I want them to enjoy childhood and the innocence and fun of being a kid.
So, when the Fourth of July started rolling around, I began thinking about a fun family tradition.
Fireworks came to mind, but then I remembered I have an insane, rough and tough 8 year old and a curious 4 year old. Matches, fire, and explosions are probably not the best thing for us to be experimenting with in the backyard.
Baking is fun and easy. Sugar is a key ingredient, and it requires minimal use of knives and a hot oven. Maybe Morris will be game.
The “Flag Cake” seemed like a very appropriate recipe for celebrating the Fourth. It’s a recipe from Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network). I love her style of classic elegance. I was ready to take it on.
Before I proceed I must warn you that I have a cooking dysfunction. I am “recipe intolerant.” This means that no matter what the recipe says, I never follow it completely.
I don’t know why. But for some reason, butter, cream cheese, and sugar always seem to make their way into everything I cook. Since these ingredients were already in the recipe, it seemed like a winner.
This recipe makes a very large cake. Immediately I strayed from Ina’s instructions. I cut the recipe in half to make a smaller version. As for the icing, I used the same ingredients, but again I did my own thing as far as the portions go.
I also changed the flag “toppings”. She used blueberries and raspberries. I used blackberries and strawberries. Subtle differences to accommodate a picky palette (and budget…strawberries are really cheap now and on sale at my grocery store).
Nonetheless, it turned out great. The cake has pretty thick texture similar to a pound cake. I made the traditional cream cheese icing (the same one I use for Hummingbird Cake, Red Velvet, and Carrot Cake). Here’s Ina’s recipe:
- 18 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 3 cups sugar
- 6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
- 1 cup sour cream at room temperature
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 3 cups flour
- 1/3 cup cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
For the icing:
- 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 1/2 pounds cream cheese at room temperature
- 1 pound confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 half-pints blueberries
- 3 half-pints raspberries
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter and flour an 18 by 13 by 1 1/2-inch sheet pan.
Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed, until light and fluffy. On medium speed, add the eggs, 2 at a time, then add the sour cream and vanilla. Scrape down the sides and stir until smooth.
Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda in a bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until just combined. Pour into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with aspatula. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool to room temperature.
For the icing, combine the butter, cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mixing just until smooth.
Spread three-fourths of the icing on the top of the cooled sheet cake. Outline the flag on the top of the cake with a toothpick. Fill the upper left corner with blueberries. Place 2 rows of raspberries across the top of the cake like a red stripe. Put the remaining icing in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe two rows of white stripes below the raspberries. Alternate rows of raspberries and icing until the flag is completed. Pipe stars on top of the blueberries.
I had fun making and eating it with the boys. We will definitely add it to our 4th of July family traditions.
And just for added fun, we lit candles and sang happy birthday to America.