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: , , , , , .

Mojito Jelly Giveaway Taro Ice Cream

301 Comments Add your own

  • 1. EdibLessons  |  May 1, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    I absolutely adore this cake. I hope you don’t mind, but I linked to it on my blog today (here: http://ediblessons.blogspot.com/2010/05/blog-barf.html)…It’s stunning, and I cannot wait to try it this summer! Awesome.

  • 2. Kathy  |  May 9, 2010 at 10:28 am

    I’m the head of my local DAR chapter and very tempted to try this for the tea we’re having in June which marks the end of my term. I think the ladies would go crazy over this one!

  • 3. Amanda  |  May 31, 2010 at 8:00 am

    Hi, I LOVE LOVE LOVE your cake:0) I tried to make it last night for Memorial Day today but it didnt turn out quite right:( I made the cakes from box cake mix because I decided to do it last minute (plus I wanted to try it before the 4th). Well, it seemed like the cake was too moist. Also, it started falling apart…..& its still kinda lopsided, the blue layer was breaking apart. I followed the directions and tried the step by step ones from the other blogs but Im not sure what Im doing wrong? HELP PLEASE!!!!!!!! Thanks:0)

    • 4. Elissa  |  May 31, 2010 at 10:11 am

      Hi Amanda, it’s hard to help because I have no idea what your cake looks like, but the boxed cake might have been too moist. I think you need a somewhat sturdy cake because of all the cutting and stacking. Sorry it didn’t work out this time :(

  • 5. Becki Bakes! » Memorial Surprise Cake  |  June 1, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    […] OK, first and foremost – mad kudos to 17 and Baking and her must-be-awesome Dad for coming up with the coolest (well, coolest and most do-able) cake I’ve stumbled across yet!  Check out her post: A Little Taste of Independence. […]

  • 6. {Inspiration Board} 4th of July | Nounces  |  June 23, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    […] Cupcakes with Star Cookies Table Setting Rice Crispy Treats Floral Arrangements Yogurt Centerpieces Cake Drink Categorized as Designs, Holidays, Inspiration Boards, […]

  • 7. lori  |  June 24, 2010 at 2:49 am

    love this cake…im going to try it tomorrow…i hope it works out…

  • 8. Mooseinpt  |  June 24, 2010 at 11:51 am

    Just saw you on NEW DAY NORTHWEST this morning (6-22-10, 1100am), a rerun of your appearance on 3-29-10 and saw your cake for the first time. I will attempt this monster for a 4th of July party, Thank you and your DAD for the awesome invention, what a brainiac. Applause applause

  • 9. Mooseinpt  |  June 24, 2010 at 11:51 am

    Just saw you on NEW DAY NORTHWEST this morning (6-24-10, 1100am), a rerun of your appearance on 3-29-10 and saw your cake for the first time. I will attempt this monster for a 4th of July party, Thank you and your DAD for the awesome invention, what a brainiac. Applause applause

  • 10. Michelle  |  June 25, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    Thanks so much for the fantastic idea!


  • 11. SUgar PArade «  |  June 28, 2010 at 7:13 am

    […] I’m thinking of making these for the 4th of July, along with this cake […]

  • 12. Jessie  |  June 29, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    My husband birthday is the 5th and we always have a big get together he was born at 12: 02 this will be such a great addition you r brilliant! your dad too! Thanks

  • 13. Molly  |  June 29, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    I haven’t tried this-yet- but for people who have had trouble cutting the cakes, try freezing them first. Cakes cut pretty easily with a serrated knife when they are frozen. I’ll be trying this this weekend!

  • 14. Wanda  |  June 30, 2010 at 4:42 am

    I love your cake. Great idea. One question. Food coloring can be tricky. What type of food coloring did you use and how much? Thanks and enjoy the fireworks!

    • 15. Elissa  |  June 30, 2010 at 12:20 pm

      Wanda – I used gel food coloring. Gel and powder are better than liquid (they’re brighter, you don’t have to use as much, and it won’t affect the texture of your cake as much.) I used Wilton brand, which come in little pots: http://www.wilton.com/store/site/product.cfm?id=3e30b2d9-475a-bac0-5d5c3db846dfd354 Make sure it’s actually food coloring, and not pre-colored frosting/icing. I’m not sure exactly how much I used… I just added color until it looked right. It’s probably better to go too bright than too pale.

  • 16. Amber  |  June 30, 2010 at 7:54 am

    Adorable cake!

  • 17. Rhii!!  |  June 30, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    I totally plan to use this on Sundayy!!
    I was skimming through some other recipies, photos, and writtings of yours..
    Youre unmistakingly and incrediblyy talented!!

    ((BTW im 17 and not so good at baking, but cooking french and italian cuisine like no other!! lol))

  • 18. Magic of Spice  |  July 1, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    What a fantastic cake:)

  • 19. Rachel  |  July 1, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    I am making this in two days!! What is a good sturdy white cake recipie? Is the recipie attached to yourvideo okay to use the one adapted from my home to yours? I really hope it turns out!

    Thanks Rachel

  • 20. C. Beth  |  July 2, 2010 at 6:50 am

    This is so cool! I may have to make it for 4th of July. I wonder if I could use pureed blueberries & strawberries instead of food coloring. Worth a shot, right?

