Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Flag Cake - My Way

Tomorrow is the Fourth of July, and there is no better reason to make a dessert inspired by Old Glory.  There are tons of recipes out there for various flag cakes, but I didn't feel like making a standard rectangular sheet cake, I instead wanted a layer cake with a berry filling, so there would be red, white and blue throughout the cake.  I found a great filling to use on YumSugar using fresh blueberries and strawberries.

Then I had to figure out what cake to make.  I feel like if you are making a layer cake, you have to make it from scratch. Every time I have tried to use a boxed mix to make a decorated cake, it falls apart because the structure of boxed cake mix is just too weak.  I chose my grandmother's recipe for white cake.  I was lucky enough to get a handwritten cookbook from her as a wedding shower gift a couple of years ago and couldn't wait to give her cake recipes a whirl.  I think there are members of my family who don't even have my grandmother's cake recipes, so hopefully I won't tick anyone off by posting it online for the world to see.  It ended up being one of the easiest cakes I've made.  In so many cake recipes, you have to cream the butter and sugar, then add dry ingredients alternately with liquids.  This one uses vegetable shortening instead of butter and sort of just gets dumped together, so you don't end up with a bunch of extra bowls unnecessarily dirtied.  The most difficult part of the recipe was separating the eggs since I decided to make a white cake which doesn't have egg yolks.

Now, for the frosting.  I'm not a huge frosting fan, I'm always the one asking for a middle piece of cake because I want as little frosting as possible with my cake.  I really didn't want a cake that was sickeningly sweet, so I made a little whipped cream to layer with the berries, and then a cream cheese frosting for the outside of the cake.  I love cream cheese and I really think the tanginess of it cuts through some of the sweetness in a standard buttercream.

Decorated with blueberries, strawberries and raspberries, the cake looked almost too good to eat.  Once I brought myself to cut into my masterpiece, I was so glad I did, because it was probably one of the best cakes I have ever made.

Triple Berry Flag Cake (printable recipe)

For the Cake
2 1/2 C. cake flour
1 2/3 C. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 1/4 C. milk
2/3 C. vegetable shortening
4 1/2 tsp. baking powder
5 egg whites
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 360 degrees.  Grease and lightly flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine cake flour, sugar, salt, 3/4 C. milk and shortening.  Beat vigorously for 2 minutes.  Stir in baking powder.  Add egg whites, remaining 1/2 C. milk and vanilla.  Beat for 2 minutes more.  Evenly distribute batter between prepared pans.  Bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.  Let cake cool completely before filling and frosting/decorating it.

For the Filling
1 C. heavy whipping cream
4 T. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 C. fresh blueberries
1 C. fresh strawberries

Place 1/2 C. of each berry along with 2 T. sugar in a medium saucepan.  Using a fork, roughly mash the berries.  Cook the mixture over medium heat until it starts to simmer, stirring often, for about 5 minutes.  Set a mesh strainer over a medium bowl and pour mixture through it, using a rubber spatula to push as much of the mixture as possible through the strainer.  Stir in the remaining berries and set mixture aside to cool.
Beat whipping cream with remaining 2 T. sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Set aside.

For the Frosting
1 C. butter, softened (2 sticks)
1 pkg. cream cheese, softened (8 oz.)
3 C. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1-2 T. milk
1/2 C. fresh blueberries
1/2 C. fresh strawberries
1/2 C. fresh raspberries

Combine butter and cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.  Cream together on medium speed, then add vanilla.  Turn speed to low and gradually add powdered sugar.  Add 1 T. milk and beat on high speed until mixture gets fluffy and and is perfect spreading consistency, adding more milk if necessary.

Assembling the Cake
Trim rough edges from cakes using a serrated knife.  Place first layer, bottom side up, on a serving platter. (*Tip - put strips of parchment paper under cake edges for easy clean up without ruining your platter).  Using an offset spatula, spread cake with whipped cream.  Spoon the berry mixture over the whipped cream.  Top with remaining cake layer, bottom side up.  Using about a cup of frosting, spread a thin layer over top and sides of cake (this is a crumb coat - it is a must unless you want little pieces of cake poking through your final product).  Refrigerate for at least an hour, or overnight.

Spread entire cake with about 2/3 of the remaining frosting.  Place remaining 1/3 into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip.  Use a toothpick to outline the shape of a flag on the cake.  Just before serving, fill the upper left corner with a layer of blueberries, then place a row of raspberries across the upper edge of the cake and pipe one row of frosting below it.  Repeat process, alternating raspberries and strawberries until you have covered the cake.  I didn't worry about making sure there were 13 stripes.  Depending on the size of the strawberries and raspberries you find, you may get more or less than I did.  Pipe a row of frosting around top and bottom of cake, just to finish the edges.


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