Recipe of the Week: Memorial Day American Flag Cake

by Leigh Sackett

I have discovered recently that being ignorant to my nation’s history is like being given a wonderful birthday present and not caring who gave it to you . . .

During the War of 1812 Francis Scott Key, accompanied by the American Prisoner Exchange Agent Colonel John Stuart Skinner, dined aboard the British ship HMS Tonnant, as the guests of three British officers. Skinner and Key were there to negotiate the release of prisoners. The men were not allowed to return to their own sloop, they had become familiar with the strength and position of the British units and with the British intent to attack Baltimore.

As a result of this, Key was unable to do anything but watch the bombardment of the American forces at Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore on the night of September 13, 1814. When the smoke cleared, Key was able to see an American flag still waving and reported this to the prisoners below deck.

On the way back to Baltimore, he was inspired to write a poem describing his experience, “Defense of Fort McHenry”, which he published in the Baltimore Newspaper, “The Patriot” on September 20, 1814. He intended to fit it to the rhythms of composer John Stafford Smith’s “To Anacreon in Heaven,” but it became better known as “The Star Spangled Banner.” Under this name, the song was adopted as the American national anthem, first by an Executive Order from President Woodrow Wilson in 1916 and then by a Congressional resolution in 1931.

In the fourth stanza Key urged the adoption of “In God is our Trust” as the national motto. The United States adopted the motto “In God We Trust” by law in 1956.

I learned most of this in elementary school, of course, but the value of it has changed over time for me as I have matured. Recently, I watched a documentary on the history of this event that illuminated the significance of the experience for me. Imagine thinking that, “surely we have been overcome by another force and our flag is gone and has been replaced with theirs.” And then gradually being able to see that such was not the case – that the flag, somehow – against all odds, was still there. The flag that had come to symbolize so much of what was important to the young country and its people.

Now every time I see the American flag, I think of Francis Scott Key’s great inspiration – his moment of looking upon the flag and having his hope restored. For me it has become an inspiration to remember and re-receive the gift of my home.

This American Flag cake recipe is from the Food Network’s “Barefoot Contessa.” Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!

18 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature

3 cups sugar

6 extra-large eggs at room temperature

1 cup sour cream at room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3 cups flour

1/3 cup cornstarch

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

For the icing:

1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature

1 1/2 pounds cream cheese at room temperature

1 pound confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

To assemble:

2 half-pints blueberries

3 half-pints raspberries

Heat the oven to 350

Butter and flour an 18 by 13 by 1 1/2-inch sheet pan.

-Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed, until light and fluffy. On medium speed, add the eggs, 2 at a time, then add the sour cream and vanilla. Scrape down the sides and stir until smooth.

-Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda in a bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until just combined. Pour into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with a spatula. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool to room temperature.

-For the icing, combine the butter, cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mixing just until smooth.

-Spread three-fourths of the icing on the top of the cooled sheet cake. Outline the flag on the top of the cake with a toothpick. Fill the upper left corner with blueberries. Place 2 rows of raspberries across the top of the cake like a red stripe. Put the remaining icing in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe two rows of white stripes below the raspberries. Alternate rows of raspberries and icing until the flag is completed. Pipe stars on top of the blueberries.

-You can serve this cake right in the pan. If you want to turn it out onto a board before frosting, use parchment paper when you grease and flour the pan.


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