flag-cake Recipes

flag cake

Last year, I brought a flag cake to a 4th of July rooftop barbecue. Earlier in the week, I’d harbored fantasies about making an elaborate ice cream cake or layered berry yogurt popsicles or salads teetering on the edge of food safety standards but New York City, as it always seems to be in the first week of July, was at the crest of a week-plus of ever-increasing temperatures and stickiness, a summit where it tends to linger for a few even more airless days before finally releasing the thunder and lightening, sinking the mercury back to a brief day or two of something resembling temperate before it starts the climb again. What, me? No fan of NYC summers? Where would you get such an idea?

cake batter
buttery sheet cake

(This is also the time of year, every year, where I break my please-don’t-be-so-dull-as-to-complain-about-the-weather-Deb rule. Forgive me) Anyway, the heat got the better of my ambitions and I decided to make a simple yellow sheet cake with cream cheese frosting and an arrangement of patriotic berries that had, in fact, been imported from Baja. To me, it was good, cute even, but nothing crazy, just something I’d seen kicked around magazines and TV shows for two decades, hardly a revolutionary idea. My friends, however — many of whom use their ovens for sweater storage and gasp! do not spend their days ingesting various formats of food media — went absolutely ballistic over it. When strangers from other parties on the roof started taking some, they became possessive of their cake and shooed them away. The told me in no uncertain terms would I ever be welcome at a July 4th party again without it.

cream cheese frosting

powdered and fresh

Of course, I didn’t listen. Yesterday, ignoring this, I decided that I must be the type of person who likes to make insane cakes I saw on Pinterest. I am, in fact, not, but by the time I remembered this my kitchen, arms, all of my towels, and my toddler were covered with food dye and the sticky residue of a red-white-and-let’s-never-talk-about-this-again disaster. Then I remembered this lovely, dead-simple cake that I should have been making instead. Did I mention it’s a quickie? That it involves no piping bags, no strained warmed jam glazes, no pastry crusts and, most importantly, food dye? That I had streamlined my standard yellow birthday cake into a virtually one-bowl, single layer recipe, presuming we all have better things to do this evening than scrub out a sink full of dishes? That the frosting is a dump-and-whip kind of thing? And the berries just need to be rinsed and patted dry? Next year, and all the years after that until the end of the time, I’m going to listen to my friends and make this flag cake. I think you should too.

blue stars
red stripes

One year ago: Flatbreads with Honey, Thyme and Sea Salt
Two years ago: Sour Cherry Pie with Almond Crumble and Porch Swing
Three years ago: Cherry Brown Butter Bars and Watermelon Lemonade
Four years ago: Project Wedding Cake
Five years ago: Classic Madeleines

Flag Cake

If you have access to white raspberries, you can use them for the “white” stripes instead of powdering the raspberries. You could also use them to make “stars” in the blueberry portion.

If you wash your berries — I tend to just look them over for dirt, and then decide if they need an extra rinse — make sure to get them very dry. You’ll want them to be fully dry on the outside or the powdered sugar won’t stay on top. (That said, even the ones I had that were slightly more damp, still kept their white appearance, even with more pink popping through, so don’t drive yourself bonkers trying to keep berries dry.)

I like to serve (and carry) this cake in the pan, rustic style, so I let it cool completely in there. If you’d like to unmold it to serve on a different platter, let it cool on the rack for 15 minutes, before flipping it over onto another rack, removing the parchment paper, and flipping it back onto a serving platter. The frosting amount suggested is just for the top of the cake, but it’s a generous layer, so if you’d like to frost the sides, you can use the same amount and it will be thinner all around, or you can increase the frosting volume by half and cover the sides evenly. You may also unmold the cake and still only frost the top, leaving the sides bare.

2 sticks (1 cup, 1/2 pound or 225 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups (400 grams) sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
4 cups (465 grams) cake flour or 3 2/3 cups (460 grams) all-purpose flour plus 1/3 cup (45 grams) cornstarch
2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking soda
1 teaspoon (6 grams) table salt
2 cups buttermilk (475 ml), well-shaken

8-ounce (225 gram) block cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick or 1/4 pound) butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
2 to 3 cups (240 to 360 grams) powdered sugar

Powdered sugar
1 cup blueberries (1/2 pint, about 170 grams), very dry
3 cups raspberries (1 1/2 pints, about 360 grams), very dry

Make cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9×13-inch baking pan and line the bottom with a rectangle of parchment paper, then butter parchment. (Or, you can use a nonstick cooking spray instead of butter for speed and ease.)

Beat butter and sugar together in the bottom of a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, at least 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl between each addition. Add vanilla extract. Place flour, cornstarch (if using), baking powder, baking soda and table salt in a sifter or fine-mesh strainer and shake half of mixture into mixing bowl. (If this makes a huge mess, you can also do so onto a piece of waxed paper and use that to dump it into the mixing bowl.) Mix until just combined. Add buttermilk and stir it in slowly, because it will splash easily. The mixture might look curdled, but it will come together just fine in a moment. Add remaining dry ingredients and mix until combined.

Pour batter in prepared pan and smooth top. Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, [updated!] 30 to 35 minutes my initial notes said 35 minutes baking time, but early testers report it took 45 to 50, which, frankly, sounds a little closer to what I’d expect. Please, check at 35 and if the cake is quite battery still, come back in 10 minutes to check again. Don’t remove the cake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Once it does, transfer the cake to a rack to cool completely.

