Hope you all had a great 4th! Let me begin by saying that I have been wanting to make this cake for a *long* time. But I resisted. Why? Because I always felt it was just too cutesy, cheesy, kitchy. Don't get me wrong - I love the US of A. But let me also say that I am not one of those people who celebrate July 4th very overtly -- no red/white/blue flag-themed clothing, earrings, brooches, rings, etc for me. Also no flag or patriotic yard decorations in my house. Just not my style. That said, I do pull together a red/white/blue somewhere in my outfit. Last night it was a white and blue stone necklace, with a coral pendant. Not bad, huh?
But I finally did it yesterday! I made a Flag cake for a July 4th BBQ! It was all that I hoped it would be -- a foolproof chocolate sheet cake recipe, whipped cream frosting, and fresh berries. And it looked spectacularly cheesy. I was proud of my creation.
The BBQ was delish! We ate the better part of a cow and salmon, yummy salad, corn, mushrooms, and then shlepped over to J's work building to watch the Lake Union fireworks. Couldn't have been better. We sat on a private viewing deck with a few other work folks and got to witness some of the best fireworks in Seattle, in my
Well, in case you're inspired to bake this case on the next 4th, or if you are simply feeling patriotic, here is the recipe for the cake.
Chocolate Sheet Cake
From Cooks Illustrated
This is a very intense, cocoa-ey, dense chocolate cake. If you are expecting a fully, light, box-mix kinda cake, this is not it. I love it as it packs in a great chocolate flavor, and it is not too sweet.
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
8 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position. Preheat oven to 325F. Grease the bottom and sides of a 13 X 9 inch baking pan.
2. Sift together the cocoa, flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
3. Heat the chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl covered with plastic wrap for 2 minutes at 50% power. Alternatively, you can use a double boiler method on the stove top. Either way, the chocolate should be completely melted, and the mixture smooth and shiny.
4. Whisk together the eggs, sugar, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Whisk in the buttermilk until smooth.
5. Whisk the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture just until combined. Whisk in the dry ingredients until the batter is smooth and glossy.
6. Pour the batter into the greased pan. Bake until firm in the center when pressed with finger and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, approx. 40 minutes.
7. Cool on a wire rack until room temperature, approx. 1 hour.
Now this is where my common-sense deserted me. I actually turned the cake out onto the wire rack. But why? This is a sheet cake, correct? Isn't it meant to stay put in the pan? Well I took the cake out anyway, and some of the cake got stuck in the pan. Not to worry -- the frosting wil cover up the blemish.
Whipped Cream Frosting
From the Cake Bible
2 cups heavy whipping cream (organic please)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp sugar
This frosting keeps in the refrigerator for several hours without separating. The key is to thoroughly chill the mixing bowl and whisk. The freezer is ideal, but you can also chill in the refrigerator for a few hours.
Add cream, vanilla, and sugar to the chilled mixing bowl. Whisk until stiff peaks form.
Store the whipped cream in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Decorating the Cake
The picture describes it all. You could use raspberries instead of the strawberries. This is one instance where the mass produced strawberries would probably have worked better, since they are larger and more uniform in size. But I just could not buy those when we have fresh local organic strawberries available in plenty. In the taste department, it was a no-brainer. The local ones rule!