My one beef with 4th of July cakes....
....So many of them- like the flag cakes with striped centers and a blue top section...take SO long to put together!
I feel like July 4th always kind of sneaks up on me, and sometimes I want a dessert that goes together quickly! This one can be made from scratch OR doctored-up mixes, and it’s easy to decorate, festive, and delicious! Recipe below!
(Disclosure: As a way to keep my kitchen stocked with butter, sugar, and flour I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn a commission by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
My posts often contain affiliate links. If you click a link and make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you!)
Red Velvet Cake Layers:
(Of note – you have lots of options here! If you’d rather doctor up cake mixes, use two red velvet mixes (I usually go with Duncan Hines), substitute 1 c butter for the oil, replace the water with buttermilk, and add two extra eggs!)
To make the cake layers from scratch though, I recommend this recipe – Chelsweets’s Red Velvet cake recipe has never let me down!
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter (or 2 sticks) room temperature
1 cup egg whites (about 7 large egg whites)
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature (or buttermilk powder with water is an option if you can’t find liquid buttermilk at your grocery store!)
3 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 cup vegetable oil
Red gel food coloring – I used Americolor super red (I used several tablespoons; you can use as much as you’d like to get the shade of red that you’re after!)
Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, sugar, and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle until fully combined.
Mix chunks of room-temperature butter slowly into the dry mix, on a low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain, and the mixture becomes crumbly.
Pour in egg whites, and mix on low until just incorporated. Mix in the buttermilk in two installments, on a low speed. Add in vanilla, oil, and gel food coloring, and mix at a low speed until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then beat on medium high for about 30 seconds.
Divide batter evenly between the prepared cake pans (I find a kitchen scale helpful for this part). This guarantees your layers will bake to be the same height.
Bake for 35-37 minutes if using 8-inch pans, or 37-38 minutes for 7-inch cake pans (or until a toothpick comes out clean). Allow cake layers to cool for 10-15 minutes on a wire cooling rack before removing from pans – it helps to run an offset spatula or knife around the perimeter of the pan first. Cool completely before frosting. Set in the fridge or freezer to accelerate the cooling process if desired.
This is a great time to make your frosting!
Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting:
8 oz (one package) cream cheese, softened
16 Tablespoons (two sticks) butter, softened
6-7 c powdered sugar
2-4 Tablespoons milk
1 T clear vanilla extract
1/4 t. salt (if using unsalted butter)
(Save and add later! 1-2 Tablespoons Americolor Navy Blue – you’ll color the leftover frosting after you’ve covered the cake to pipe the rim!)
Beat together softened cream cheese and butter; slowly add in powdered sugar alternating with milk until frosting reaches desired consistency. Add vanilla and salt if needed and beat until well combined.
- 1 8- or 10 -inch cardboard cake circle (I prefer Wilton’s center-punched circles) or an 8” acrylic cake disc (I started using these so I wouldn’t waste so many cake circles!)
- Small offset spatula
- Large piping bag & tip – I use this set of reusable large bags & tips more than almost any of my others!
- Red, White & Blue sprinkles – I used ‘4th of July’ by Pixie Dust sprinkles, but ‘Old Glory’ by SprinklePop is very similar and available on Amazon!
- Cake leveler, cake turntable, large offset spatula, and pastry cutter/bench scraper - not all 100% necessary but incredibly helpful! (Here’s a link to the cake turntable I use)
Once your cakes are cool, level them (if needed/desired). This can be done with a cake leveler or a large serrated knife and a ruler. These cake layers bake fairly flat though; I didn’t trim much! Place a smear of frosting on your cake circle (to keep the cake from sliding while you decorate it) and center your first cake layer in the center of the circle. Spread the layer with frosting, and add the next layer on top.
Repeat the process with your remaining cake layers.
Now you're ready to crumb-coat . If you're unfamiliar with crumb-coating, it's just what it sounds like – spreading a thin layer of frosting over the entire outside of the cake to keep crumbs out of your final layer. I usually do this with my large offset spatula.
Once your crumb coat has set (this takes about 5-10 minutes in the fridge), add your final layer of frosting and smooth. I like to use a large offset spatula and pastry cutter/bench scraper for this part, and I made this layer fairly thin for a ‘semi-naked’ cake look. I wanted the red of the red velvet to show!
Add your navy gel color to your remaining frosting – a mix of royal blue, black, and a tint of purple makes a good navy shade if you have those colors!
Transfer colored frosting to a large piping bag fitted with a large star tip (most similar to Wilton’s 1M in my set), and pipe large swirls around the top of the cake. I find it easiest to space 4 swirls at quarter intervals at first and then fill in between them.
Add sprinkles to your liking – I started with larger ones on top of the frosting swirls and then added smaller ones to the swirls and the top of the cake, and added a sprinkle rim to the base.
I thought the sides looked just a little plain, so I added some smaller sprinkles to the sides – you can do this with a Crisco-coated finger or by just ‘throwing’ them at the cake! Either works but somehow the second one’s more fun!
Annnd you’re done! High-five yourself – refrigerate until ready to eat – and enjoy the holiday!