Make frosting Beat cream cheese and butter together until light and very fluffy, scraping down the sides to make sure no pesky cream cheese is left unmixed. Add the vanilla. Add the first cup of powdered sugar, and beat it until combined. Add the second. I prefer my cream cheese frostings less sweet, so I stopped there. Because the frosting is just going to be a layer between the berries and cake, it doesn’t need to be terribly stiff, so you can get away with skipping the additional cup of sugar. However, if yours still seems way too soft to use as frosting or not sweet enough, add the third cup of powdered sugar.

If your cake is very domed on top and you’d rather it be flat, you can level it a bit with a small serrated knife. Spread frosting evenly over top of cake. Or not evenly. Nobody will know, which is another reason why this cake is the greatest.

Decorate away Place your powdered sugar in a sifter or fine-mesh strainer. If you’ve got an open tea strainer, this is a great time to use it, although it will only hold a spoonful at a time. The short side of the blue rectangle of an American flag – yes, I looked this up, and yes, I need a hobby — will fall at roughly half the height of the short side of your cake. The long side will fall at a little more than one-third the width of your cake. You can outline this shape with blueberries. Then, dot a few blueberries inside, spaced apart. Coat the inside berries with a dusting of powdered sugar. Then, fill the rest of the space with uncoated blueberries.

An American flag has 13 stripes total, beginning and ending with a red stripe. Unless you have really tiny berries, you’re not going to fit all of them and nobody, least of you, should care. Eyeball the width your first row of raspberries will take up, and start your second row after that (approximately 1/2 to 2/3-inch down). Continue this pattern of an empty row followed by a row of raspberries the rest of the way down your cake. Coat these rows with a dusting of powdered sugar. Fill the empty rows with uncoated raspberries. Admire your pretty work. Cover pan with lid or foil and refrigerate until needed for your party/picnic/barbecue.

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214 comments on flag cake

  1. I feel like in the summer I always come up with crazy elaborate ideas but end up going back to a standard simple and dependable recipe. Also, love when you feed people who don’t ever turn on their own oven- they think you are a saint!

  2. tagny

    FYI, looks like this line of instructions transferred out of order:

    “Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. (I like to drop mine a few times from two inches up, making a great big noisy fuss.)”

    I was just about to look for a flag cake recipe for tomorrow – this one looks lovely. Thanks!

  3. Jenny

    “Pour batter in prepared pan and smooth top. Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

    Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. (I like to drop mine a few times from two inches up, making a great big noisy fuss.) Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely, about 1 hour.”

    Is something out of order here?

  4. pinterest is a slippery slope into insanity. (did you *see* the cinco de mayo pinata cookies? adorable insanity, but crazy nonetheless.)
    ::grin:: this cake looks delish!

  5. easily adapted for us canadian readers into a canadian flag! i’ll practice arranging raspberries in the shape of a maple leaf until next july ;)

  6. Cay

    Perfect, utter simplicity. Sometimes we food-obsessed forget how much impact a basic dish can have, especially a celebratory and party-ready crowd!

    Looks delish :D

  7. I’ve been making my own attempt at a flag dessert…strawberry pies with whipped cream stripes and blueberry cobbler with star-cut topping. Sounds good, but isn’t coming out as cute as your cake! Oh well, it will taste good anyway, maybe next year I’ll try your cake!

  8. Ooh yes please! I remember you tempted us last year with pictures of this pretty cake on Flickr. If I wasn’t already making your sweet cherry pie (always a favorite) for tomorrow, I’d give this a try. Unless I can concoct an occasion for a flag cake earlier, next Fourth this will be mine!

  9. OMG, that Pinterest cake is a NIGHT. MARE. Yay, you, for abandoning ship (or ugly food coloring as the case may be). I’ve been dreaming about this flag cake all week and here it is! Love your idea of powdering the berries for the white parts. Unfussy and lovely. Thanks, Deb:)

  10. Amanda

    The fact that you, Deb, the Guru of food bloggers, do the flag cake thing makes it TOTALLY acceptable for us home cooks to do the same. Thanks for taking this (yummy!) dessert out of the cliche closet and back into the “okay”. That said, I’ve been doing it for years but am super excited to see your Deb-ified (i.e., perfected, elevated, and streamlined) version. I hope you and your adorable family have a great holiday!!

    In other news, I’m super, Super, SUPER STOKED for the cookbook. I pre-ordered three copies, two for two dear friends that I’m leaving (stupid adult-hood causing me to move away due to a job) as a love for SK has been a dear connection that your cookbook and this blog can help continue (and of course one for me!). :]

  11. LG

    Holy OCD, what even IS that hidden flag cake? I cannot. Yay for berries and simple yellow cake and cream cheese frosting! Unyay for eleventy layers of Now I Need A Xanax.

  12. Wow! This looks much tastier than the food dye cakes that seem to take over this time of year.

    Also, I really really like it when you talk about the weather. Not dull at all.

  13. Yay! I was invited to an expats’ Fourth of July party tomorrow and wanted to bring cake (in addition to the pulled pork sandwiches I’m bringing). This looks perfect!

  14. Patryce

    looks great! We’re having a To Hell With the King Cake–we decided that King Cake is too yummy to have in only a small part of the year, so we came up with many different versions–Martin Luther King Cake, all chocolate, The King of Rock ‘n’Roll Cake, peanut butter and banana, etc., and the one for July Fourth has raspberries or cherries, lemon cream cheese and blueberry filling, with appropriately colored sugars on top. So the dough is rising now, I’ll fill, shape and bake it tonight to let the house cool down by tomorrow.
    Stay cool, everybody!

