AMERICAN FLAG CAKE
My leftist politics prevent me from engaging in pretty much all “patriotic” events, since I know the type of behavior the U.S. perpetuates throughout the world in the name of “freedom.” But I can get down with July 4th, since it celebrates the one time we weren’t the colonizers, after all. And since I’m on a constant quest to convince A I’m a better cook than him, I took this opportunity to try out Smitten Kitchen’s amazing flag cake recipe. Only problem was that in my attempt to outdo A, I showed up hours late to his party. But this cake was seriously worth it. It’s amazing, absolutely amazing. The cake itself is incredibly moist and delicious, and that’s coming from someone that doesn’t really like cake. I used my own cream cheese icing recipe, although I noticed it’s almost identical to Smitten Kitchen’s. This is so, so good. Next up – adopting the recipes to make red velvet cupcakes.
The cream cheese recipe below is just enough to cover the top of your cake. If you’re a big frosting fan like I am, double the amount I listed. I provided the extra frosting in a side bowl so that folks could put some on their plates along with their slices of cake. Also, after washing the berries, make sure they dry fully. If they don’t, the powdered sugar won’t stay on top of them. Lastly, I served this cake in the pan, but if you want to take it out, let it cool on the rack for 15 minutes, then flip it over onto another rack, remove the parchment paper, and flip it back onto a serving platter.
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 cups cake flour or 3 2/3 cups all-purpose flour plus 1/3 cup cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon table salt
2 cups buttermilk, well-shaken
8-ounce block cream cheese, at room temperature
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 cup blueberries (1/2 pint), very dry
3 cups raspberries (1 1/2 pints), very dry
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Butter a 9×13-inch baking pan and line the bottom with a rectangle of parchment paper, then butter parchment. (Or, you can use a nonstick cooking spray instead of butter for speed and ease.)
3. Beat butter and sugar together in the bottom of a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, at least 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl between each addition. Add vanilla extract.
4. Place flour, cornstarch (if using), baking powder, baking soda and table salt in a sifter or fine-mesh strainer and shake half of mixture into mixing bowl. Mix until just combined. Add buttermilk and stir it in slowly, because it will splash easily. The mixture might look curdled, but it will come together just fine in a moment. Add remaining dry ingredients and mix until combined.
5. Pour batter in prepared pan and smooth top. Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Check at 35 minutes, but it took me around 45 minutes. Don’t remove the cake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Once it does, transfer the cake to a rack to cool completely.
1. Combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes.
2. Mix in the vanilla extract.
3. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth. Taste to see if you want more sugar. I don’t like my icing too sweet, but you might.
4. Put in fridge while cake is cooking. Take out a few minutes before icing so that it softens up a little.
1. Place powdered sugar in a sifter or fine-mesh strainer. The short side of the blue rectangle of an American flag will fall at roughly half the height of the short side of your cake. The long side will fall at a little more than one-third the width of your cake. You can outline this shape with blueberries. Then, dot a few blueberries inside, spaced apart. Coat the inside berries with a dusting of powdered sugar. Then, fill the rest of the space with uncoated blueberries.
2. An American flag has 13 stripes total, beginning and ending with a red stripe. Eyeball the width your first row of raspberries will take up, and start your second row after that (approximately 1/2 to 2/3-inch down). Continue this pattern of an empty row followed by a row of raspberries the rest of the way down your cake. Coat these rows with a dusting of powdered sugar. Fill the empty rows with uncoated raspberries. Cover pan with lid or foil and refrigerate until ready to eat.
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