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It's not often you see a cake that redefines how you think about baking and decorating. But that's what I thought when I saw this Flag Cake on the blog 17 and Baking. The cake itself provides the eye-catching design, and only upon cutting it is the vibrant flag pattern revealed beneath the white frosting. It's such a cool concept that I knew I had to try it for Fourth of July.
Preparation: This cake isn't as difficult as it seems, but -- full disclosure -- it is a project. It takes time and patience. It's a particularly good cake for those who like to bake but dislike cake decorating. And, I can tell you, you'll be proud of yourself when you slice it up this weekend and everyone "oohs" and "ahhs." Bear with me through the directions, and be sure to check out our graphic that better illustrates the process.
Since this is a baking column, I didn't want to use a white cake mix for Flag Cake. I found a recipe for a light, lemony cake that was excellent. But you can use any recipe for white cake that you like -- and a mix would be fine, too.
For Flag Cake, you need to make three 8- or 9-inch round cakes -- one red, one white and one blue. This requires a batch and a half of cake batter. I started by making one batch of cake, coloring half of it red and baking the red and white cakes in the oven together. After those cakes cooled, I made a half-batch of cake, colored it blue and baked it separately.
I was most worried about achieving vibrant red and blue colors in my cakes. No one wants to see a pink, white and baby blue American flag. I ended up using two full bottles of red food coloring, which seems kind of crazy, but did produce a true red. I used about a bottle of blue food coloring. It didn't seem to affect the taste or texture of the Perfect Party Cake. But be careful with overmixing if you're using a delicate, airy cake.
When your three cakes have cooled, it's time to start cutting. First, level the top of the cakes so they are the same height. I recommend using a cake leveler, which you can pick up at Michaels for less than $5.
Next, cut the red and white cakes in half horizontally, making two red cakes and two white cakes. Stack one red layer, one white layer and the full blue cake on top of each other. Place an inverted bowl on the top layer of the stack. Cut around the bowl with a long knife.
Discard (ahem, eat) the inner blue circle and the outer red and white rings. You'll be left with one blue ring, one small white circle, one small red circle, one red layer and one white layer.
Make the Cream Cheese Icing. Place the red cake layer on your cake stand or plate. Cover it with a thin layer of icing, top with the white cake layer and spread another layer of icing on top. Carefully top with the blue ring. Frost the inner part of the blue ring. Place the small red circle inside the blue ring and top with a thin layer of frosting. Place the small white circle on top. If the white circle is slightly raised, level to the height of the blue layer with a knife.
Frost the cake, being mindful of crumbs. I think it's best to leave the outside plain, since there's so much drama on the inside. I created a simple "firework" design on the top by using a spatula to make concentric circles on top, then using a toothpick to draw lines from the center to the cake's edge.
Taste: The Perfect Party Cake is moist and delicious, with a light, lemon flavor. It's a nice fit for a summer occasion. I think it's worth the extra effort to have an exceptional cake for this one. Of course, people will love the flag design, but wouldn't you like them to rave about the cake's taste, too?
The bottom line: Flag Cake is more complicated than your average cake, but worlds cooler and a guaranteed showstopper at any Fourth of July event.
Hannah's rating: 5 stars
Hannah H. Carroll is the assistant features editor for The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette, and enjoys making desserts for her family and friends.
Overall rating: 4.5 stars
the taster's mouth
"I feel like I have to salute it
before I eat it." Drew Martin, photo/graphics editor. 4.5 stars
"Great appearance and good interplay of lemon and cream cheese." Jeff Kidd, managing editor. 4.5 stars
"It was almost too lemony, but I did enjoy that the crumbs on my cake looked patriotic." Ellis Harman, assistant copy desk chief. 5 stars
"It tastes as bold as it looks." Tom Robinette, features editor. 4.5 stars
The samplers: 17 employees of The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette
1 star = Ewww!
5 stars = Seconds, please!