    1. deb

      Janet — Thanks!

      Jacob photo — I know! It’s coming. I had one and it turned out his mouth was full of food and kind of gross. Trust me, for the best.

  15. That hidden flag cake is crazy. This one looks so much better anyway. :) I also like how the white stripes are berries dusted with powdered sugar. So pretty!

  16. Kris

    Dang it! I already got the ingredients for the triple berry bundt cake, figuring that was a perfect 4th of july barbecue cake, and now you do this to me! Deb, you’re killing me down here.

  17. Jacqueline

    I would guess you might need to bring extra powdered sugar along because the berries certainly must not stay white for long. That is, unless you are serving the flag cake right away.

    1. deb

      Hi Jacqueline — Mine stayed white! It helps to have the berries very dry, but even if imperfectly dry, they’ll still remain whiter than the non-powdered berries and look okay. I’ll add that note nevertheless (mentioned it above but can make it clearer).

  18. Love it..so cute and seems simple. Thanks for sharing and thank you for abandoning that crazy ridiculous hidden flag cake….insane! Happy 4th!

  19. Katie

    I already promised to bake a cake for a coworker’s birthday on Thursday. Pretty sure it’s going to have to be this one. Thanks!

  20. Rebecca

    Awesome! I’ve made a flag cake before with strawberries and blueberries, with the white stripes just being empty rows to show the white cake frosting, but this looks prettier! I couldn’t figure out how you got just the alternating rows covered with powdered sugar – duh, powder them first, then put the others on. Brilliant ;-) I was thinking about how I wanted to make a flag cake tomorrow, I think I’m going to try this one!

  21. Julie

    I think the link to the *exact* proportions of the US flag is what sold me on the recipe. Now i just need to convince myself that I don’t need to mince the blueberries and cut raspberries into thirds to make the correct number of stars and stripes…

  22. I was considering baking a non red, white, and blue, desert until i saw this cake. the lightness will go perfectly with the +90 degree weather around here.

    Since i’m gluten free the cake recipe has to be altered, but the frosting and topping are straight from you.

    How would strawberries work as opposed to the raspberries? Do you think they’ll take the powdered sugar as well as the raspberries?

  23. Anne

    omgosh, just cliked over to the pinterest link … that hidden flag cake is crazy neat :) I’m sure yours is much tastier though (and also very cute!)

  24. SandyH

    Your cake is perfect, perfect! I had seen the hidden flag cake and seriously considered making it. I came to my senses and ended up with a three layer white cake, one red, one white, one blue layer, and plain ‘ol vanilla buttercream. Appropriately decorated on top, with some little red white and blue pinwheels.

    Happy Fourth!

  25. Laura

    This cake has been in the oven for at least 50 minutes, and it’s still very very wet in the middle. Any idea why this might be?

  26. Sarah

    My 13×9 pyrex broke this afternoon (shattered actually). My little was playing w/ the moon dough I had made with her, I went to move the table, she grabbed the pan, and crash! So, we’re doing two round cakes instead. Happy 4th!

  27. Sabine

    Looks delicious! Deb, would you be so kind to add metric measurements to all ingredients? I checked your conversion tables, but didn’t get very far… Thanks and best regards from Austria (suffering from an identical heat wave with 35+ degrees – Celsius, that is..)

  28. Hi Deb, I have a little question for the “chocolate swirl buns” a few days back. I made the same dough for my Beijing blog, http://www.ladyandpups.com/2012/07/03/childish-red-bean-buns-eng/, but switch the filling to red bean paste. After a few tries, they came out soft and airy. Is that the right texture? I mean I was sort of hoping for a chewier texture like a sticky buns or something. I have found a few recipes that might do that but I wanna know if you have any tips for a chewier buns? Thanks!

  29. Deb, I’m 100% with you on this one: I hate New York summers. They’re just the worst. It’s hot, the city stinks, and all you can do is stay close inside with the AC on.
    Btw, this cake is so so cute, if I had just some energy left to bake, I would do it. But I’m so so tired, I’ll just bookmark it for next year!

  30. Jennifer Tamura

    Hi Deb,

    I really want to make this cake! I live in the countryside in Japan and can’t buy buttermilk. I’ve heard of adding vinegar to regular milk, but it seems a poor substitute and hope you might have a tastier sounding alternative.


  31. naath

    This cake is also very flexible for other nationalities – just arrange the berries in a different way to get many other flags! Of course some people may need to go out hunting for suitable fruit in other colours.

  32. Leslie

    The cake is gorgeous. I’m going to try it, although after the 4th! Ha. My daughter (who is five) will still love it.

    I have to admit that I do hate when people complain about summer. It’s SUMMER. It’s supposed to be hot–although we only had about three really hot days in NYC this year, so we have been really fortunate. Compared to other years, this is nothing.

  33. Leslie

    Also, could you use whipped cream cheese for the frosting? I bought a huge tub, thinking it was a huge tub of whipped cottage cheese and now I’m stymied.

  34. Susan

    It’s good to hear that even you occasionally forego the baking challange and go with something simpler (that pinterest cake is awesome!) The Todd will make simple seem like too much, sometimes!

    Every year I see this flag cake featured everywhere and I roll my eyes; it’s like the Christmas sweater of July Fourth! How snooty am I? I’ve never even had a bite of one! ..But that’s only because too many are made using cake mixes, and I just don’t want to give yet another demerit to an already flagging (in my mind) dessert – bad pun intended! You’ve almost convinced me I should do this. Does the fruit bleed intot he frosting after a while?

