A Little Taste of Independence

July 1, 2009 at 11:03 pm 288 comments

Hey everyone – happy 4th of July!

I know most everyone has a special Independence Day tradition. Most people spend the day with their family and friends, others go to neighborhood potlucks and barbeques, and still others go to the park to watch the fireworks burst beneath the stars. My personal tradition?

When we first moved into this house, I was so happy to discover that the neighborhood was full of kids. Boys, it turned out. We had only been settled in the house for a few months before it was July, and I discovered something else – those boys were ridiculous pyromaniacs. The entire day they shot off the loudest fireworks they possibly could, and not even stopping there. They would drop fireworks into hollowed out tennis balls, empty coke cans, even buckets of water, just to see what would happen. When I first opened my door, there was a half melted army man on our driveway. I don’t even want to imagine what they did to the poor guy.

We’re not little kids, and unfortunately I don’t go out and play with those boys anymore. It seems as we got older it was weirder for a girl to hang around the group, and I haven’t created a fort in their backyards or explored the neighborhood with them in years. I’m too scared to light off any fireworks (Roman Candle fireworks are about as intense as I can handle), and I hardly ever see them now. But every year for the 4th of July, the whole neighborhood comes out as soon as dusk falls to enjoy their show together, and I laugh with them like we’ve stayed friends all along.

While I wish I could claim credit for it, the idea of a flag cake was completely my father’s. It was all a bit of an experiment and when I finally cut the cake open, revealing the familiar red white and blue, I was so surprised to see that it worked. Besides that, I was floored by how beautifully colored all the layers were, and how much it really resembled a flag! It might be one of the coolest cakes I’ve ever made!

I used a white cake flavored with coconut milk. I wrapped the cakes and left them overnight and in the morning, was disappointed because they had dried out. I made a simple syrup with lime and tried to revive the layers, but the cake was still dry and I’m not sharing the recipe. However, the cake came together well and you can use any recipe for a three layer white cake.

I wanted the cake to be completely white on the outside, keeping the richly colored layers hidden. I also didn’t want to mess around with blueberries and strawberries on the top, which I think are generally pretty common around the 4th. I made my favorite cream cheese frosting and flavored it with lime zest. While the cake was nothing special, I do love this cream cheese frosting, and it’s the easiest to make – no room temperature cream cheese needed!

So, want to know how it’s made? :)

Bear with me, it’s a bit hard to explain without pen and paper.

To make the cake, you use three layers of white cake. Using food coloring, one layer is dyed blue, one is dyed red, and the last layer is kept white. The three layers are leveled so they are all the same height. Let’s say each layer is 2 inches tall.

Using a serrated knife or cake leveler, slice the red and white layers horizontally in half. So you have a blue layer (2″), two red layers (each 1″), and two white layers (each 1″). Set one white and one red layer aside, those will be the bottom two stripes of the flag.

You only want a square of blue in each slice, not an entire layer. Stack the blue layer, white layer, and red layer on top of each other. Using a serrated knife, cut a large circle through all three layers. I used a bowl as a guide. Now you have a ring of blue (2″), a ring of white (1″), a ring of red (1″), and three inner circles in each color (the blue is 2″ and the other two are both 1″). Discard the inner circle of blue and the outer rings of red and white.

To assemble the cake, frost the bottom two layers together – set the uncut white layer on a plate and spread with frosting. Top with the uncut red layer. Spread the uncut red layer with frosting, then set the blue ring on top. Use a spatula to spread a very, very thin layer of frosting around the inside edge of the blue ring. This will help keep the blue layer and the two top stripes together.

Place the white inner circle on top of the uncut red layer, inside the ring of blue. Frost, and top with the red inner circle. Frost the entire cake and voila, it’s a flag cake!

Whew! Make sense? It’s much less complicated than it sounds, truly. And the result is just too cool. Like I said, I’m not crazy about this cake recipe but I do like the cream cheese frosting. The best part about it is that you can use cold cream cheese – not rock hard, but straight from the fridge is fine. Here it is, plain, but the flavor combinations are endless… add zest or juice or grated ginger or extract or whatever you’d like!

