Wednesday, July 6, 2011

July 4rth Flag Cake

Happy Fourth to you!

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of lusciously rich cakes. I mean, happiness. Or cake.

I decided to conquer the Flag Cake in the wee hours of 7/04/11- since we eat with our eyes first, this cake, so beautifully photographed in Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Family Style cookbook, has had my attention for a long time and the cake gods were sending me vibes that this was the year to do it.

In life in general, I tend to bloom a little late on most things. It usually takes me at least a try or two before my confidence is brimming at the top and this cake was no exception. Having now made it all the way through once, I could do it again, feeling positive it would turn out far better.

For instance, I ditched Ina's instruction of baking it in an 18x13x1.5 inch pan (Sorry, Ina!) and sought my 9 x 13 glass cake pan instead- thinking that the former would produce a wimpy, thin, and dinky cake. I like my cakes to have a little height and depth, or so I thought and the 9x 13 worked, but but but....... rest assured, the cake was dry- like, there's -a -sock -in- my- mouth-dry. Because it was so very thick in that pan, the outer edges were baked far sooner than the middle of the cake was and as soon as the middle was just barely dry to the touch, I removed it from the oven. The outcome? Dry edges and just barely done middle. Tough combination.

The second thing I would do is serve this on a completely flat serving ware. My cake was inverted onto a favorite porcelain serving piece that will be timeless until the year 3000 but the cake was just barely too big and as a result, the center of the cake collapsed within a few hours of cooling. Shucks.

The third thing I would do differently, and it's far easier said than done, would be to take more time in carefully making straight streaks of frosting across the cake (you note my frosting job looks a bit like a wobbly hand was in charge). Having two squirmy, squirrly, active children pulling at my legs didn't help the situation much- and since frosting cakes perfectly isn't in my natural skill set, it must needs be that I need perfect solitude and all-encompassing attention given.

Other than those little faux pax's, it's a real dandy cake to have on July 4rth- the cake is very pound-cake like in both taste and texture. The frosting is divine, and everyone gets as big a piece as they want. See? Perfect. Furthermore, as a bonus for all your labor, your work will be greatly validated with oooh's and awww's for it's presentation, even if the frosting job is a bit wobbly and the cake itself has prematurely collapsed.

And since we are basically celebrating the 4rth all month long, it's not too late to bake this for your next BBQ extravaganza!

Flag Cake

{Ina Garten}

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

To assemble:

2 half-pints blueberries

(Kate note:have all the berries thoroughly washed and dried long before you plan on using them for cake to prevent any "bleeding" onto the frosting)

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 a spatula. 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 (Kate note: you may need a splash of milk or whipping cream to get your desired texture- whipping cream makes a killer good addition).

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.

Kate note: I would personally store the cake in the fridge and then let it sit at room temperature for 20 minutes or so before distributing.

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