    1. deb

      Susan — But Christmas sweaters are hip again! :) I didn’t have much running from the berries; the tiny amounts just looked pretty, IMHO. I suppose if they were older or softer, it could happen, but raspberries, or individual ones, shouldn’t be juicy enough that they’d really mess up a design.

      Leslie — I know! I have this whole rule about not talking about the weather. It’s like the lowest form of conversation. And yet, I slipped. I will try to limit it to once a year. Re, whipped cream cheese, I am not sure. I haven’t tried it. As long as it’s just cream cheese and nothing else fluffing it, I suppose if you went by weight, you could use it instead of the brick stuff.

      Anna — Probably! So has Martha, Ina, and every food magazine. It’s not a new idea (I discussed this) but it’s still a lovely thing to make. I tried to put a spin on it to simplify it and avoid the usual fussing of piping and food coloring and chopping and glazing, while also using a from-scratch cake and better-than-average frosting.

      Jennifer — You can totally use it as a substitute in baking. (Here’s my approach.) You should still be happy with the result.

      Mandy — I’d say that overall, babka is a little breadier and more firm than most cinnamon buns, which are very, very soft.

      Laura — Not sure! Mine clocked in at exactly 35. Do you have an oven thermometer?

  35. Deborah Chapman

    I like the way you decorated by first putting half the berries in place and then powdering them. When the flag cake hit the stands some years ago, I found the decorating the worst part of it. This is easy. I was thinking of icing this, cutting it into squares and maybe putting the squares into appropriately-colored cupcake liners, then putting a few blueberries and a slice of strawberry on each. Easy for a party where finger foods are requested.

  36. I, too, had thought about making a flag sheet cake for years and finally did it last year (http://www.fransfavs.com/2011/07/flag-sheet-cake/). I also saw the “hidden” flag cake on Pinterest and briefly considered making it this year but ended up making a simple red, white & blue parfait using fruit and vanilla pastry cream. From the sounds of your post, it was a wise decision! I think I’ll just keep remaking the flat sheet cake (from Ina Garten) from now on. It was quite yummy. I like that your method of just drying and sprinkling the fruit with confectioners’ sugar saves the effort on piping if you don’t have the time to do it.

  37. Pattyk

    Could you give us the weight of the cake flour? I’m always uneasy when measuring flour for any recipe. Thanks for a great looking cake.

  38. Deb,
    Barefoot Contessa has a flag cake recipe I made last year. Amazing. Something holiday, quick and easy to pull together for a get together. I made holiday cookie cut outs. Crazy the heat here in Syracuse was way above 90 degrees….But when you love to cook or bake what does temperature have to do with anything! Enjoy the 4th.

  39. Amy

    I’d kill for a heatwave right now. I’m in England and it’s freezing (and they call this “summer”!). Your cake looks amazing. I made my hubby your yellow cake for his b’day and he loved it.

  40. S. Dash

    WOW great minds think alike…I’m making this today using your double layer chocolate cake and whipped cream. And your mustard-glazed chicken skewers.

  41. Stoich91

    Beautiful cake…but JACCCOOOOBBBB :( :D Happy 4th! Looking forward to that promised pic! LOL I nearly went cross-eyed trying to find it in the blog!

  42. amy

    I had grand aspirations for making a similar cake for today, but didn’t want to look for a good recipe. Fortunately, my HUSBAND decided to make a cherry pie based on your sweet cherry pie recipe from a few years back. He even made firework decorations for the top. I got to stick to the homemade vanilla ice cream. But next year, this is the one! Thanks for the inspiration-Happy Fourth!

  43. CarolinaGirl

    WONDERFUL cake! I am about to whip up the frosting but the batter to this cake is like whipped cream. Love your recipes, the whole family will enjoy this one.

    1. deb

      Weights — Added for everything!

      Jacob photo — I’m sorry, he’s just not cooperating. If you have special toddler-reasoning skills and can get him to stand still or not show a mouth full of food for the camera, be my guest. :)

  44. Cate

    Hey, Deb! Quick question. You say the buttermilk should be well-shaken, but I also wanted to know if it needs to be room temp or if it can be straight from the fridge. Thanks!

    1. deb

      Cate — Room temperature is ideal for all ingredients, but, the cake will still work if its cold. (Mine was!)

      Baking time — Please, definitely don’t take the cake out until a tester is clean. I jotted down 35 minutes for my baking time but I also haven’t retested it in a while and now I’m worried that my notes were wrong. All that matters is that a tester comes out clean. I have indeed seen other sheet cakes that bake for 45, so it’s not totally nuts that it might take more time than I noted. I’ll update the recipe to note that it’s taking others longer. Thanks for the feedback.

  45. Allie

    Much like Laura’s comment (#47) – the cake has been in the oven for 45 minutes and it’s still liquid and wobbly in the center… any thoughts, anyone?

  46. Sabrina

    I get the feeling that most of those pictures on Pintrest are made and taken by people who don’t have small children and who have someone else to clean their kitchens.

  47. Amy C

    I’d like to add chocolate chips to this cake batter for a birthday cake – is there anything I should do diffently or should I just fold them in at the end? This is my go-to batter but I’ve always been afraid to mess with it!

  48. Emily

    I had the same problem as Laura. I’ve been baking the cake for 40 minutes now and it’s not even close to done. I’ll wait it out and see how it goes, but it’s not lookking great…any suggestions for next time?