Update – More help! Watch me make the cake for New Day Northwest, a morning show here in Seattle: Get Patriotic with “17 and Baking” (video)

Watch the staff of KSL 5 Television make it: Red, White, and Blue Flag Cake (video)

And finally, some readers made this cake and blogged about it. These two bloggers did a much lovelier job of explaining the cake, with photos/diagrams and everything, so if you found my description confusing, check these sites out: Delectable Deliciousness’s post and A Stove with a House Around It’s post.

Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes enough to frost a 4th of July Flag Cake
From The Joy of Cooking

16 oz cream cheese
10 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
4 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Beat the cream cheese, butter, and extract together until combined. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar until the desired consistency is reached.

Printer Friendly Version – 4th of July Flag Cake Instructions and Cream Cheese Frosting

PS: Speaking of a taste of independence… I got my driver’s license a few days ago! Whoo!

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288 Comments Add your own

  • 1. the urban baker  |  July 19, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    this is fantastic! you are fantastic! how about a “how to video” on your blog? i guarantee you everyone would love to see that! happy july!

    Reply
    • 2. Elissa  |  July 19, 2010 at 11:20 pm

      the urban baker – Thanks very much! :) If you click the first video link in the post above, I make the cake on a local TV talk show… a “how to” of sorts. Thanks for the kind comments!

  • 3. Recipes to Try (Seasonal) | Schmelly Eats  |  August 26, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    [...] to Try (Seasonal) Posted on August 26, 2010 by schmelly| Leave a comment Fourth of July Flag Cake From 17 and Baking [...]

    Reply
  • 4. Linda  |  September 28, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    I stumbled across this ingenious piece of fun ( the cake and Elissa…I mean this in the best way ), and this gem of a baker and blogger (Elissa) when looking for a Fourth of July cake (FOJ cake) idea for this year. I later viewed a video of one of those Morning Show types of shows where Elissa was demonstrating how to make her FOJ cake. ( Good job by the way) Well, without getting off the subject. I love this recipe and I am all for encouraging Elissa in all of her ventures in college and in life. Her recipes and photography are mouthwatering, charming and are real tummy teasers! The Fourth of July cake version I made was a coconut cake version. I will post on my blog showing how it turned out. The idea was clearly inspired by you Elissa! I sprinkled thin layers of coconut throughout the icing, and for the top of the cake, I added red food coloring to coconut and placed it in a ziplock sandwich bag and gently shook it until the coconut was just the right color of red. ( Add more or less coloring for lighter or darker shades of red and gently pinch clumps of colored coconut to break them up if they clump up) For the blue stripes and blue backgrond where the stars go, I did the same only with blue coloring. For the stars, I piped those on using a #16 decorator’s tip. Again,for more details, I’ll post it on my blog. This was one of the most exciting and fun cakes I’ve ever made. I enjoyed cutting the first slice with my husband. The true test and surprise is if you can get it to come out looking really clean and patriotic in the middle. But if it doesn’t, it’s still worth the time and effort. It’s such a Assembling the cake was fun too. I can’t wait to make this cake again next year, but I will probably make one without the coconut for those who don’t like coconut. Thanks Elissa and Dad for the great idea and thanks Elissa for all your creations!

    Reply
    • 5. Linda  |  September 28, 2010 at 5:15 pm

      It’s me again. Sorry about the goof-up in the comment I just left.. “It’s such a Assembling the cake was fun too.”

  • 6. Linda@idoforyouweddingandparty.com/blog/  |  October 4, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    I replied about the Fourth of July Cake (above) and didn’t put my blog address so I’m sending this comment with my blog address. I also forgot to add that the watermelon and basil sorbet is on my list of things to try for next summer! Thanks Ellissa…I cannot wait to try it!

