I kind of have this thing where trying new things makes me nervous. Like, more than a little nervous. Like, perhaps we need some small baggies to breath into kind of nervous. This is partially because we only have a short amount of time to try new recipes for this site, and it costs extra money to try things over if mistakes happen. And I sometimes have a bit of low self-esteem when it comes to trying new things. Things like cutting innocent little cake layers in half! I mean, if we must do it to have a fun, pretty layered cake, we better actually do it right. Am I right? Yup. Am.
One reason Sis Blogging Partner and I started this place was to encourage ourselves try new cooking things. When we saw the post for this Flag Cake recipe and technique on Food 52, we knew we had to try it. It looked fun, but it also looked like a lot of work. And butter. And eggs. And sugar. And BUTTER. Oh, and butter. Once you get past how much butter’s needed, though, well, that’s one hurdle. On to the next!
Most of the actual work work is in making and baking the cake layers. Because you need to make five total. What’s that? Yeah. Five. Two red, two white and one blue. The red and white layers will get split into two thinner layers (giving you 8 of those total of which you will use 6…3 of each color…ack, math!), and the blue layer stays whole…until you have to cut a circle out of its center. You’ll see what that means below.
But dudes, it took me about four to four and a half hours of nonstop baking to bake the cake layers alone, and that does NOT include all of the cooling time. Methinks that’s enough to label this a two-day recipe, or at the very least an all-day recipe including the assembling and frosting of the cake. You might have time for a bathroom break or two. If you’re quick.
A note on the colors: I just couldn’t get my red layers to be more than a dark pink…which, you know, no big, really. I used about half the tiny bottle of McCormick brand color and started to worry about side effects. (I’m kidding…but…yeah.) Unfortunately it didn’t occur to me till after the layer were baked to try a little cocoa powder, in effect turning the layers into red velvet cake. That’s the ingredient that really turned some red velvet whoopie pies we made a deeper red color. You can probably achieve a deeper blue color the same way, but maybe experiment with a small amount first. If you’re happy with that, add the cocoa a little at a time till your desired color is reached. Just don’t use too much.
When you’ve freed your cake layers from their hot pan prisons, let them cool briefly on a rack, then when the bottom of the cake that’s facing upward is cool enough, place the flat of your hand across it, grasp the rack on the bottom, flip the cake over and let it rest and cool the rest of the way on its bottom. The tops are much more moist and will want to stick to the racks if you let them cool on those tender tops.
OK, so…time to get some nerves fired up! It’s time to cut the white and red layers in half. I may have whimpered a little. Berated myself for being such a chicken, that kind of thing. Eventually, you just gotta try it. We started by using a bread knife to cut about a quarter-inch into the cake layer at its halfway point. Do this all the way around the cake.
Using non-flavored thin floss, we proceeded to cut the layer into two. Wedge the floss into that groove cut all the way around the cake. When that’s done, cross the twine as shown above and either you can turn that so it’s facing away from you and pull the twine back towards you, wiggling it a little to help it along, or you can keep the crossed floss towards you and push it away from you, again wiggling it from side to side a little if necessary. So whichever feels more comfortable. YouTube has lots of good video tutorials (often with weird music) that can also help.
After you can frickin’ BREATH again, congratulations, you’ve got a pile of thinner cake layers. Go take a break, get your kid or neighbor or bestie to fan you off a little, sip some lemonade or something and pat yourself on the back a little. No, the layers might not be absolutely perfectly split in half, but its done. They’re useable. And edible. YUM.
Know what? The hard part – it’s over! Woohoo! The cakes are baked, some are split in two, and the rest is pure fun. Like putting thin layer of frosting between each thin layer. That’s right. We made a homemade buttercream frosting and it is literally pure butter, pure sugar and pure heavy cream.
It looked like this at first. There’s four sticks of butter under that eight cups of powdered sugar. After you sputter about that, surprisingly, you need just about all that frosting.
Mmmm, heavy creeaaaaam. Slurp.
SO back to those cake layers. Time to grab one of the unused thinner white layers. Using about a four-inch wide cookie cutter or overturned bowl, cut out a circle from said white layer, then do the same for one of the unused thinner red layers.
Take that thicker blue layer and cut a circle the same size as the others out of the middle of it. Set aside that circle for a later use in another recipe and place the larger blue piece on top of the thinner already-frosted white and red layers.
Inside the circle of the blue layer, put a thin layer of frosting around the inside edges. Now, put a thin layer of frosting on the small red circle, place the small white circle on top of it and place both inside the blue layer.
And yeah, the blue layer looks green here – whatevs, trust us, it’s blue. And now folks – on to the final frosting! Don’t be stingy and frost frost frost!
Start at the top middle, spreading the frosting outward towards the top edge. We tried to make the top frosting about half an inch or so thick.
To frost the sides, place a glob of frosting on the top edge and use your offset spatula to gently pull it downward, frosting the sides as you go. Repeat this all the way around until the sides are fully frosted and as thick as you want it to be. You may need to go back and smooth out the top edge again a little.
Have fun with it. If you prefer to, make the frosting a smooth as you can, but as you can see, we like disheveled cakes. They kind of beg to be sliced and put on a plate, the minxes.
Hmmm, it’s starting to look a lot like a patriotic holiday!
OK, so yeah, we laid our little flag cake the wrong way…except this is cake…so there is no wrong way! Oh heck, just grab the fork and get to enjoying, am I right? YUP. Again!
We’re going to do this post a little differently today, and that’s simply to encourage you to travel back to the very informative post at Food 52, where they detail how to make this very fun (albeit very time-involved), patriotic dessert. The full recipe is here, but the first link has a lot of helpful demo photos as well. You’ll need the info in both links to make the cake.
The only problem we had with the cake was the two smaller layers inside the blue layer not wanting to stay with each slice of cake as they were cut. Not a huge problem, but possibly one that could be fixed by adding a little frosting the inner sides of the blue layer, giving those two smaller red and white layers something more to adhere to.
And the only other thing I noticed is that there’s nowhere in the cake’s printable instructions for adding in the vanilla to the cake layers part of the recipe. Just remember that the vanilla goes in after the eggs are added, or you can add it with the eggs as well.
Now, let’s eat some red, white and blue cake!