  49. Patty

    My cake also took fifty minutes. I thought my oven was accurate, but I will have to test another day. Too hot to leave it on for one more minute – I got the cake baked and turned the oven off!

    1. deb

      Baking time — I updated the recipe to note that it’s taking people 45 to 50 minutes to bake it, and I’m terribly sorry about the confusion. As I said a couple comments ago, please don’t take this (or any cake, ever) out until the tester comes out clean; that’s a far better indicator of doneness than baking times. Fortunately, thank goodness, my error appears to be on the low side or I’d have been causing burned cakes and ruined afternoons!

  50. Tama

    So glad to know I wasn’t the only one with a cake taking more time. Frankly I thought it was a very short baking time for the amount of batter I had. At first I thought I got the pan size wrong. Thanks for clearing that up. Time to finish the rest of it now.

  51. I’ve got this one in the oven too — and Laura, I am having the same thing with baking time. I have an oven thermometer (actually two, ha, to make sure it’s heating evenly!) – so I know my temp is OK. I am suspecting my pan, which I wanted to use because it is red but which is ceramic rather than metal. Hoping it will be done in ten minutes, which would be about 65 minutes total? Center still wet as of now …. Sigh. So excited to decorate :)

    I also subbed Arrowhead whole grain pastry flour for half the cake flour and used one extra teaspoon vanilla, but make that flour sub all the time on Deb’s cakes and have never had a problem … Deb usually your recipes work perfectly for me, so all I can think is my pan. ??

  52. Mmm!! Thank you. I’d make this one since I didn’t fancy the idea of doing all that icing in this heat and the fruit suggestions is a fabulous alternative. Thank you!

  53. Jendorf

    Cannot make this cake because it’s over 100 degrees today and totally humid–I’m not turning that oven on until it drops below 90!

    However, I wanted to comment because your writing today was particularly inspired. That description of the sticky heat being broken by a line of thunderstorms–spot-on. Makes me hope that the storm is right around the corner!

    So, no apologies for complaining about the weather if you do it with this much style. . .

  54. Sofia

    Well, at least you can tell that we do notice and miss his cute pics.
    Unfortunately I fear that from now on it will get more difficult. They do go through a phase that lasts approximately 20 to 23 years………… :)

  55. Cate

    My cake came out at 42minutes, looking good and tall and lovely. Will have to give it a saw on top to flatten it out since clearly one side of my oven is a bit hotter than the other causing one end to rise more ;)

    Thanks for the recipe, Deb! It’s totally a spur-of-the-moment last-minute thing.

    Also, the first CAKE (not cupcake) recipe I’ve done in ages. My biggest fear is always the cake rising. Case in point, my housemate baked a cake for a friend’s birthday and it barely rose. Still tasted lovely, thought.

    Yay, cake!

  56. Patty

    Sometimes all the food gods come together. I happened to have the trifecta of buttermilk, raspberries, and blueberries in the fridge when the email came. Although I love a pretty cake, taste is always my first priority. This cake is a keeper. It is a beautiful, moist, flavorful cake. I can think of infinite reasons to make it again…and again. My baking time ended up at 36 minutes. I went with the 3 cups of powdered sugar for the icing and it was perfect. Definitely need dry, room temp berries for the powdered sugar. Thanks, Deb.

  57. Lilster

    Yours is much, much prettier than mine. That I tried not to stifle the creativity of a four-year-old might explain some of it.

  58. Katie J

    Flag cake made, in the fridge, will eat in 2 hours with neighbors… something I’ve not considered previously but my 5 excited kids loved the shots… I assist in a family-owned cooking school, have heard about your recipes and humor, had to drop in! FTR mine also took over 50 minutes in a 9 by 13 pan; it is insulated and I’m wondering if Laura’s pan was insulated as well.

  59. Amy

    Deb, I just thought of using your triple berry buttermilk cake recipe from a few days ago as the base for this flag cake. Is the the 4th again yet?

  60. I have been making Ina’s flag cake for years now.

    When my daughter was about 18 months old (she will be 11 in August) we saw Ina making it on her show. My daughter happened to be there and said that she wanted that cake as her next birthday cake. When it came time for her birthday we asked what she wanted as her birthday dessert (I am not a cake eater, so I leave it open to whatever sweet treat you would like) never thinking she would remember that she saw the flag cake 6 months earlier, but somehow she remembered and I have been making it for her every year since.

  61. Eileen

    Oh, I wish I checked in on July 3rd. I have you on a favorite link and somehow I missed this. Looks great and I will probably make it for an any old day of summer, but it is special for the 4th. Did Jacob looove it?

  62. Nicole Hyatt

    This looks great and simple! Yeah! I too was lured into attempting things I saw on Pinterest and failed….I would rather have it taste good than look good, and this looks like it does both! Thanks!

  63. Brad E

    My boyfriend decided to bust this cake out last minute yesterday for the 4th. It was soooooo delicious! The frosting is unreal! Thank you so much for your creativity, we often make your recipes and haven’t had a bad result. Can’t wait for your book!!!

  64. That’s an amazing-looking cake! Got one for Canadians? You’ve got all year, our holiday is July 1! I bet it would be easier, just use cranberries.

    Seriously, though, it looks simple enough for a cretin like me to make, and it turns out just beautifully. Thanks for this!

  65. Deb-

    Rooftop party, eh? What are the fireworks like in NY?

    Additionally, I always do the milk/lemon juice combo for buttermilk when I’m out (which is almost always). What do you notice the difference is?

