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. Give LDS Gifts  |  July 3, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    I LOVE this cake! I just blogged it. Thanks for the great info!

  • 2. Karen  |  July 3, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    Great looking cake!

  • 3. sharon  |  July 3, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    Wow – great looking cake. Bet it tastes better than you gi ve yourself credit for too! Wish I lived closer so I could stop by for a taste! Tell dad he has great ideas!

  • 4. justJENN  |  July 3, 2009 at 9:55 pm


  • 6. LunaCafe  |  July 4, 2009 at 3:37 am

    Wonderful! What a perfect cake for the 4th of July (TODAY). It’s so much fun and looks delicious too. Are you on Twitter? I’ll tweet this out. Hope folks have time to bake it this morning for family gatherings later today. …Susan

  • 7. 4th Of July  |  July 4, 2009 at 3:58 am

    […] A Little Taste of Independence " 17 and Baking (17andbaking.wordpress.com) – July 03, 2009Cream Cheese Cake with decorative flag on the inside. […]

  • 8. Rosalind  |  July 4, 2009 at 7:45 am

    Amazing! I am an occasional only baker so I need a little help. How much coconut milk in the cake and how much food coloring to get the vibrant color to the layers? Do you have a favorite white cake recipe or do you use boxed white cake mix? Thanks for sharing!
    I want to practice this one before planning to make it for a special occasion coming up.
    Congrats on your new independence!

    • 9. Elissa  |  July 4, 2009 at 11:02 am

      Rosalind – The coconut milk isn’t necessary for the cake… I just picked a recipe that used it. I am still looking for that perfect white cake recipe because I haven’t found one I really like yet. You can use any white cake recipe you’d like to make this flag cake, or you could also use a boxed mix. As for the color, it takes a LOT of food coloring. I used food coloring from these small bottles and it used up practically half of the whole thing to get the colors as bright and vibrant as I wanted. You can use either liquid or powdered food coloring, and just add it slowly until you get the color you want.

  • 10. Genesis  |  July 4, 2009 at 7:59 am

    What a seriously awesome cake!! I know just the cake recipe to use for it . . . except I`m not american. Maybe I can do a variation for a Canadian or Guatemalan flag. :)

  • 11. Karine  |  July 4, 2009 at 9:53 am

    Wowow! That cake looks incredible!

  • 12. Rachelle @ "Mommy? I'm Hungry!"  |  July 4, 2009 at 10:08 am

    That is so cool!!

    Happy 4th of July!

  • […] Beautiful 4th of July Flag Cake from […]

  • 14. Marta  |  July 4, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    Oh wow Elissa! this cake is a masterpiece! Honestly, you should sale cakes like these, it’s amazingly gorgeous! I love that it’s coconutty too, yummy!
    I think it’s nice to develop personal traditions around holidays, and then pass them on. It enriches our society and keeps us rooted!
    Happy 4th of July!

  • 15. Melissa99  |  July 4, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    Wow, that is a neat cake! Happy Fourth! And congrats on your driver’s license! :)

  • 16. Jen @ MaplenCornbread  |  July 4, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    STUNNING to say the least! well done!! Congrats on getting your liscense!!

  • 17. Cindy  |  July 4, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    Thanks for the idea! It’s in the oven as we speak to surprise my hubby!

  • 18. Dianne  |  July 4, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    I made this cake today for my husband’s birthday — it came out beautifully and he was very impressed! Thank you so very much for the inspiration and instruction!


  • 19. Jackie @ PhamFatale.com  |  July 5, 2009 at 1:01 am

    This is a delicious looking treat. What a great idea! We had beautiful fireworks in our area. Happy 4th!

  • 20. laurelg1  |  July 5, 2009 at 3:44 am

    Impressive and original! You are very talented! Looks great…wish it was the 4th again so I could try it too –

  • 21. Shay  |  July 5, 2009 at 5:20 am

    I’m impressed. Love that you are motivated #1 to bake #2 to step out and blog about it #3 you study biology. You go girl! Hope you don’t mind, I blogged about you on my FCCLA/FCS class blog. Blessings! Shay
    PS, LOOOOVE that Patriotic cake.

  • 22. Catherine (Ladygourmet)  |  July 5, 2009 at 9:39 am

    Ur cake looks amazing my family and I can’t get over ur blog…its amazing…everything looks so good…have a great day!

  • 23. John Strange  |  July 5, 2009 at 9:42 am

    Great blog!

