Monday, June 13, 2011

She's a Grand Old Flag

Tomorrow is Flag Day, one of those ho hum holidays we all yawn about and move on.  The flag is a symbol of our country..I grew up with a healthy respect for the flag, being the daughter of a Navy Captain and seeing the flag as part of our life, I've seen it draped over my dad's coffin, flying from the mast of Navy ships my husband served upon and flying in foreign countries where we have been stationed.  Instantly recognizable, it is America's signature flying proudly in this country and in friendly confines around the world, and as much as I'd love to say that everyone loves us, we've seen this flag burned here and abroad.   

I think about Betsy Ross  sitting by candlelight and sewing the flag all the while not knowing whether her efforts would become the flag of the new country. Legend has it that she could cut a 5-pointed star in two snips.   The flag has been described as an American signature; whether it's planted on the moon, or Everest, or in Camp Victory in Baghdad it is a symbol of our country. 
So as you go about your day tomorrow and see the flag flying, remember those who have served their country with this flag flying above them.  

Of course, this wouldn't be a food post without a flag cake---this is a simple recipe for a cake that is perfect for any spring or summer gathering.  If you have children, have them help make the stripes, with strawberries and fill in the blueberry background for the stars.  

Flag Cake
Serves 12 to 16

2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, and cut into 1/2-inch bits
1 cup buttermilk
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons lemon extract
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1.                  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Coat the inside of a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
2.                  In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the flour, baking powder, salt, soda and sugar, stirring to blend. 
3.                  With the machine running on low, add the butter a few pieces at a time, beating until the flour mixture is crumbly.
4.                  In a 2 cups measure, stir together the buttermilk, eggs, extract and zest.
5.                  With the mixer running on low, gradually pour in the buttermilk mixture, beating until the mixture is smooth, scraping down the bowl, if necessary.
6.                  Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Cool the cake on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely. 
Do-Ahead:  At this point, you can slip the cake into a 2-gallon zipper-top plastic bag and refrigerate for 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.  Defrost overnight in the refrigerator.


2 cups heavy cream
2 cups mascarpone cheese
1/3 cup sugar
3 pints medium size strawberries (see note)
1 pint blueberries
1.                  In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the cream until it is very stiff.  Add the mascarpone and sugar, and whip again until combined.
2.                   Do-Ahead:  At this point, the frosting can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours)
3.                  Slice one pint of strawberries ½-inch thick, and set aside.  Slice the other berries in half.  Wash the blueberries and pick over for stems.  Dry the blueberries completely.
4.                  Using a serrated knife, slice the cake in half horizontally.  Spread a layer of the whipped cream mixture over the cake about ½-inch thick.  Top with the sliced strawberries.  Cover with the top cake layer, and spread the top and sides with the remaining whipped cream, reserving about ½ cup. 
5.                  Draw a box in the upper left corner of the cake measuring 4 inches from the top left hand side of the cake and 5-inches in from the left side of the cake for the blueberry background and fill with some of the blueberries, so that you can still see some of the white frosting (any remaining blueberries can be used for garnishing slices of cake).  Lightly mark 1-inch lines along the horizontal edge of the cake and beginning at the top of the cake alternate rows of halved strawberries, cut side down, beginning at the “star” box with the butt end of the berries against the box.  Continue to make the red stripe rows alternating with a frosted row all the way down the cake. 
6.                  Depending upon the size of your berries you should have 4 red rows and 4 white rows.
7.                  Place the remaining whipped cream into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip or a zipper-top plastic bag, with a small hole snipped into the corner.  Pipe small stars between the blueberries to resemble stars on the flag.  Cover the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or up to 24 hours.  Remove the cake from the refrigerator and serve cold garnished with any remaining blueberries.  
Cooks’ Note:  Size does matter in this dessert.  The larger the strawberries, the less stripes you will have.  Here in San Diego the berry stands sell berries that are gargantuan—sometimes 2-inches in length!    Save the large berries for coating with chocolate (which is another story all-together!)
For a Round Cake:
Bake the cake in two 9-inch round cake pans for 20 to 25 minutes.  When cooled, split each layer and layer with crème mixture and some sliced berries.  Frost the sides and top of the cake.  Make a 5-pointed star design on the top and fill in with blueberries.  Then push halved strawberries into the sides of the cake. 

If you have access to raspberries and would prefer to use raspberries for the stripes and filling, your cake will look like this.

Enjoy your Flag Day! 

1 comment:

  1. Diane - We're from San Diego, now in the Desert (La Quinta). Love the look of your flag cake (raspberry version) but wondered, since those who get a striped piece wouldn't get any blueberries (and vice-versa), I want to add another pint of each berry (dried off after washing) into the dry ingredients just before I mix in the wet. Would the flour around the berries absorb the moisture adequately so they weren't encased in a dry coating inside the cake?