July 4th, 2012. 104F heat index outside. Gotta love summer in the humid midwest, right?
To celebrate our nation’s 236th birthday, I wanted to do something a little more challenging for myself: I wanted to bake. I’m the first to admit that I’m out of my element when it comes to baking…the exactness of the recipes, the precision of the baking time…these are all things that I am not very good at. As The Nester likes to say, “You don’t like details”.
It’s true. I prefer to cook from scratch and play the mix-up game to see how my food turns out. Not always the greatest trait to have in the kitchen, I will admit. However, I’ve learned from my football playing career that you have to actively work on your flaws to overcome them. And so, on occasion, I bake. Thankfully, it worked out great this time!
Now, this is not an original creation of mine. I stumbled upon this idea over at 17 and Baking, from Elissa. Frankly, I don’t even know how I wound up on her site, but I saw this cake several months ago and filed it away in the ol’ gray matter rolodex.
It’s actually a lot simpler than you might think. I used a basic white cake recipe from Better Homes and Gardens and created my own cream cheese frosting. The rest was simply putting the puzzle pieces together!
Basic White Cake – One batch per cake.
2 egg whites
1 Cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 Cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 Cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
2/3 Cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8-inch or 9-inch round cake pans.
In a bowl, sift together flour, powder, soda and salt. Separately, in an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar and vanilla until well combined. Add egg whites, one at a time, beating to combine. Add flour and buttermilk in alternating turns, a quarter at a time, until all are in and the mixture is just combined. If you are using the dye for the red or blue, add a dollop of your gel dye or a healthy number of drops of food coloring until you get your desired color. Pour into cake pan.
Bake 20-25 minutes for the 9-inch pans, or about 30-35 minutes for the 8-inch pans. Allow them to cool on a rack before continuing with cake.
Now, for the pieces-of-the-puzzle part. Imagine your cake as essentially 5 pieces. There will be two layers on the base that are the full diameter of your red and white cakes, and two layers on top of them that are smaller. Ringing around the smaller layers will be a blue ring. Here’s how to get the look.
- Trim off the rounded tops of each cake.
- Cut the red and white cakes in half, so you wind up with something that looks like the picture below – a half-height round cake.
- Layer one each of the red and white, with a little bit of frosting between the layers to hold the pieces together.
- Find a bowl or circle that will allow you to cut a ring out of the blue cake that will be equal, in width, to roughly 1/3 of the radius of the cake. Using the guide, cut out a ring of the blue and set aside the inner piece of cake.
- Using the same bowl, cut the same ring in the remaining unused white and red cakes. Set aside the OUTER rings, saving the inner circles.
- Layer the inner red and white circles on top of the current red and white cakes.
- Carefully place the outer blue ring on the cake.
- Frost and finish!
Now, for the fun part. If you’ve followed the instructions correctly, you’ll cut in to the piece and be rewarded with a beautiful American Flag Cake, albeit with a couple fewer red and white stripes.
Let me know when you’ve played around with the recipe, and any adjustments you make. I’d like to try this with a coconut frosting, or maybe some coconut flakes in the blue to give the appearance of stars. There are myriad opportunities to play around with this one.
Oh, and in case you need it, here’s the recipe for the white cream cheese frosting. Very basic.
Basic Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz cream cheese, cold
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/3 Cups powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla
In a bowl, beat together butter, vanilla, and cream cheese until just combined. Add about a third of the powdered sugar and beat until combined. Continue twice more with the remaining sugar.