July 4th approaches, and my friend Jen sends out the following email to the group of friends who are gathering by the river to watch the fireworks, â€œweâ€™re doing burgers, and hotdogs, Kateâ€™s bringing a flag cake â€¦â€
Did I tell them that? I wonder. But thatâ€™s the thing about these sorts of holidays. Anything you do twice is suddenly a set in stone tradition.
Iâ€™ve now got to the point where I can no longer remember how many flag cakes I have baked for holiday parties, nor how many Americans have marveled at them wondering, â€œis that a British thing?â€
My friend Susan started it, 5 years ago, when she and several hours of Ina Garten on TV managed to convince me that the flag cake was as un-negotiable to 4th July as Christmas Pudding was to Christmas. I was charged with making it, and I took the responsibility very seriously, buying several dozen eggs and a cake tin too large to fit in my oven. On the hottest day of the year.
Here are some things Iâ€™ve learned about flag cake:
- The cake is not important. The flag bit is. If baking is not really your thing, use a box mix.
- Once decorated, keep cool. Berries run juice into the icing if they sit too long in the sun.
- Use food coloring paste rather than liquid if youâ€™re into the red white and blue cake idea. The liquid never gets bold enough and dilutes the mixture.
- Dry fruit on paper towels before using â€“ again, this is a juice thing.
- Picnics go smoother with cupcakes – I make bite-sized ones, then line them up on a board in rows and decorate accordingly – one raspberry / three blueberries.
And here’s this year’s flag cake: