American Flag Cake

By • June 3, 2014 88 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.

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.

More Great Recipes: Cakes

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Comments (88) Questions (3)


2 months ago jackhutton

Made this over the fourth weekend at altitude., 6250 ft.
Turned out very good - after reading up alittle on high altitude baking I decided to use all-purpose flour & a slight slight bit more, used slightly less sugar because of its effects on leavening, slightly more buttermilk — about a cup vs 3/4 cup & generally added 1/2 egg to each layer batch.
Made each layer individually - sequentially . I used a food color 'gel' which we bought by mistake. We'd have rather used standard drops - oh well.
We used all of the frosting w none to spare . It was a fun monster of a cake to present after dinner. And yes, it's not a cake for those on a diet :)


2 months ago Adrienne

My daughter and I made this today. So fun! Both the cake and icing were easy to work with and tasted great.


2 months ago Foxdog

If using a cake mix. Use 8" pans. And, let dry some to help handling.


2 months ago MarZig

i agree i used the 9" and felt that the 8" is better/thicker for better sliceing the layers 1/2.


2 months ago MarZig

would help if I spelled correctly :)


2 months ago Lindsey López

Does the frosting recipe cover enough frosting for the entire cake, layers included?


2 months ago Rebecca Kurzendoerfer

There is PLENTY of frosting - enough to frost the cake heavily plus some left over.


2 months ago MarZig

Question: since the recipe is for 1 9" inch cake does anyone have any thoughts on if it is best to make each layer needed one at a time or is this recipe ok to double to make 2 9" cakes at a time. Sometimes when you double a recipe it doesnt always work well... anything recommendations???


2 months ago Coffeecat

I doubled the recipe and it was fine - I made two white layers in one batch, two red layers in another batch and one blue layer. The math in the recipe is off, however - it says cut the red cakes and white cakes in half which will give you six layers total. This is not correct - doing that would give you four red, four white and one blue for nine. Instead, you cut one white in half, one red in half and use the other two as full layers. You can see in the photo as well that one of the white layers and one of the red layers is thicker than the other layers


3 months ago kitchen victorious

Getting ready to make this cake again for an annual 4th of July party. Until I made this cake, I never had an entire room burst into applause when I served anything at anytime. Amazing! How could I not make it again :) Follow the recipe and get started early because it takes time to make all the layers. Applause will be yours!!


4 months ago D

This is soooooo cute !!!!! I love it !


6 months ago jessicawgraham

I keep forgetting to comment on this cake - this cake was the most amazing thing I have baked in a long time. AND I continue to use the cake recipe because the cake itself is so good. The amount of comments and applause I received was amazing and hilarious. I followed the recipe exactly and it was great. Thank you!


about 1 year 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.


3 months ago Rachel Hagreen

If you use butter instead of margerine, that will give you a nice vibrant blue colour. Margarine makes sponge very yellow so it's difficult to colour the mixture from there. Also make sure you're using gel food colouring if you don't already. I'll be uploading a video recipe of this amazing cake on my channel in a couple of weeks :)


about 1 year 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.


about 1 year 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.


about 1 year ago Alison Brown

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


about 1 year 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!


about 1 year 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!


about 1 year 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!


about 1 year 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.


about 1 year 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.


about 1 year 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!


about 1 year 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


2 months ago Lora Wainscott

Maybe it wan't the directions, as much as the ability to follow them. This was a from scratch cake, so the mixes may have been the problem.


about 1 year 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!


about 1 year ago Regine

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