I realize sharing a 4th of July cake on the morning of the 4th of July doesn't give you much time to make one up for yourselves, but maybe the idea of it will get your creative juices flowing... I'm thinking Christmas tree in a cake? Easter egg? Pumpkin? The possibilities are endless. So here's a little how-to-bake-your-own-Old-Glory.
You will need:
- 2 boxes of cake mix (and ingredients indicated in package directions)
- Red and blue food coloring
- A minimum of two 8-inch round cake pans
- One circular cookie cutter, 4 inches in diameter
- Frosting. You could use the stuff from a can, but why bother when you can easily whip up a delicious homemade frosting? I made a fantastic almond cream cheese frosting, found here.
Step 1: Bake the cakes (two of them). I totally cheated and used boxed cake mix. And I'm not ashamed. I used white cake mix and added 1 Tbsp. of almond extract, because it's delicious. Here's the thing though... you have to dye the cakes (duh), which requires some planning. You will need 2 layers of red cake (=one whole cake), 1 layer of white (=1/2 cake), and 1 layer of blue (=1/2 cake). Still tracking with me? No? Let's try this again. Bake one box cake mix, prepared according to package directions and dyed with red food coloring, in TWO 8-inch round pans. Then, prepare a second box of cake mix. While it is still white, pour half of the batter into ONE 8-inch round pan, then dye the second half of the batter blue, and pour it into another pan. When all the baking is complete, you will have 2 thick red layers, 1 thick white layer, and 1 thick blue layer. 4 layers total.
Step 2: While your cakes are cooling, take some time to make your frosting. If you're using stuff from a can, skip to the next step. The cream cheese frosting recipe I used was super simple (and absolutely delicious.)
1 (8-oz) stick of cream cheese, room temp.
1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, room temp.
1 tsp. flavored extract (I used almond, you could use vanilla)
4 cups of powdered sugar
- Place butter into large mixer and beat on low-medium speed for about 15 seconds. Add cream cheese, and blend until combined, about 30 more seconds. Add almond extract and powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined. Increase to medium speed until the frosting starts to get fluffy. Add milk slowly until frosting reaches desired consistency. I only needed about a tablespoon to make a nice, spreadable frosting.
- NOTE: Since this is made with perishable dairy products, keep refrigerated until you're ready it use it, and store any extra in the refrigerator.
Step 3: After the cakes have cooled completely, use a serrated knife to cut the red and white layers in half. This will give you 4 thinner red layers and 2 thinner white layers. DO NOT cut the blue.
Now you're ready to start assembly!
Step 4: Beginning with a red layer, start building your cake. Use frosting between your layers to create a stack of 3 layers, red, white, and red.
Step 5: For the top part of the cake, you will need to hollow out the inside of your thick blue layer. Use a 4-inch circular cookie cutter to remove the center of the layer. Then, stack it on top of the red and white layers you've started building.
Step 6: Use the same cookie cutter to remove the center of the remaining thin red and white layers. This part works like a puzzle. You're going to put the smaller white and red circles you just cut inside of the hole in the blue layer. Make sure to frost around the inside of the blue, and between your white and red layers. When you're done, the exterior should look like this.
Now comes the fun part! Decorate the outside of your cake however you like. I chose to leave the frosting plain, but I've been loving all the cake bunting on Pinterest, so I cut out some red and blue stars from scrapbook paper and threaded them together with dental floss (hey- it's all I had on hand!). I used kebab skewers to keep it in place, and added ribbon to be festive.
I'll be honest, at this point, it was about 11 pm (I got a late start), and the kitchen was an absolute mess. I'm not a very clean cook to begin with, but add late-night sleepies to the mix, and things start getting reaaal sloppy. But I couldn't stop!
Despite this fun, flag-tastic, FINISHED cake in front of me, all I could think about was the pile of the leftover cakes still on the counter... you know, the outside of the red and white rings from the top, the center of the blue, and a whole layer of red that went completely untouched. What a waste! So I did what any girl would do with a demolished cake. No, I did not start a food fight with Bryan (who was sweetly helping me with all my dirty dishes)...though in hindsight, that would have been fun.
I made cake pops!
Watching the clock tick its way far past my bedtime, I knew I was in for at least another hour's worth of work, but the cake was already baked and I figured my Sunday school class would be happily surprised with the treats. (PS, for those of you who have not yet been introduced to the world of these bite-sized, heavenly treats, I suggest you hop on over to Bakerella.com and spend at least an hour drooling over the endless possibilities of mini cakes on a stick.)
Moving on... I smashed up all the leftover cake in a large bowl, got out a can of frosting (I was out of the good stuff by now), quickly mixed 1 Tbsp. of almond into the frosting, and added enough frosting to hold the cake crumbs together. Then I rolled them into bite-sized balls. For an ordinary cake pop recipe, you'd usually add about one whole can, depending on how moist your cake is, but since this was less than a whole cake's worth, I just kept adding a little more until I found a good consistency. Too much frosting will make your (dough?) too sticky and difficult to roll and/or dip in chocolate.
A half hour in the freezer later, and these guys were ready to be stuck with lolly sticks, dipped in dark chocolate, and drizzled with some festive red and white candy melts. Okay, okay, the drizzling was probably excessive considering it was nearly 1 am at this point-- but I can't do anything halfheartedly.
Please excuse the mess. I told you I'm no Mrs. Clean in the kitchen, especially past bed time.
Ahhh, all done. And it all worked out lovely! The cake did, indeed, look like a flag when I cut it, and the cake pops were g-o-n-e by the time I walked out of church on Sunday. Success!
I hope you all have a wonderful Fourth of July! And it's still not too late to make your own patriotic treats to celebrate our great country!