts. Clean off and re-dip the knife between slices.
White Layer Cake
Recipe courtesy of Cook’s Illustrated
This recipe makes (2) 8 or 9-inch layers. For the Flag Cake, you will need to make this recipe twice, dividing and coloring before baking. Color one layer red, one layer blue, and leave 2 layers white. One white layer will not be used in assembling the flag cake.
2 1/4 cups cake flour (9 ounces), plus more for dusting the pans
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
6 large egg whites (3/4 cup), at room temperature
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar (12 1/4 ounces)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened but still cool
Set oven rack in middle position. (If oven is too small to cook both layers on a single rack, set racks in upper-middle and lower-middle positions.) Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray; line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper rounds. Spray the paper rounds, dust the pans with flour, and invert pans and rap sharply to remove excess flour.
Pour milk, egg whites, and extracts into 2-cup glass measure, and mix with fork until blended.
Mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of electric mixer at slow speed. Add butter; continue beating at slow speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no powdery streaks remaining. Add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed (or high speed if using handheld mixer) for 1 1/2 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 cup of milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium (or high) speed and beat 20 seconds longer.
Divide batter evenly between two prepared cake pans; using rubber spatula, spread batter to pan walls and smooth tops. Arrange pans at least 3 inches from the oven walls and 3 inches apart. (If oven is small, place pans on separate racks in staggered fashion to allow for air circulation.) Bake until thin skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 23 to 25 minutes.
Let cakes rest in pans for 3 minutes. Loosen from sides of pans with a knife, if necessary, and invert onto wire racks. Reinvert onto additional wire racks. Let cool completely,
about 1 1/2 hours.
Basic Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
6 to 8 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. With mixer on low speed, add 6 cups sugar, milk, and vanilla; mix until light and fluffy. If necessary, gradually add remaining 2 cups sugar to reach desired consistency.