    1. deb

      Kristen — HOT. But if you have a building that lets you hang out or entertain on the roof, it’s the best place to grill/see the fireworks.

  66. Lauren H

    Made this yesterday for a party and we are still snacking on it today. Mine also took almost 50 mins to bake which resulted in me doubting I followed directions correctly. Overall it was a little strange that it never exactly finished cooking in the middle but was a little dry on the edges. It was still a hit at our cookout and is tasty the next day.

  67. Ann

    Your cake looks so much more appetizing than the one on Pininterest! It’s a neat trick, but it doesn’t make me want to steal a piece they way yours does.

  68. Kim

    Love the powdered sugar idea! I grew up making flag cakes but we always just left the “white” stripes without fruit to let the frosting underneath show through – your way allows for more fruit, which is genius!

  69. Nicole

    I just love your “summer” cakes. I made a hybrid variation of your summer strawberry cake & raspberry buttermilk cake a few times this summer, (yes, even in the sticky DC heat) and they received rave reviews.
    Were I given a choice between your berry sheet cake and that *other* option on Pinterest, there would be no contest. The gorgeous natural colors of your lovely, simple berry cake cannot compare to titanium based “food” dyes. Some things just don’t need to be fancy and over the top.
    Next time there’s any occasion, I’ll be making this cake.

  70. So original, so simple and so cool! And the pictures are really nice! Being from Canada, we could try our own version with straberries to shape the maple leaf but not sure it would be that easy! Bravo for the creativity!

  71. Stefanie

    I’d like to make this for a gathering. Is it okay to bake the cake a day ahead of time, say, one day ahead and then frost/decorate on the day it is to be served?
    As for the berries, I don’t have organic ones so I want to wash the ones I bought.
    I’m guessing it’s okay to wash them a day ahead and let them dry, at room temp,
    on a towel? Your thoughts, please.

    1. deb

      Stefanie — No reason not to bake the cake 1 day ahead. Just wrap it in plastic. If more than a day, wrap it twice and freeze it until needed.

  72. mmm i love a simple cake for a traditional holiday! there is nothing like good yellow cake, and topped with fresh berries? god bless it, i say.

  73. I made a flag cake for the 4th once, not as pretty as yours though. My dad told everybody that we were having the party just because of my cake then handed me a huge knife to cut it, which was awesome. This year it was snickerdoodle blondies. Yum!

  74. That cake is GORGEOUS Debbie! I would love to do something like this next year. (Totally missed this post in advance of the Fourth. Though I did make your perfect blueberry muffins, which were — in a word — perfect!)

  75. I had full intention to make my one dessert a year where I cheat and make the cool whip/pound cake not a bit from scratch, but not store-bought, flag cake that my family loves. Although it did require more work than usual, especially since we just moved across country and all of my baking stuff was buried in poorly labeled boxes, I am so happy you posted this recipe. I was also able to substitute gluten free flour to make it good for everyone to eat. This cake got rave reviews! Thanks so much!

  76. Santadad

    Until I read the last paragraph, I was going bonkers visualizing you coating each berry individually with conf sugar. You’d think that I would have thought of your clever approach! :-(

  77. Mariya

    This cake look lovely and delicious. I’m really upset there’s no photo of Jacob. I even dug through the flickr photostream just in case. Sigh.

  78. Abby

    Beautiful cake Deb! Can you tell me what kind of pan you used, shown in the pictures? I love the sturdy and square and sleek all at once look! Merci!

    1. deb

      Abby — I don’t remember! I bought it years ago because I liked the squared-off edges but it has gotten destroyed in the dishwasher (probably wasn’t safe for it) and I don’t know if I’d buy it again. I’d poke around on Amazon, see if you can find it.

  79. Annie B

    So pretty! This cake is almost identical to one my dear, now departed Auntie made every 4th of July. I will make it on the 8th of July…her birthday. Thanks, Deb.

  80. Laura

    Hi Deb
    Its not really related to this post but I’m a UK follower of your blog! I love it so much and am ecstatic that your book will be available on amazon.co.uk. Will it also have uk measurement conversions as well? As a cheeky side note amazon states that after people view your book they go on to purchase 50 shades of grey! So from food porn to just porn. lol.

    1. deb

      Laura — Absolutely. Well, all editions will have Metrics (weights in grams, liquids in ml). But additional edits will be made for the Aus/UK edition to put it in (as I joke) British-ese, or what is, in fact, proper English. :)

  81. I made this cake for a 4th of July bbq. Each component was delicious on its own–but together–incredible!! I think I’ll be repeating this next year :)

  82. Oh Deb – how utterly divine, summery and all-American. Thank you once again for your beautiful work. You’ve inspired me to do an Aussie version for Australia Day next year. I’ll let you know how it turns out x

  83. Janine

    I made this for my family’s Fourth celebration, and they loved it. I’m not a big fan of fruit on cake, but the cream cheese icing really did something for it. Since a number of comments are about baking time, I found mine came out perfectly moist at 40 minutes. Thank you for this fantastic summer recipe!

  84. I really want to have a bite of it…love fresh fruits on a cake… Also liked how no colours have been used but still very colourful with the fruits:-) a…ma…zing!!!!!

  85. Pam

    I made this on Friday for a dinner, and WOW! Easy, delicious, beautiful, fresh . . . everything I wanted it to be. I am making it again, without the flag part, for a party this weekend because the cake was SO EASY and it will travel well to be frosted at the remote location. I’d love to find a just-as-easy chocolate cake version . . . got any ideas? Thanks Deb, and I cannot wait to get my hands on the cookbook!