  • […] Day, I will now appeal to your stomach! I just stumbled across this absolutely gorgeous 4th of July cake on 17 and Baking, the wonderful and impressive blog of 18 year old Elissa. Seriously, watch out […]

  • […] BuzzFeed and recipe by 17 and Baking Tagged with: Buzzfeed, Cake, Cream Cheese, Flag, Fourth of July, Independence […]

  • […] a flag motif when cut! To make this deliciously patriotic dish, check out 17 and Baking’s recipe. [17AndBaking via Buzzfeed] More » Cake – Cooking – Home – […]

  • 24. Fourth of July Menu Planner | Recipes for Everyone  |  July 2, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    […] [Photograph: 17 and Baking] Go here for the flag cake recipe » […]

  • 25. DIVACHEFY  |  July 2, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    love it what a great idea!!!

  • 26. Diane  |  July 3, 2010 at 6:18 am

    This cake looks amazing! Very clever. I had to share on my site and linked back to this. Happy 4th a year later!

  • […] Creative Hidden Layered Cake Flag {via 17 and […]

  • 29. Sam  |  July 3, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Just made the cakes–gluten-free for a friend with celiac–and waiting for them to cool so I can cut and stack. I had a bit of a problem with my white cake still being gooey in the center when I upended it onto a cooling rack, but I’m hoping it will work out. Thanks for the amazing idea!

  • 30. Mira  |  July 3, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    I read about this post on TheGloss. This is excellent

  • 31. Mira  |  July 3, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    …and alas, I managed to click “submit” before finishing my post.

    As an avid baker myself, and a person who was, until 5 minutes ago, undecided about what to bring to a 4th of July party tomorrow, I believe I have found my project for tomorrow. Looks delicious, and amazing!

  • 32. Happy 4th of July « pinksuedeshoe  |  July 4, 2010 at 2:17 am

    […] more pics and how to from Elissa (age 17!) here […]

  • 33. vc1  |  July 4, 2010 at 6:10 am

    That is GREAT!!!! So talented!

  • 34. America’s Birthday Cake « The Gourmand Mom  |  July 4, 2010 at 7:13 am

    […] Cake idea inspired by 17 and Baking blog. […]

  • 35. cheryl  |  July 4, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    Cake made with food coloring is gross! So bad for you, nothing natural. Yuck!

  • 36. India  |  July 4, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    I made this today and it came out so well! All my friends were surprised when I cut into it hahaha. Thanks for the awesome recipe!

  • […] treat.  I decided to make one of the most cleaver cake ideas I have seen. It came from the blog 17 and baking.  Elissa is inspiring!  I hope you enjoy this idea as much as I […]

  • 38. patriotic parfait « Knotty Notes  |  July 4, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    […] what patriotic pastry to make for the 4th of July.  Although I was really tempted to make this amazing flag cake from “17 and baking”, I opted for an easier (and healthier) red-white-and-blue […]

  • 39. Pointability Day 4th of July « KatieFeldmom  |  July 5, 2010 at 9:44 am

    […] cake? Well I got the idea for this really cool flag cake on Friday […]

  • 40. Sally  |  July 5, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Beautiful cake! I’m frosting mine right now. I probably should have used a little more food coloring, as my version is looking a bit pastel…. oh, well. Thank you for this great recipe. I can’t wait to try out another of yours!

  • 41. Jessie  |  July 5, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    Thank you so much, I also just finished frosting mine and can’t wait to slice into it! I had a little trouble with the crumbs maybe next time I’ll be able to freeze the layers but this time there was no room in the freezer. I made it for my husbands birthday he was born at 12: 43 am. I’m really glad t have found your site!

  • 42. Lauren  |  July 5, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    I love this idea but as I just bought a checkerboard cake pa set I wonder if it would make it easier at all. And you could use pureed strawberries and blueberries and add it to the cake batter like you use applesauce to replace oil but it would also color and flavor the cake layers.

  • 43. Bryn Miyahara  |  July 5, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    I made this cake for the 4th of July and it was a huge hit! Love the blog! And thanks for the creative inspiration!

  • 44. Amanda  |  July 6, 2010 at 5:28 am

    I saw one other cake like this, but yours is MUCH prettier! What a beautiful job you did!

  • 45. Amber  |  July 6, 2010 at 11:06 am

    Oh my!! What an adorable cake!! Thank you so much for posting!!! I’d love to try this one out! :D

  • 46. menu plan monday ~ july 4, 2010 | Christmas Notebook  |  July 6, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    […] Grilled Chicken Hamburgers / Homemade Buns Veggie Packets Grilled Corn on the Cob Flag Cake Ice […]

  • 47. flag cake | Christmas Notebook  |  July 6, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    […] cool is that?? I found the idea and the recipe for the frosting on Elissa’s blog 17 and Baking. She attributes the idea to her […]

  • 48. Fourth of July = Dessert « The Skinit.com Blog  |  July 8, 2010 at 10:45 pm

    […] Someone make me this cake. Young cake-making master Elissa at “17 and Baking” showed off this amazing cake on her blog. […]

  • 49. Renee in a Golden State » Blog Archive » Taart (II)  |  July 8, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    […] gezegd kan ik weinig eer claimen voor dit project, want Xinhong had het orginele recept gevonden. Daarna heb ik de instructies van deze namaker […]

  • 50. It’s been a while… « Taydor Tott  |  July 9, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    […] Originally I planned to make this flag cake. […]

  • 51. Leah  |  July 13, 2010 at 11:02 am

    Hi! I made this cake for the 4th and everyone loved it! Thanks for sharing.

  • 52. A Little Taste of Independence  |  July 14, 2010 at 8:56 am

    […] Click here to see how to make this cake yourself. […]


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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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