As far as attention goes, the 4th of July doesn’t get a lot from me. It’s not that I don’t love celebrating our country’s independence, and I certainly welcome any reason for homemade ice cream and fireworks. The fact is that the 4th of July sneaks up on me every year! That and the 100-plus degree temps leave me tired before it even gets here.
It came as a surprise to myself, then, when I got an urge to make something flag-themed this week. I quickly came upon that flag cake that has been going around for decades no doubt and decided this was the year I’d make it. Smitten Kitchen gives a fantastic post about it and uses all berries to create the flag (love that!), so I followed her guidelines for decorating but stuck to what I like as far as the cake and frosting went.
I was craving a dense, buttery yellow cake, something that’s nearly pound cake. Instead of frosting, I wanted a thick pastry cream. Berries always require whipped cream for me, so I knew I’d need a bowl of it for serving.
Because we had a dinner to go to earlier this week, we got to dig in before the 4th. It turned out amazing! I may or may not have had it for breakfast and lunch the next day. And I just might be hiding the rest of it in the fridge somewhere.
The great thing about this dessert is you can make it however you want it. If you want a chocolate cake instead of vanilla, you can! Frosting, custard, whipped cream…you get to choose. As long as you have a bunch of berries on hand to create the flag, this cake can be yours all the way. But if you’re a pound cake and berries type of person, you really need to make it as I did. Trust me.
To make this patriotic dessert, you need:
- 1 cake (see the yellow cake recipe at bottom)
- 3 cups pastry cream or frosting (see pastry cream recipe at bottom)
- 4 cups raspberries and 2 cups blueberries, thoroughly rinsed and dried (Use any leftovers to make a quick sauce!)
- Powdered sugar
- Whipped Cream (Homemade, if possible: Just use 2 cups heavy whipping cream, 1/4 cup white sugar, a bit of vanilla, and a dash of salt. Mix until peaks form. Add more sugar to taste).
Bake your cake in a 9×13 baking pan. Let cool completely, then top with the pastry cream or frosting. Create your white stripes and stars by positioning the blueberries, then using a sieve to sprinkle white powdered sugar on them. (You can check out this post if you want more details.) Add the red raspberries and the rest of the blueberries. Chill and serve with a dollop (or pile) of whipped cream. You can even take your leftover berries and make a quick sauce, for an extra bit of fun–just add a little sugar and water, then stir. (I think I’ll do that next time!)
Delicious Yellow Cake
*This is not my recipe, but I cannot remember where I got it. If you recognize it, please let me know in the comments!
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 2 1/4 cups cake flour
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 lb. butter, softened and cut into 8 pieces
- Heat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a 9×13 pan baking pan then dust with flour.
- Beat eggs, milk, and vanilla in a bowl and set aside.
- Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl and mix on lowest speed to blend, about 30 seconds.
- With mixer still running at lowest speed, add the butter one piece at a time, and mix until butter and flour begin to clump together and look sandy and pebbly.
- Add half of the egg mixture and mix at lowest speed until incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.
- Add remaining egg mixture in slow steady stream.
- Scrape the sides and bottom of bowl, then beat on medium-high until thoroughly combined. The batter will look just slightly lumpy, and that’s okay!
- Pour batter into your pan, then bake 25 minutes, until the cake is golden and a toothpick comes out clean!
Pastry Cream, from Williams-Sonoma
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 4 egg yolks, beaten with a fork
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- Pour the milk in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer. In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks with a fork and set aside. In a separate bowl (a large mixing bowl works best), stir in the sugar, cornstarch, and salt.
- Add the hot milk to the dry mixture, stirring constantly. Pour mixture back in the saucepan and cook on medium-high just until boiling, stirring constantly. (It should thicken a bit.)
- Temper your egg yolks by slowing adding 1/4 cup of the milk mixture to the eggs. Carefully and slowly add the egg yolks to the saucepan, stirring constantly, and cook for a couple of minutes, unit the mixture thickens.
- Take it off the heat and add the vanilla and butter. Let cool completely before topping your cake.
Happy 4th of July, everyone! We’d love to hear how you’re celebrating…and what you’re eating, of course!