  86. I am currently bowing down to your pictures and your flag cake. I made a flag appetizer this fourth of july out of watermelon, blueberries and goat cheese laid out on a cutting board. My taste buds loved it, but my eyes were like, what is this amateurish, uneven, tribute to our founding fathers? Not to be overly self-deprecating, but your flag cake could kick my cutting board flag’s butt any day! I am in awe of the straight lines and perfectly-sized fruit. Awesome job!

  87. Craig

    This was SO GOOD! Even though I used a 9×13 pan, my “stripes” used up just over 3 pints of raspberries for some reason. Obviously worth it!

  88. Autumn

    Hi Deb, I love your blog! Question about this cake. I made it yesterday in a 9 x 13 pan and it was absurdly tall, which complicated the baking time and threw off the cake-to-frosting ratio. Was it meant to be baked in a sheet pan? Or am I the only one who thought the cake layer was too thick?

    1. deb

      Autumn — It is fairly tall for a sheet cake but I didn’t find it absurdly so. I intended it for a 9×13 (the largest size I can fit in my sad little oven) but if you want to stretch it into a larger sheet pan, such as a 12×16, you should be able to.

  89. This was the tall cake to fill my 9x1x2.25 that I was looking for! It came out to just under two inches and was delicious. Check the blog to see the sprinkle fantasticness!

  90. Jessica Cody

    I too have seen similar flag cakes around the internet/food magazine circuit for years, but they always seem to be mostly about the presentation. What I love about this is that it’s an excellent version of the most crowd pleasing cake ever with just a lovely display of berries on top. I took it to an Olympic-viewing party last year where it was a big hit and I can’t wait to bring it to a 4th of July bbq tomorrow! Thanks, Deb!

  91. This was my favorite line, because it is the antithesis to what Martha Stewart insists upon in her flag cake recipe: “Unless you have really tiny berries, you’re not going to fit all [13 stripes] and nobody, least of [all] you, should care.”

  92. I made this yesterday, and everyone loved it. I had to let the icing stand in for the white stripes because 3 cups of raspberries was nowhere near enough to cover the whole cake– maybe my raspberries were too big? Even so, the cake was still gorgeous and delicious. Thanks, Deb! Hope you had a great fourth!

    1. deb

      Elizabeth — Oh no! I am about 12 hours too late. I, too, made it yesterday and while three cups were enough, I made a note to update the recipe to suggest four cups (sorry, this is of little help to you now) because a) so many raspberries arrive busted in most containers, it seems easier to estimate up, b) I too had a package of gargantuan raspberries and it really threw off the stripes.

  93. Kay

    Deb – this cake was a huge hit last night for our Fourth festivities! The cake itself was so SO good, I’m making it my go-to cake recipe from now on. Thanks!

  94. Unless you picked the berries from your own garden with your own hands, it’s really important to wash them. I know it’s especially annoying to do so with raspberries, but when you consider the amount of pesticides on berries, it not only impacts their flavor, but it’s also poison. And even if you buy organic — once you consider all the various hands and surfaces (and atmospheres) those berries have gone through before getting to your mouth, you’re lucky if you’re not getting sick from them!

    That aside, I LOVE this cake! ;) It’s beautiful.

  95. Patty

    This was a big hit! One quick question for next time I make it… Do you let the buttermilk sit out / bring it to room temperature, or do you use it cold? Thanks so much!

    1. deb

      Patty — When baking, all ingredients are ideally at room temperature. But, if you didn’t have time to warm them up, the cake will still work.

  96. JanetB

    I made the food dye hidden flag cake a couple of years ago, and it was cute and a big hit, but I’ll bet this one would have been just as well received, if not more so!

  97. Dubby

    Hi Deb! I just made this cake today for a party today and it was a hit! I adapted it to be gluten free so I thought I’d share my experience. I used trader joes gf ap flour mix. I decided to weigh out my gf flour and I got to 460g at 2 2/3 cup, and added 1/3 cup of corn starch (~65g worth). I wasn’t sure if I should add more flour so I test baked a small cupcake and it was good so I left the amount of flour at 2 2/3 cups. Followed the rest of the recipe to a T. The resulting cake was delicious, really buttery, tasted like a pound cake. The next time I made it I might try to use 45g of corn starch and see if it’ll produce a lighter cake.

  98. I made this cake for Independence Day and needless to say it was a hit. I even got some comments from fellow bus passengers on my way to a friend’s. I will definitely be using the cake and frosting recipes in the future as they are both pretty perfect.

  99. Dubby

    Here to report back that I baked another batch of this cake with 460g (2 2/3cups) gluten free flour from Trader Joe’s and 45g of corn starch. I definitely like the end results better. The cake is fluffier and less dense! I made them into cupcakes this time and I got 40 cupcakes out of the batter. Thanks again for the great recipe.

  100. I have tried to make this flag cake and it was my first experience. I followed your recipe and I must tell you it was much better than I thought it would be. I look forward to your site for more cake recipes

  101. Kathy

    This cake tastes wonderful. I made 4 large cupcakes out of the batter, as I wanted the cake to frosting ratio to be less. Even so, the cake was high for the thin layer of frosting. The raspberries soaked up the powdered sugar and it ruined the “white” effect, but I piped a frosting line for the white stripe and it looked great.