    Reply
  • 7. steph  |  October 30, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    Thanks for these tips. Adds a great dimension to cake decorating when the cake looks good from the outside, the inside, and tastes wonderful!

    Reply
  • 8. Linda  |  November 19, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    I love your creations and you are such an inspiration. I too love baking and cooking, but lately I’ve been baking and have embarked upon a 12 year cake a month journey. It’s been a blast so far. Do you see yourself branching off into cooking fancy cuisine? I would love to see your creations in cooking too, but by all means keep up the baking!. You are a gem! I introduced you, in my blog…I couldn’t hide a good thing! I made a Fourth of July Flag cake which is also on my blog (http://idoforyouweddingandparty.com/blog/). The cake is inspired by you of course. It is coconut style! Thanks to you and your dad for the inspiration behind this one!

    Reply
  • 9. Linda  |  November 19, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    Just wanted to add that the neighbors loved this cake too! ‘So much fun!

    Reply
  • [...] the inside of her cake looked like an American flag, and I fell in love.  Check out the link here (I would feel bad posting one of her fantastic pictures on my [...]

    Reply
  • 11. Fred D Mcdavid  |  March 31, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    Well done, thanks for the great post.

    Reply
  • 12. Derek B  |  April 9, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    Wow I absolutely love the creativity on this and your explanation was wonderful. I love how you kept the outside just plain white so that when you cut it open it is a complete suprise.
    Also please give compliments to the photographer.

    Reply
  • 13. How to make the flag cake | Live from the 925 v.2.0  |  April 10, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    [...] to make them nice and level. Again, I’m not the creative genius behind the cake. Check out 17 and Baking. And if anyone has any ideas for a cake like this – i.e. put a random design inside a cake [...]

    Reply
  • 14. I’m more patriotic than you | Live from the 925 v.2.0  |  April 16, 2011 at 11:44 pm

    [...] credit goes to: 17 and Baking More about this cake later. Time for bed. Did you like this? Share [...]

    Reply
  • 15. S.  |  May 16, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    This is great! I’m shocked at how much it really resembles a flag! It’s almost like a piece of art within food, which makes it even better!

    Reply
  • 16. » Memorial Day Recipes - Divine Party Concepts  |  May 26, 2011 at 11:10 am

    [...] Dogs; Cupcake; Berry Trifle; Fruit Sparklers; Cake;  Chocolate Dipped Pretzels; Sangria Coolers; All American Burger var linkwithin_site_id = 37523; [...]

    Reply
  • 17. 100 Red, White and Blue Recipes | RecipeGirl.com  |  May 27, 2011 at 6:03 am

    [...] Blog Mini 4th of July Cheesecake Bites by The Craving Chronicles Rocket Pop Cake by Momofuku for 2 Flag Layer Cake by 17 and [...]

    Reply
  • 18. Sadia  |  June 9, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    Brilliant. I’ll be making this for a July welcome home when my husband returns from Afghanistan!

    Reply
  • 19. Brandi  |  June 13, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    I used your cake idea for a military boot camp Bon Voyage party and it was such a hit!! Thank you for sharing!!!

    Reply
  • [...] year? I found three examples to share with you for inspiration. The idea started with Elissa of 17 and Baking. Here’s her [...]

    Reply
  • 21. 11 Days?! «  |  June 23, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    [...] is a pic from 17 and Baking.  She made the original striped cake, but there have been quite a few floating around the food [...]

    Reply
  • 22. Hidden Flag Cake | Gourmet Heartbeat Blog  |  June 25, 2011 at 4:28 am

    [...] Ervina, got the idea from Elissa of 17 and Baking. Two years ago Elissa wrote about her amazing Hidden Flag Cake, a patriotic take on a checkerboard template. Ervina loved it, but needed to feed a lot more [...]

    Reply
  • 23. {Pinterest} 4th of July « Midwestern Belle  |  June 26, 2011 at 10:45 am

    [...] you want to give it a try, check out the original recipe and instructions by 17 and Baking as well as I am Baker’s flag [...]

