At Food52, we are big fans of the first Flag Cake we first baked up 3 years ago. But we’re not big fans of turning on our ovens in July. Enter: flag ice cream cake! The cake is constructed the same way as the traditional flag cake, just substituting ice cream for the layers (vanilla, strawberry, and blueberry, in case you were wondering). The process is a bit time-consuming because it’s important to let each layer set before you build the next. But the end result is as impressive as it is delicious (not to mention wicked cool).
Here’s what you need to know to get the prettiest flag cake ever:
I use the outer ring of a springform pan to build this cake. For maximum impressiveness, make each ice cream layer about 1/2 inch high. If your springform pan is shorter than 3 inches, you can easily make it taller by constructing a ring out of parchment or wax paper and taping it to the upper lip of the pan. You’ll need a small offset spatula to smooth the ice cream in each layer, as well as a guide for the blue layer (more on that to come). Find a small baking sheet or cutting board (one that fits your springform ring fully) and line it with parchment paper. Make sure you have room in your freezer for it to fit (even at its tallest!) before you begin.
Allow enough time.
For the cleanest, sharpest layers, you’ll want to freeze the cake each time you apply a layer. There’s 7 layers in all, so it’s not a bad idea to start this project a day or two before you want to serve the cake. Aside from the time issue, this cake couldn’t be easier. You can use whatever flavors of ice cream you want (as long as they represent the colors of the flag to your satisfaction.). Feeling particularly ambitious? Bonus points for homemade ice cream!
Start with soft ice cream.
It’s much easier to spread the ice cream into smooth, even layers if it’s softened. Let it soften at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before scooping it into the cake. Yes, you’ll likely need to chill the cake even longer to ensure it’s properly set, but it’s worth it! (Some people soften ice cream in the microwave, but I find it makes the outside soft but the inside remains rock hard.)
To build the flag cake, follow the same assembly as our original, but with ice cream. Start by fully covering the base of the pan with white. Next, cover the white layer with a layer of red. You’ll repeat this process until you have four layers: white, red, white, red. The blue layer is the wildcard. To get the square just on the edge of each slice, you have to apply the blueberry ice cream in a ring around the outer edge of the cake. I use a smaller springform pan ring (6 inches) to help provide support as I make this ring, then apply heat to the ring (using a torch or a hot wet kitchen towel) to remove the ring once the blueberry ice cream is set. Ideally, the blueberry ring should be about 1 inch tall and about 2 inches wide (from the edge of the pan). Once the blueberry layer is set, you fill it with another layer of white and red (smaller this time) to create the final flag look.
Count your scoops.
It can be tough to ensure even layers of an ice cream cake, but I have a helpful tip. Choose one ice cream scoop and count the number of scoops you use when applying the first layer. Use this same number of scoops for the next layer, and so on. Since the blue layer is supposed to be thicker, you can use the same number of scoops as you did for the base layers. The final layers that fill in the blue ring are smaller, so use half of the number of scoops you used for the base layers.
Removing the outer ring.
If you used a parchment or wax paper “extender,” simply tear it away from the cake. At this point, I find it best to remove the base parchment paper. Lift the cake (including the parchment) off of the pan/cutting board you were freezing it on. Peel the parchment paper away, and place the cake (still in the springform mold) on a cake stand or serving platter (again, make sure it fits in your freezer!). Then, apply heat to the outer ring using a kitchen torch for short 30-second bursts or a hot wet towel wrapped around it until it's no longer warm (repeat as needed), release the springform buckle, and lift the ring up and off the cake.
Frosting the cake.
Freeze the cake for at least 1 hour before you frost it to make sure you don’t muck up your pretty layers. Whipped cream (sweetened with powdered sugar and flavored with a little bit of vanilla) tastes best—just be sure to apply with a small offset spatula for swirls.
- 2 quarts vanilla ice cream
- 2 quarts strawberry ice cream
- 1 quart blueberry ice cream (this one is really nice and blue: https://food52.com/recipes/30270-blueberry-ice-cream)
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/3 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract