Cake

21 Celebratory Cakes for Fourth of July & Beyond

Make your dessert table the star of the show.

May 26, 2020
Photo by Rocky Luten

It’s looking like our Fourth of July gatherings will be a bit smaller—and a bit more virtual—this year. But that’s no reason to not still welcome summer, real summer, with a cake.

In case you haven't heard by now, my favorite way to celebrate the Fourth of July—aka the real start of summer—is with a killer dessert table.

This might mean a solid lineup of pies, ice cream, cookies, and so on. But, in my mind, if you really want a holiday showstopper, you're going to need a cake—one that looks super fancy, but that you don't need to be an expert baker to pull off. From a classic red, white, and blue American flag cake to a zippy citrus upside-down cake that's popping with color, these cakes make the sweetest Fourth of July standouts. The best part? Just about all of them are beginner-friendly.


Our Best 4th of July Cakes

1. American Flag Cake

I couldn't round up the best Fourth of July-ready cakes without putting this American flag cake from Erin McDowell right at the very top. It takes a little bit of maneuvering (and math) to achieve that red, white, and blue surprise inside, but luckily there's a video to guide you every step of the way.

2. Nigella Lawson's Very Smart Strawberry Streusel Cake

In this clever, sweet-tart strawberry cake from Nigella Lawson, a single dough does double the work. That means you can make your crumbly streusel topping and moist cake all from the same mixture.

3. Lemon Raspberry Layer Cake

This lovely layer cake—in which both the base layer and Italian buttercream frosting are lightly flavored with lemon—is perfect for special occasions. The raspberry jam sandwiched between makes it feel especially at home during the Fourth of July.

4. Light, Fluffy Butter Cake

This crowd-favorite cake delivers on everything its title promises: it's rich and buttery, but doesn't feel heavy thanks to its airy texture. Best of all, it's got a simple ingredients list that makes it accessible to many home cooks.

5. Simple Summer Peach Cake

This extra-simple cake recipe highlights the best that summer has to offer, the most important of which is ripe, seasonal peaches. Make a few of these for your big summer holiday and I guarantee every slice will be gone.

6. Louisa's Cake With Peaches

Speaking of peaches, this peachy riff on Louisa's ethereally light and fluffy cake (it's one of our all-time most popular recipes) is perfect for any warm-weather gathering. But I especially like it for the Fourth of July, as that's when peach season hits its peak.

7. "World's Best Cake" with Banana & Coconut

This towering beauty is stacked with layers of whipped cream, fresh banana slices, and a fragrant, spiced cake—oh, and don't forget the golden-brown meringue topping and toasty coconut flakes—before getting cooled in the refrigerator an hour before serving.

8. S'mores Layer Cake

Few things evoke the nostalgia of summer more strongly than gooey, chocolatey s'mores roasted over an open fire. But if an open flame is out of the cards this Fourth of July, bake up this s'mores layer cake instead, which calls on chocolate ganache, whipped marshmallow frosting, and a graham cake to bring all those familiar flavors to the party.

9. Perfect Chocolate Cake

If chocolate's more your vibe, you'll want to make this simple cocoa-packed number (complete with thick chocolate frosting) for the holiday. It is, in a word, perfect.

10. Olive Oil Ricotta Cake with Plums

There are just two things you need to do to make this tasty olive oil cake shine: use super-ripe plums (if they're too firm, you'll notice later) and don't worry about sifting the flour (according to the recipe author, you can't tell the difference).

11. Strawberry Not-So-Short Cake

Make this bright and colorful not-so-short cake the centerpiece of your Fourth of July celebration, and kids and adults alike will be impressed.

12. "Coke & Peanuts" Sheet Cake

For an even bigger dose of nostalgia, make this "coke and peanuts" sheet cake, which really does call for both Coca-Cola and roasted, salted peanuts in the recipe. Odd though the combination may sound, the ingredients team up to make a rich yet fluffy cake with some of the best frosting you will ever find.