    Reply
  • 24. Nat  |  June 26, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    How do you get the cake so red? When I use red food coloring it looks pink. I can never get a true red.

    Reply
    • 25. Elissa  |  July 1, 2011 at 1:05 pm

      Nat – I used gel food coloring, which is stronger than liquid, and used quite a bit of it. Good luck!

  • [...] though it was raining for the fifth straight day. So I went to work. I was inspired after reading this and went at it. I used my favorite white cake recipe, nice and [...]

    Reply
  • [...] to make them nice and level. Again, I’m not the creative genius behind the cake. Check out 17 and Baking. And if anyone has any ideas for a cake like this – i.e. put a random design inside a cake [...]

    Reply
  • 28. Cafe Zupas » Blog Archive » celebrate: 4th of July  |  June 29, 2011 at 9:10 am

    [...] 4th of July Flag Cake from 17 and Baking [...]

    Reply
  • [...] Flag Cake [...]

    Reply
  • [...] Jessica Bolin I am making this cake this year. Can not wait to try it! http://17andbaking.com/2009/07/01/a-little-taste-of-independence/ [...]

    Reply
  • 31. ocjumpers  |  June 29, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    What an awesome idea! My wife and I run a party rental company and are always looking for new ideas to jazz up our parties. I hope you don’t mind, but we’ve posted a link to your article on our blog at http://www.orangecountyjumpers.com/blogbounce/2011/06/29/awesome-4th-of-july-party-desert-idea/
    We made sure to send our readers and customers your way for more info though. Thanks for the idea!

    Reply
  • 32. Ashley Kimball  |  June 29, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    the cake leveler is a fantastic tool i have one myself and use it all the
    time its nice to see who actually made it but anyways thanks for showing us how to make this wonderful cake im going to make it myself this year im kinda excited.
    from a future baker

    Reply
  • 33. RIQ: Nostalgic Fourth « Thistle Confections  |  June 30, 2011 at 11:13 am

    [...] improvement. You could go with a cool reinvention of the classic, like this one from Baked Bree or this one from 17andBaking. But I like Ina’s. It’s homey. And it has lots of cream cheese. [...]

    Reply
  • 34. Patti Katter  |  June 30, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    Wow, wow, wow! Awesome recipe. I’m afraid this would turn out as earthquake cake if I attempt it.

    Your site is fantastic, keep up the wonderful work!

    Reply
  • 35. Summer at Butler: The Baking | Olivia  |  July 1, 2011 at 9:31 am

    [...] a good Fourth of July! I hope you get a cake like this one. Or a custard tart like this. Don’t they look [...]

    Reply
  • [...] going to attempt to create this cake… wish me [...]

    Reply
  • 37. tinahb  |  July 1, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    I have been making some sort of “red, white,and blue FLAG TOP decorated cakes, brownies, desserts for years BUT I have never thought of this!! You are a genius!! My daughter and I will have loads of fun making this and Thanks for the posting!! : )

    Reply
  • 38. Lemon Basil Olive Oil Cake « 17 and Baking  |  July 1, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    [...] about the 4th? Why not tackle my 4th of July Flag Cake? People have been making it ever since its creation 2 years ago. It's deceptively simple and always [...]

    Reply
  • 39. So ready for a weekend. « pinksuedeshoe  |  July 1, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    [...] 4th of July Flag cake from Glorious Treats, but the idea is originally from 17 and Baking. [...]

    Reply
  • 40. KEJackson  |  July 1, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    I was looking for the “Flag Cake” that used berries…..EVERYONE has seen it…..when I stumbled upon this cake. I am so excited and SO NERVOUS. I am going to bake this cake and take it to our cookout on the 4th!!! Thank you for sharing this recipe, I watched the assembly video and it clicked!!! I can do this!!! :)

    Reply
  • 41. Awesome Flag Cake | Kerrfect  |  July 2, 2011 at 2:46 am

    [...] came across this cake while searching for Ikea 4th of July paper napkins. LOL I think this is the most awesome 4th of July cake I’ve ever seen! While berries lined up like a flag is pretty cool, this flag from 17 and Baking is just such a [...]

