American Flag Cake

By • June 3, 2014 • 74 Comments

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Author Notes: This is a simple white cake with a patriotic surprise inside. First thing's first, you need five 9-inch cakes: two white, two red, and one blue. You can use the recipe here, or any favorite white cake recipe that you have. After making a large amount of cake, the rest is pie (or at least easy as pie).

Please note that the recipe makes one single cake, so to make the flag cake you'll need to make it 5 times. A standard KitchenAid mixer comfortably handles 1 batch of batter.
erinmcdowell

Makes one 9-inch cake

  • 8 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Salt
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease and flour a 9-inch cake pan.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 4-5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the sifted flour, baking powder, and a pinch of salt to combine. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix just until incorporated. Follow with 1/3 of the buttermilk and mix to combine. Repeat until all of the wet and dry ingredients are added, scrape well to ensure the batter is smooth.
  4. For the white cakes: do nothing! The batter can be baked as is. For the red cakes: add about 25 drops of liquid food coloring (or more if it looks too pale). For the blue cake: add about 20 drops of liquid food coloring (or more if it looks too pale).
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and cool completely.
  6. To assemble the cake, you'll need the frosting (recipe below). Cut the white and red cakes into even layers, between 3/4- to 1-inch thick. Now you should have 6 layers. Use a 5-inch circle cookie cutter (or trace around a 5-inch plate) to cut one of the white layers and one of the red layers into a smaller circle.
  7. Use the 5-inch cutter to remove the center of the thicker blue cake. This cake will remain in one thick layer.
  8. To build the cake, start with a large red layer and spread a thin coating of buttercream on top. Top with a white layer, and spread buttercream thinly on top. (The recipe is below.) Repeat with another red and another white layer -- four layers total.
  9. Top this white layer with the thick blue layer (center removed). Spread a thin amount of frosting on the 5-inch red layer, and top it with the 5-inch white layer. Now push and pat the 5-inch layers inside the hole of the blue layer. Now the cake has been assembled!
  10. Frost the cake with the remaining frosting, using a small offset spatula to make it swirly. All that’s left to do is eat it!

For the frosting:

  • 4 sticks softened unsalted butter
  • 8 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 5 to 6 minutes. Beat in the vanilla. Add the cream gradually, mixing until a smooth, creamy texture.
Jump to Comments (74)

Comments (74) Questions (2)

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2 months ago Harry

I too loved the cake and will make it again. I wish the author of the recipe would check the math and revise the instructions: 2 white and 2 red, each split gives 8 layers. Take one of each for the top two layers (in the middle of the blue layer) and 6 layers are left--not the 4 the recipe specifies. So, I simply used all the layers, making a very tall and beautiful cake. The next time I make it, I will slice of the crowns and make each layer exactly the same size. Also, the yellow cakes, with blue food coloring doesn't turn out to be blue -- don't know how to fix that.

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3 months ago Shari

I made this cake for my mother's 81st birthday today and she was so amazed with it. The directions were great and the cake was wonderful. It was a lot of work but well worth it. I am so glad I made the layers from scratch, the flavor does not even compare to boxed.

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4 months ago Briana

I attempted this for Fourth of July and end result produced much oohing and aahing, but I don't know if I could do it again due to the amount of work involved. I baked the layers in advance and froze them so I would not have to spend my whole day off baking. I only have two cake pans of equal size, so I did it over the course of two evenings. I think this might have been my first cake from scratch, because I made the mistake of using all purpose when my grocery store did not have cake flour. They were not fluffy and this made the layers pretty thin, which made assembly of the cake much more difficult, but with an extra set of helping hands, I was able to cover up my mistake. I didn't use the buttercream recipe and instead used a half butter, half shortening recipe with almond milk instead of milk or cream, which was delicious. All in all, this cake took at least 7 hours to make and created a mountain of dirty dishes, but in the end, it looked and tasted great and the entire family was greatly impressed.

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4 months ago Alison Brown

Thumbs up for design. Thumbs down for taste. I'll use boxed cakes next time.

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4 months ago Sara Jane

I made this last week, and was so impressed with the result! I actually used a different recipe- the white velvet butter cake from the Cake Bible as well as her Neoclassic buttercream (they are fail-safe recipes for me). I made a 6" cake instead of 9" and cut the layers a little bit thinner. It was really fun to make, and so satisfying to cut into and see that it had worked!

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4 months ago Becca

I made this over the weekend! It turned out great. I found the instructions were easy to follow. I used 8" pans because that was all I had, so just added some time to the baking. I made the cakes one day and then assembled the next day and made the frosting! Thanks for this great idea that was definitely a crowd pleaser for the holiday!

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4 months ago Jenny Tracy

When I saw this on facebook, I thought I would have to attempt it. I used mixes instead to save a little time. I wanted to add flavors also. so I used white cake mix and added dry coconut cream pudding mix with it, red was strawberry cake with small pieces of strawberry in it and blue was blue velvet cake. It did turn out looking correct but I had a lot of trouble serving it. It would fall apart when I cut it. I think I may have needed to freeze it for a short time to make it firmer. However there were no complaints on the taste! I had a few people who wanted to eat the whole cake. But sooooo rich! I will make this again. Thanks for the great recipe and cake!

