A Little Taste of Independence

July 1, 2009 at 11:03 pm 301 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!

Entry filed under: Cake/Cupcakes. Tags: , , , , , .

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301 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Wendy  |  July 2, 2009 at 12:03 am

    Wow! That is one super super cool cake! The third photo is lovely – just like it’s from a cookbook. Well Done!

  • 2. Angela  |  July 2, 2009 at 12:12 am

    Gosh, this is just fabulous! A big pat on the back for your dad for coming up with such a creative idea, but all credit to you for pulling it off! It’s a real show-stopper!

  • 3. flory  |  July 2, 2009 at 12:48 am

    splitting cake layers is crazy difficult! the third photo is very lovely indeed. i remember when my mum used to make cakes like that, except she’d swirl the batter together to make rainbow cake.

  • 4. Elissa  |  July 2, 2009 at 1:28 am

    Flory – I use a cake leveler. It was only like 3 dollars from Michaels, and granted it is pretty cheap but it does the job really nicely! Much easier and neater than using a knife, which I could never get the hang of.

  • 5. Sis  |  July 2, 2009 at 4:48 am

    I am definitely gonna do this for the 4th. I was getting a little bit tired of the blueberries and strawberries too. lol

    Great idea and well executed!

  • 6. Meaghan (Chic Cookies)  |  July 2, 2009 at 5:19 am

    Brilliant cake! Bravo. I posted a link on my edible crafts column (ediblecrafts.craftgossip.com) if that’s OK. Hope to bring you even more clicks! Thanks for sharing.

  • 7. new kind of flag cake « Julie Cooks!  |  July 2, 2009 at 5:50 am

    […] Directions and info at 17 and baking […]

  • 8. Nicole  |  July 2, 2009 at 5:57 am

    Great idea! The cake looks fantastic!

  • 9. Jess  |  July 2, 2009 at 6:35 am

    This is so so cool! I was going to do layered red white and blue cupcakes, but this is even cooler! Your instructions are perfect!

  • 10. Deborah  |  July 2, 2009 at 7:13 am

    This is VERY cool!

  • 11. Sara @ Our Best Bites  |  July 2, 2009 at 7:28 am

    K, coolest idea ever. High five to your Dad! I had a dessert all planned for the 4th, but I just might scrap it and make this instead!

  • 12. Valerie  |  July 2, 2009 at 7:42 am

    Wow! Your cakes just keep getting more and more creative!

  • 13. Catie  |  July 2, 2009 at 8:43 am

    the cake looks marv will try it :)
    Thank so for sharing

  • 14. Jayme  |  July 2, 2009 at 9:05 am

    Awesome cake! I might try this for the potluck I’ll be going to.

    Great photos too :) keep up the great work!

  • 15. Baking Monster  |  July 2, 2009 at 9:11 am

    This look terrific! Congrats on your license thats so ecxting! You should make bread because everything else you do is amazing so I don’t that bread would mess that up. :)

  • 16. Madison  |  July 2, 2009 at 9:12 am

    That is one neat cake! I would’ve never thought of that.

  • 17. smellslikehome  |  July 2, 2009 at 9:18 am

    fabulous cake!! i just came across your blog today and am blown away by your talent and maturity! congrats on creating such a great blog – i’ve just added you to my blogroll.

  • 18. Molly Jean  |  July 2, 2009 at 9:20 am

    That is awesome. You did a beautiful job!

  • 19. nutmegnanny  |  July 2, 2009 at 9:20 am

    Very cool! I love the way it looks:)

  • 20. Susan from Food Blogga  |  July 2, 2009 at 9:55 am

    This is spectacular! I’m tweeting it right now!

  • 21. maris  |  July 2, 2009 at 10:07 am

    OMG this is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. CUTEST THING EVER!

  • 22. Alana @ The Good Girl Gone Blog  |  July 2, 2009 at 10:33 am

    Dear Elissa,

    Can I please adopt you so we can bake together and go on picnics?



  • 23. Deanna  |  July 2, 2009 at 11:09 am

    What a great idea!! This cake is beautifully executed and the instructions are very easy to follow! Thanks.

  • 24. Erin  |  July 2, 2009 at 11:12 am

    Amazing! Great idea & execution!

  • 25. Monica H  |  July 2, 2009 at 11:21 am

    Love your cake- so very clever of you and your dad! If I didn’t already have 3 desserts to make for this weekend, I’d so make this!