    Reply
  • 42. Grilled Desserts for the 4th of July  |  July 3, 2011 at 1:58 am

    [...] to make the holiday even sweeter. There are all kinds of fun red white and blue desserts (like this amazing flag cake I am excited to try) that are perfect for the holiday. But with grilling season in full swing [...]

    Reply
  • 43. Sherry  |  July 3, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    I am making this right now!!!

    Reply
  • 44. Meg  |  July 3, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    Thank you, Elissa. Perfect description of a delightful idea (and delicious icing to boot). I made it for my dad the veteran, and he loved it. He even saluted before taking a bite! :)

    Reply
  • 45. Kate  |  July 4, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    Tried it with red velvet cake today… Amazing. You are so incredibly clever!!!

    Reply
  • 46. Happy 4th of July! » Camellia Street  |  July 4, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    [...] Hannah and I made a 4th of July cake this afternoon. I put it together using instructions found on Elissa’s 17 & Baking site, but there was a moment before cutting when we were placing votes on whether or not it would be [...]

    Reply
  • 47. Allison  |  July 4, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    Can anyone give tips for thicker icing? Mine was very thin and ran a lot.

    Reply
    • 48. Elissa  |  July 5, 2011 at 12:16 am

      Allison – Sorry to hear it was thin! You could beat in more powdered sugar or chill the frosting.

  • 49. Mariel  |  July 4, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    I just made this cake today and it turned out great!! It fought with me during the assembly but that was my fault because I was running short on time and it didn’t quite cool before I started cutting it. Anyways thanks for the idea and the directions! I was so proud I posted a pic to fb!

    Reply
  • [...] Recipe from Glorious Treats as seen at 17 And Baking [...]

    Reply
  • 51. KEJackson  |  July 4, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    I made the cake and everyone loved it!!! It definately kicked my dessert up a notch!!! My colors weren’t as vibrant as these, I think you need baking quality food color to pull that off **note to self!**I bought a cake leveler which was handy to split the red and white layers. I used bought Cream Cheese frosting and baked two boxed white cake mixes. Next time, I will make my own frosting. REMEMBER NO SALT BUTTER!!! One thing I did have to do is turn the A/C to about 70 degrees while I was frosting the cake to keep the room cool, which helped keep the icing firm. And work the icing from the center of the cake, practically like painting it, I was SO NERVOUS! :) Never let the knife leave the icing while you’re working it or you WILL pick up crumbs. I can see where a piping bag would come in handy. Scoop of ice cream on the side and VOILA!!! VERY FESTIVE!!! Thanks for the great idea and Happy 4th Of July!!!

    Reply
  • 52. Independence Day « Stitch-Craft  |  July 4, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    [...] last second I had to make some buttercream. I got the idea from Glorious Treats, who got it from 17 and Baking. It actually was not difficult, though it was time consuming. (I made the cakes a day ahead). Not in [...]

    Reply
  • [...] I don’t know what pushed me to try making the patriotic cake. I am not a very artsy person, so I really don’t have any skills in decorating and arranging cakes. But, when I saw the cake on foodgawker.com (my new favorite site), I was thoroughly impressed with the genius mind that came up with that recipe (see the amazing cake here: http://glorioustreats.blogspot.com/2011/06/4th-of-july-flag-cake.html or here: http://17andbaking.com/2009/07/01/a-little-taste-of-independence/). [...]

    Reply
  • 54. 4th! « La Cucina Francesca  |  July 5, 2011 at 9:18 am

    [...] any beauty contests and I certainly am no pastry chef or even cupcake warrior.  However, I spied this cake on a fave food blog of mine, Miss Elissa over at 17 and baking nearly a year ago and thought to [...]

    Reply

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Elissa Bernstein



I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

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