Stringio

4 months ago Rebecca Kurzendoerfer

I made this cake for my daughter's 12th birthday yesterday (I started w/white on the bottom so the top stripe would be red), and it was a hit! Beautiful, delicious, and very impressive-looking! The amount of TIME baking all those cakes from scratch, however, was absolutely ponderous. I started at noon and finished frosting it at a quarter after six. Maybe boxed mixes next time? I would also highly recommend popping the layers in the freezer for about 10 minutes before slicing them.

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4 months ago Lorraine

A commenter on here is 100% correct about red being the top stripe on the flag. Find it curious that the creator of this cake recipe took detailed time and effort to write very good directions and excellent photos to go along with the directions and yet, in my eyes, made a pretty big mistake. Are there no editors to catch mistakes? Definitely will keep this recipe but plan to do some color changing and also figuring out which cake colors witlll need the doughnut holes.

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4 months ago wil freeman

Hey, didn't you notice that the stars are missing? So does it matter if the stripes are not exact either. It is just a cake to eat and resemble the 4th of July...I am enthused that someone created it so I could copy it. I made a nice family so happy that they got something for dessert for the 4th of July!

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4 months ago elaine

Impossible to do, the directions make no sense at all. make a 4 inch hole in the center of two layers? Right, a huge rip off. now I lost 2 cake mix boxes

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4 months ago Denisa

My daughter and I made this cake yesterday (4th of July) and took it to our local fire station. What a hit! The firefighters were taken aback. When I mentioned that I wasn't sure how to store the remaining cake, the four firefighters assured us that there would be no cake to be found in the station by morning. It was a great mother/daughter project. Thanks for sharing this idea!

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4 months ago Regine

Deedee, great and clear explanation. I will follow your suggestions.

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4 months ago Tara

I tried this today, by hand and tasted the batter for each batch seemed okay but two problems 1- this cake is huge and it was way too sweet any suggestions? I've gone over the recipe to make sure I didn't make errors and I am fairly certain I didn't? Help

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4 months ago wil freeman

Tara, I substituted boxed cake mixes, made the mix more dense. The mixes already had colors in them, such as Duncan Hines Velvet Series of reds and blues and then a french vanilla cake. Also, for the frosting, using only 6 cups of powdered sugar and 2 pkgs of cream cheese, 1/2 cup whipping cream and 2 tsp of vanilla. Not too sweet, just right. This method made 2 cakes one, like the picture and one that I call patch work, the scraps from making the American Flag Cake...they both turned out great. They are both multi-layer and tall cakes. I gave mine away to some friends, as I bake for fun and smiles!

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4 months ago salemao

Thanks so much for this recipe. just in the process of making this for my daughters 2nd birthday party tomorrow. So far the cakes look perfect and moist and the crumbs taste delicious. it may become my go-to cake recipe. I accidentally purchased sweet cream butter & that made the 1st 2 cakes too sweet but the next 2 seem fine. I think the instructions are missing when to add the vanilla. Has anyone else had a hard time finding red food color? Wilton seems to have pink and magenta, but no red...so I guess my cake is going to be dark pink, white & blue....should still look pretty (fingers crossed)!

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4 months ago salemao

..... looks like the vanilla has been added to the instructions. Thanks!

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4 months ago Kathy

Dee Dee, that plan leaves out the top 2 layers; white & red next to the blue.

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4 months ago wil freeman

I made the cake today and it is beautiful...thanks for posting the recipe. I only bake for fun, and the directions were just fine. All I needed was the picture to see how to assemble it. Can't wait for the lucky recipient to cut the first piece and then take a picture of it for me. Happy 4th of July in style! Created another masterpiece cake with the leftovers. It will be a patchwork cake. When I cut it, I will post a picture of it. So 2 cakes from one project! Nice!

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4 months ago Dee Dee

Buy two white cake mixes. Follow package directions to make the first cake. Pour one half into a pan. Add red food coloring to remaining batter, mix well and pour into a pan. Make the second boxed mix. Pour half into a pan and then add blue food coloring to the remainder. Pour into pan. Bake the four pans according to package direction. When cool split one white and one red to make two layers each. Take the blue and leave it whole. Assemble per directions with the frosting recipe or make your own white frosting. Simple. The remaining white layer can be frozen and used whenever you are looking for a quick snack cake.

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4 months ago David Vaughan

But also the bottom, Dennis.

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4 months ago Dennis Morgan

Oops, meant to say on top also.

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4 months ago Dennis Morgan

You do know that the stripes are wrong, don't you? Red stripe should be on top.

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4 months ago Aimee Boucher Rosenberg

How much salt for each cake recipe?

Stringio

4 months ago Rebecca Kurzendoerfer

a couple of shakes. I also put a quarter to half a teaspoon in the frosting, it's a great flavor enhancer.