13. Banana Pudding Icebox Cake

If the weather is shaping up to be especially hot on the Fourth of July, make this banana pudding ice box cake—it's just five ingredients, no-bake, and, thanks to a stint in the freezer, extra refreshing.

14. Pistachio Cake with Lemon, Cardamom & Rose Water

If you want to bake something with a bit of added sophistication for the holiday, make this delicate pistachio cake with the slightest hints of lemon, warm cardamom, and floral rose water.

15. Heavenly Apple Cake

Instead of making an apple pie, however classic it may be, try this heavenly apple cake. It stays fresh and moist for days (meaning you can easily make it ahead of time), and it's totally irresistible.

16. Orange Upside-Down Sheet Cake

This eye-popping upside-down cake might be beautiful to look at, but that shouldn't stop you from taking a bite. You can use any type of oranges you like, but the recipe's author recommends using a combination of whatever is in season.

17. Our Best Carrot Cake

Who says carrot cake need only be enjoyed in the spring? There are two things that make this one especially special. First: Using a Microplane, or even just the finest-side of your box grater, makes for a spiced cake batter laced with wisps of carrot (because cake should never remind you of salad). Second: Often dense cream cheese frosting gets lifted with a hit of vinegar, and whipped until ultra-fluffy.

18. Campari Olive Oil Cake

Nothing says party quite like a cocktail and cake rolled into one. “On its own it’s a pretty plain-looking thing,” NYT columnist Melissa Clark writes. “But you can dress it up for a party, adding orange segments, berries, and dollops of whipped cream or crème fraîche to the top.” We’re thinking sugared blueberries for blue, soft-whipped cream for white, and strawberries (and a Campari soda) for red.

19. Strawberry & Butterscotch Whipped Cream Cake From Jami Curl

This no-stand-mixer-required, one-bowl-wonder of a cake came to us from pastry chef Jami Curl. Top this simple, incredibly moist vanilla cake with jammy strawberries and butterscotch whipped cream. Or, let your pantry odds and ends be your guide: Mix chocolate chips, toasted coconut, frozen fruit, or spiced nuts right into the batter.

20. Groovy Chocolate Cake

A riff on a Texas sheet cake, this deeply chocolatey, thickly frosted chocolate cake defined writer Megan Giller’s childhood. “The magic lies in its simplicity—along with sour cream, which makes it super moist,” she writes. “After it cooled, my mom would top it with a simple chocolate buttercream frosting made with a splash of rum extract.”

21. Homemade Funfetti Cake

What is funfetti, if not edible fireworks in miniature form? Blogger and Food Network star Molly Yeh calls for artificially-colored sprinkles or nonpareils for the brightest effect, and imitation vanilla for the truest funfetti boxed-cake flavor. To ensure the sprinkles pop, she ditched the yolks for a pure white batter.

What cakes and other sweet treats will you be baking up this Fourth of July? Tell us in the comments below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Erin Alexander is the Associate Editor at Food52, covering pop culture, travel, foods of the internet, and all things #sponsored. Formerly at Men’s Journal, Men’s Fitness, Us Weekly, and Hearst, she currently lives in New York City.

5 Comments

beenz June 18, 2019
For the Fluffy Butter Cake recipe do a browser search. I've found that with this website you're far more likely to find what you want quickly rather than searching the actual website.
 
bex June 18, 2019
In a roundabout way, that worked, thank you. Here's the link in case others are seeking it: https://food52.com/recipes/24530-bestest-as-light-and-fluffy-as-a-butter-cake-can-be
 
bex June 17, 2019
The link to the fluffy butter cake appears to be missing and a search of your site turned up no matching results. A link would be greatly appreciated, thank you.
 
Noreen F. June 17, 2019
How did I miss that chocolate cake? I thought I had saved every possible chocolate cake recipe on this website! :^) I'll probably have to bake it this weekend just to make sure it's OK for the 4th.
 
Kevin R. June 17, 2019
Can we please add links to the recipe if there is video? Not everyone has the luxury of being able to watch.