    Congrats on your drivers license and be safe this weekend!

  • 26. Susan from Food Blogga  |  July 2, 2009 at 11:21 am

    Hey! Just wanted you to know that some people tweeted they might make your cake this wkend! I told you it was spectacular!

  • 27. BethieofVA  |  July 2, 2009 at 11:22 am


  • 28. A Little Taste of Independence | Eat My Charlotte  |  July 2, 2009 at 11:24 am

    […] young blogger made this impressive flag cake for the Fourth of July. How cool is this? Share and […]

  • 29. Dianne  |  July 2, 2009 at 11:52 am

    This is very, very fabulous. I was just trying to think of a special cake to make for my husband’s birthday (on the 4th of July!), and I think this is it.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • 30. Rachel  |  July 2, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    This looks amazing! I just found your blog via Craft Gossip and I’m so glad I did. I love it here!

  • 31. Katrina  |  July 2, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    What a fun cake. Looks awesome!

  • 32. Diana  |  July 2, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    Brilliant! Saw this on Foodgawker and was inspired. I will so be making this cake. I love it!

  • 33. emily  |  July 2, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Seriously adorable. It makes me a bit home sick… I hate being out of the country for the 4th of July.

  • 34. Shannon L  |  July 2, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    This is amazing! I have never seen a red white and blue cake done like that before! Tomorrow on my blog, I am sharing red, white and blue cupcakes! Also congrats on your drivers license! I am getting mine on Tueday! The best 16th birthday present I could think of–besides my new Kitchenaid!

    Great Blog and a great cake!

  • 35. stephchows  |  July 2, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    That is so creative!!! And totally fun! Great job!

  • 36. Katie  |  July 2, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    Okay, YOU are a genius! What a FABULOUS idea!!! I love it!

  • 37. Top Posts « WordPress.com  |  July 2, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    […] A Little Taste of Independence Hey everyone – happy 4th of July! I know most everyone has a special Independence Day tradition. Most people […] […]

  • 38. cookienurse  |  July 2, 2009 at 6:33 pm


  • 39. Kerstin - Cake, Batter, and Bowl  |  July 2, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    Wow, I saw this cake on foodgawker and had to check out your site. I love both!! Very creative :)

  • 40. ciaochowlinda  |  July 2, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    nifty looking cake.

  • 41. Amanda  |  July 2, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    This cake is so legit.

    And… on an unrelated note, I’d just like to point out that I’m leaving the 41st comment. 41 comments since noon! :) Your blog has really taken off!

  • 42. Laura Flowers  |  July 2, 2009 at 10:08 pm

    If I had a smidgen of your talent when I was a teenager I would be super famous by now!

    I hope you keep this up for many years, you’re a great blogger. This isn’t the first time I’ve visited, and I always leave impressed.

  • 43. birthday cake pictures  |  July 3, 2009 at 12:19 am

    A very clever cake! I wouldn’t know where to start with how to make that. Perfect cake for any patriot!

  • 44. Shelly  |  July 3, 2009 at 8:17 am

    That is impressive! I wish I had the patience to do this one! Maybe Labor Day??

  • 45. Jenifer  |  July 3, 2009 at 8:46 am

    Wow, this is so impressive! I have just added you to my RSS feeds – and thank you for sharing this wonderful creations + great directions. Do you mind if I post this on my blog and credit back to you? This is so amazing.

  • 46. Rosaline  |  July 3, 2009 at 9:17 am

    Elissa, I love you girl. You are amazing. :]

  • 47. Elissa  |  July 3, 2009 at 9:22 am

    Meaghan – Thanks for the link.

    Baking Monster – It’s definitely something I want to start, maybe this summer! :)

    Susan – I’m super flattered, thanks!

    Amanda – I know, I’m kind of blown away.

    Shelly – This actually doesn’t take too much work… the baking is really easy and the leveling and layering isn’t TOO bad!

    Jenifer – Thanks for the kind words. Feel free to blog and credit back :)

  • 48. riflessioniquotidiane  |  July 3, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Wow! That is one super super cool cake!

  • 49. debbie  |  July 3, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    Wow, what an amazing cake! Such a relief to see a flag cake that doesn’t have a single berry on it.

  • 50. Fourth of July Cake — Give LDS Gifts  |  July 3, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    […] this the coolest cake?! I just had to share when I saw it. Learn how to make this cake (It’s actually rather simple.) and enjoy your Fourth of July! Share this idea with […]


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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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