  • 24. bakingblonde  |  July 5, 2009 at 10:33 am

    I am in LOVE with that idea! Perfect presentation.

  • 25. kvanaren  |  July 5, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    Thanks so much for posting this! I made one yesterday, it turned out perfectly:


    • 26. Elissa  |  July 5, 2009 at 7:23 pm

      kvanaren – I checked out your cake, it looked gorgeous!

  • 27. Jesse  |  July 5, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    Great idea!

  • 28. kristen  |  July 5, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    what a great idea and so well executed! its beautiful!

  • 29. gratinee  |  July 5, 2009 at 9:11 pm

    That looks amazing! Almost too pretty to eat!

  • 30. lisamichele  |  July 6, 2009 at 12:55 am

    That is one GORGEOUS July 4th cake! You are the epitome of the word ‘wunderkind’, when it comes to baking and blogging!

  • 31. Talita  |  July 6, 2009 at 3:03 am

    What a beautiful cake! The dough and frosting looks really yummy!

  • 32. alicia  |  July 6, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    what a good idea – props to pop! never made anything for canada day up here.. was sick last week! hope you had a good weekend =)

  • 33. Julia @ Mélanger  |  July 7, 2009 at 4:02 am

    Amazing. So creative. Happy 4th.

  • 34. Basic Meatloaf Recipe  |  July 7, 2009 at 8:53 am

    Your site is really nice and great. so I’ve added your site into my site. i hope you will add my site into your site too.

  • 35. Priya  |  July 7, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    wow, elissa!!!! this is amazing! it looks better than i imagined!

  • 36. Kristen  |  July 7, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    This has to be one of the coolest 4th of July desserts I have ever seen!

  • 37. justine  |  July 8, 2009 at 11:24 am

    This is so beautiful!! I would almost be too afraid to eat it : )


  • 38. Jayme  |  July 8, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    Elissa, I just wanted to say THANK YOU for this totally awesome post! I made this cake for the 4th and it was a HUGE hit! I suck at slicing cakes in half horizontally, but other than that, I was really pleased with how my cake turned out. Check out my blog if you’d like to see pics :)

  • 39. amateureater  |  July 10, 2009 at 5:29 am

    Hello! That’s an absolutely wonderful cake you’ve made there. I hope it’s alright that I borrow a picture (linked and credited, of course) for a post about 4th of July desserts on my blog. If you’d rather I remove it, please let me know.

    Here’s the entry if you want to take a look: http://eatingforamateurs.blogspot.com/2009/07/americans-make-desserts.html

  • […] OK, the 4th has passed, but how cool is this flag cake? […]

  • […] OK, the 4th has passed, but how cool is this flag cake? […]

  • 42. Eliana  |  July 10, 2009 at 10:43 am

    This looks incredible. WAY better than a traditional flag cake. Awesome job!

  • 43. Hillary  |  July 10, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    So clever! I’m a little confused by the directions but when I try it out, it will probably make more sense. Thanks for sharing your cool cake!

  • 44. Elissa  |  July 10, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    Hillary – I know it’s kind of confusing. Some other bloggers made this cake for the 4th and photographed the entire process of making it, so you might find these links helpful:


  • 45. Zack  |  July 11, 2009 at 4:49 am

    Pretty cool post. I just came by your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your posts.

    Any way I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon!

  • 46. Elissa G  |  July 12, 2009 at 10:10 am

    Tastes like victory.

  • 47. Elissa G  |  July 12, 2009 at 10:15 am

    I wonder how little white star nonpareils would hold up if you baked them into the blue cake? Since I’m not a baker, I don’t know if it would work … would be cute though if it did.

  • 48. DrippingwithDesserts  |  July 30, 2009 at 5:11 am

    Stunningly beautiful cake! Way to go.

  • 49. christine  |  November 17, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    Fantastic! We just Twittered your patriotic cake!

    Happy baking,

    P.S. Follow us for cute party ideas.

    Poke around our site. See our Tie Dye cake ideas under Hippy Party, for example.

  • 50. Bake: Easy Macbook Apple Cake « Seattle Lunchbox  |  April 12, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    […] The Cream Cheese Frosting (Adapted from 17 and Baking) […]

  • 51. Billy  |  April 23, 2010 at 3:35 am

    Looks fantastic!

  • 52. Avril  |  April 29, 2010 at 7:53 am

    You are brilliant!!! LOVE LOVE LOVE everything about this cake…can’t wait to make it for 4th of July – Hey, I may even make it sooner….like for Memorial Day. :-)


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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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