  102. Traci

    I had to transport this to a BBQ 2 hours away..and sadly, the powdered sugar melted away, even though my raspberries were dry. I think because the raspberries were pretty darn ripe & kept seeping juices. No one cared or even noticed and it tasted AMAZING.

  103. Carolyn

    I was super excited to make this for the 4th this year, since last year I was already making your Cherry Pie! I am sad to report that my cake turned out more like cornbread than cake. It was very dry and crumbled to pieces. I followed the recipe to a tee. The only thing I had to adjust was the baking time to 55 minutes since it was still raw at 45 minutes. Any tips on how I could add more moisture?

  104. Amanda

    Sooooo … I’ve debated whether to share this, for fear of insulting you. But, I wanted to let you know that I used the cake recipe for a base of a ‘poke’ cake for the Fourth and it was an absolute HIT! Because I am an over-achiever, I did two colors of jello in stripes and frosted with a tub of whipped topping. If I had had the cream, I would have made fresh whipped cream. Anywho – thanks for another fantastic, adaptable recipe. I’m glad I could low-brow it and it still came out wonderful! I hope you and your two guys had a great holiday!

  105. You probably won’t see this in time, but…..what are your thoughts about cutting this recipe in half, putting it in a 9 X 9 pan instead. Thoughts?

  106. Leanne

    I baked this and brought it to a potluck lunch today and it would be very hard to overstate how popular it was! It was a huge hit, much bigger than I imagined– and I have nothing but confidence in your recipes! A crowd-pleaser to be sure. The raspberries in my area were wildly expensive so I used cherries instead. Delicious!

  107. Pat Volpe

    The cake is cooling now, vanilla bliss! Looking forward to the easy decoration….and to taste……the very best of all, your recipes are a bit of heaven!
    Happy Independence Day!

  108. Heather

    So, if you can halve the recipe and use in an 8×8, or 9 inch round pan, would you also be able to use the entire recipe in 2 round pans, to make a nice round birthday cake for a special girl who loved our Flag Cake so much for July 4th that she has special requested it for her party tomorrow? Thank you!

  109. Mel

    Fantastic idea! I am totally going to do this next July (I’m Canadian so I’ll do a maple leaf instead) instead of last year’s Failure Pies. (Who wants to make pies from scratch and have the crust come out soggy because it was too damn hot for blind baking? Not this girl.)

  110. Deb – I have a 12×18 pan and have made the flag cake many times. I want to make the cake for a party of 50 and was thinking I could slice it lengthwise to frost it in the middle as well. Do you think this is possible or the layers would be too thin? I’m trying to make it a little more special as it’s for one of my sons. What do you think?

  111. deb

    Arlene — In a 9×13, definitely because the cake is thick. In a 12×18, I’m less sure. Not sure how thin it ends up. Probably it could be sliced in half, it just might be trickier if the cake is already thin.

  112. Ivana

    I’m planning to make this for the weekend in Belgian colours (black, yellow and red). Black and red are easy (blackberries and raspberries), but I’m scratching my head a bit on the yellow – mangoes? peaches? I don’t think bananas would be yellow enough (it’s a kind of deep, darkish, yellow). Would those even work with the cream cheese frosting or would they be too acidic? Any ideas, anyone?

    1. deb

      Ivana — How about mangoes and peaches? Together they’d be even prettier. Or, just mangoes (I think they’re more yellow-fleshed) and/or pineapple if you can get it.

  113. Avery

    This cake is beautiful and I’m definitely making it this weekend! Do you have any tips or know any reliable instructions for high altitude cake baking? I live in Colorado and I’m tired of my cakes coming out with a sad well in the middle where they’ve fallen during baking.

  114. Erin B

    Awesome recipe, Deb! I want to make the cake lemon flavored…do you think that would work with your recipe? I was planning to add either dried lemon peel powder to the flour mixture or 1-2tbsp fresh lemon zest and a tbsp of lemon juice.

  115. SallyT

    This was DELICIOUS! I made it in an 13×18 pan, which was the perfect size and height – i baked it for 25 minutes. I did the frosting recipe x 1.5, but next time would do it x2. HUGE hit!

  116. Nicole

    i am going to try this in a larger pan next time. I dont know what i did but the cake was definitely higher than my pan (a calphalon 9×13) in the middle and i had to saw a good bit off. I would like a higher raspberry to cake ratio.

  117. Molly

    This cake was seriously delicious! I’ve never made a white or yellow cake before because why bother if it’s not chocolate? ;) But wow, this was wonderful. Rave reviews from all. Although I dried the berries well, the powdered sugar did dissolve after a few hours, but it was easy enough to apply a bit more with a tea infuser.

  118. Maxine

    Could not have loved it more or been easier! It was a big hit at 4th of July BBQ but we had some left over and the cake just got more yummy, dense and delicious the next day. Wonderful cake.

  119. Alice

    What would be your thoughts on marbling the inside of the cake to be red white and blue? Is the cake too yellow, and should I choose a white cake instead? Or do you think it would still have the desired effect using this recipie? :)

    1. deb

      You might have more color accent in a pure white cake — it often seems that marbled cakes that look crisp have a tighter crumb and are maybe more firm. I’d be more confident that a single color would marble visibly here than two, but that doesn’t mean don’t try it. Never hurts to find out.

  120. Erica

    3year old asked for yellow cake with “owange” frosting, and I made this for him. Cake was easy and delicious. The frosting recipe with 3 cups powdered sugar was just right to cover the top and sides of the cake. You came through for me on birthday cake again, Deb. Thank you!