Sunday, July 3, 2016

A Cake United...

Between my husband's birthday, Shark Week, and the holiday weekend, it's been a pretty banner couple of days for us. Those of you that know me well know my absolute obsession with Shark Week. A misunderstood creature that looks mean and likes food, like, a lot? This speaks to me on so many levels. Plus, truly nothing feels more American to me than a one-ton eating machine springing from the ocean to devour its food. Perhaps the only way it could get any more American is if the scientists recording these beasts shot off a flare every time a shark jumped out of the water at impressive speed and height. The only downside to Fourth of July weekend is that one of our dogs, Hank, is insanely terrified of fireworks. For about two-three weeks around this time of year, neighbors are shooting off fireworks and poor Hank is hiding under the bed, certain the world is coming to an end and I'm doing nothing to stop it. Since we had a party to attend yesterday evening, we decided to dose him with melatonin to ease his anxiety. Because nothing says, "I care," quite like sedating your loved ones. My only other problem with the Fourth of July weekend is coming up with a dessert that screams 'True American Patriot.' I outdid myself the very first year I got into baking, so it was an inevitable slow decline in effort on my part in the year following. I decided to bake something this year so full of red, white, and blue it looks like an American flag threw up. That's right, I made a red, white, and blue tie-dye berry American flag cake. Because there are three things that are truly important to me: Freedom. 'Merica. And cake.
So much freedom.
I showed up at this party with an insanely American dessert and an equally insanely American husband. He loves this country, and he has amassed a wardrobe that shows it. From American flag bandana, tank top, sunglasses, board shorts, and USA face shield, the only thing he was missing was red, white, and blue flip year. But I'm pretty sure all of the Founding Fathers were impressed with his outfit, as were the party goers. On a scale of one to America, my husband really loves his freedom. I'll admit it was a great conversation starter (the outfit, not the cake), and being the wife of the most American to ever America did fill me with a lot of pride. It may look difficult to assemble, but I had this bad boy ready to go in under two hours (the cake, not my husband). Minus wait time for the cake to cool, this was so insanely quick to assemble. I recommend bringing this to all your celebratory barbecues tonight and tomorrow if you're in need of a dessert. If he could, Ben Franklin would totally high five you for making a dessert this patriotic, and you know it.
This is, once again, a part of the "We're moving soon" collection.
You probably don't randomly have half a strawberry cake mix and half a white cake mix in your pantry. I do because this is a problem only a lazy baker could have. If by some strange coincidence, you're in my boat, just be sure to half the ingredients needed for each cake and keep the strawberry cake totally separate from the white cake (dye the strawberry cake red, split the white cake in half and dye one half blue). If you're a normal human being, you need:
  • 1 white cake mix
  • 4 room temp egg whites
  • 2/3 cup of room temp butter
  • 1 1/4 cups of room temp milk
  • Red and blue gel dye
  • 1-2 lbs fresh strawberries 
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
Grease a 9x13 pan (mine was disposable, so when baking, I placed it on a cookie sheet) and preheat your oven to 350. Dump all ingredients except the dyes and fruits into your stand mixer and blend on medium-high for two minutes. Divide up the cake batter into three bowls:
Leave one bowl white and dye the other two red and blue.

Then gather up three spoons and plop a spoonful of each color into the pan in random order.

Do this until you've run out of colors. Doesn't need to be pretty, it will look awesome after it has baked.
Don't swirl the batter, just tap your pan on the counter to even things out. Bake as directed for about 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let rest on a cooling rack for 10 minutes before removing from the pan (unless you're using a disposable pan, then leave that sucker in there). If you want to speed things up, place in the freezer for a half hour.
It looks even better on the inside! Promise. Got a drab camouflage happening here.
What, no vodka?
 Full disclosure, the party we went to was with members of a different, people not indoctrinated to my need to add booze to every dessert I make. I decided to make this cake sans alcohol and went with my standard buttercream recipe:
  • 1 cup of room temp butter
  • 1 TBS clear vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 4-5 TBS milk or heavy cream
Cream the butter until fluffy, then add in the extracts, three cups of sugar, and two tablespoons of milk. Blend well, scrape the bowl, and add in the remaining three cups of sugar and two tablespoons of milk. If frosting is still too thick, add in one more tablespoon of milk.
Remove your cooled cake from the freezer or wherever you've stashed it and give it a solid crumb coat. Banish it back to the depths of the freezer for 15-30 minutes until completely crusted.

While this is taking place, go ahead and cut a bunch of strawberries in half. I ended up using 3/4 of a 2 lb container.
Add a final coat of frosting to the cake; you should have a generous amount of frosting leftover in the bowl to pipe stripes later. Don't freeze! Arrange your fruit into a flag shape while the frosting is still soft to help adhere the fruit in place.
Like so. I eventually moved and added more blueberries because I had a ton of them leftover.
Then fit a piping bag with a 1M tip and pipe large shells in between each row of strawberries to create a nice, polished finishing look.

Here it is with the additional blueberries. Much prettier.
And it did look super vibrant once we cut into it! The tie-dye pattern varies with each slice which is really a cool touch.
 As far as cakes go, I never think to add fruit on top of them. Make cake healthy? What? You can do that? But strawberries on top of my almond buttercream...perfection. I'm not ashamed to say I wanted to sit down in a corner and just eat three or four slices of cake. It's my right as an American, after all. I definitely play by the "go big or go home" adage of America, and this cake was no exception. I think it would look really cool if you did take a knife to the batter and swirl an 'S' shape into it...then it would be a really trippy tie-dye. I may try that in the future with other cakes. As far as eating the first cake in months not made from a handle of rum or vodka goes, it was actually quite refreshing. I love being the boozy baker, but going back to basics is nice sometimes. Plus, there were booze-soaked cherries at the party, so I got my fix. I love the right to bare boozy foods, what can I say. I hope you all have a fantastic Independence Day. Blow stuff up, eat meat in tube form, drink cheap, watery beer, and gorge on dessert. Be as American as possible (preferably while clad in every article of American flag clothing you own)! Just make sure your pets are safely in hiding and you don't set yourself on fire or lose a toe to a rogue roman candle. No amount of cake in the world can fix that. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
I like to celebrate my freedom with a side of frosting and a boatload of calories.