Happy Fourth of July! I hope you have time to celebrate with whatever you enjoy the most. Picnic? Cookout? Reading a great book? Swimming in pool, lake, river, or ocean? Watching some fireworks or gathering with friends and family? Whatever your fourth holds, I hope it is a glorious fun day. In case you need an easy-to-make, easy-to-take cake, here’s my best suggestion: A Red, White, and Blueberry Cake, made in a square or a round cake pan, and crowned with a lovely vanilla frosting decorated as the Red White and Blue!
For this recipe, I used the Shenandoah Valley Blueberry Cake recipe in my cookbook, Southern Cakes: Sweet and Irresistible Recipes for Everyday Celebrations. I used half blueberries and half raspberries in the cake, but you could use strawberries chopped to the size or blueberries if you like. On top I decorated it with sliced and halved strawberries, but you could use raspberries lined up in rows with beautiful results.
Ordinarily I serve this cake right from the pan, unadorned and in squares. You’ll see how the cake stuck to the bottom a bit —- I should have used more butter, but this happens anyway sometimes. I simply scooped it up and placed it back on the bottom of the cake, pressing it in, to get maximum cake goodness. Since this cake is going to be turned out and served from a plate (or in my case, a cutting board), you could line the pan with baking parchment or waxed paper, to make for easy removing with no stuck bits. Be sure to grease the paper as well as the pan if you go this route.
Here’s the cake, turned out on to a cutting board and them turned gently right side up onto another one. I will say that this is one fine cake ready to go right here — the icing is a big flourish. If you want to serve it simply, cut into squares and treat each serving to a big dollop of whipped cream or ice cream and a giant spoonful of berries on the side. OR go all out as I did below, and make that cake into Old Glory! It’s a Grand Old Flag…….CAKE, and you are sure to smile as you put it together.
Because this icing has butter and milk, and is a soft texture, I like to refrigerate it for an hour before serving —- longer is fine too, up to 1 day. The cake without the berry decor freezes well, even iced, if you want something wonderful on hand in the freezer. Let it stand a room temperature for 30 minutes or so if time. But you know what? This cake is just easy and good so don’t worry about this fine timing.
For later in the summer, think blackberries, peaches, chopped cherries, mango……Or go with the all-blueberry version, which is a go-to cake for me.
Red, White, and Blueberry Cake
This is the Shenandoah Valley Blueberry Cake from my cookbooks, Southern Cakes, with a mix of blueberries and raspberries instead of all blueberries. It comes from The Best of the Bushel, a delicious volume of recipes from the Junior League of Charlottesville, Virginia. Frozen blueberries work well, and you could use chopped strawberries instead of raspberries in the cake. Chop them to be about the same size as the blueberries.
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (do not thaw)
Heat the oven to 375 F, and generously grease a 9-inch square or round pan. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl, and stir with a fork to mix well. In a medium bowl, combine the butter and sugar, and beat with a mixer at high speed until well combined. Add the egg and beat well for 1 to 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl, until the mixture is smooth and light.
Stir in half the flour mixture, and then half the milk, mixing just enough to keep the batter fairly smooth and well combined. Add the remaining flour, and then the milk, mixing gently. The batter will be very thick.
Spread half the batter into the well-greased pan, making sure to cover the entire bottom with thick batter. It will look thin — but don’t worry, your cake will rise up nicely. Sprinkle on the blueberries, distributing them evenly over the batter. Then sprinkle on the raspberries or strawberry chunks, again distributing them evenly over the batter, with lots of white space left.
Scoop up the remaining batter and plop it all around the berry-covered cake batter in big blobs. Then gently and lightly spread it to cover the berries. Try not to tear them up too much — but don’t worry. It will be lovely even if you end up with berry-batter. Smooth the top. A few berries may show through — that’s fine.
Place the pan in the hot oven and bake at 375 F for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cake is puffed up and golden, springs back when touched gently in the center, and is pulling away from the sides of the pan.
Serve the cake right from the pan, warm or at room temperature, cut into squares. Or let it cool in the pan on a wire rack or folded kitchen towel for 10 minutes, and then turn it out to cool on a wire rack, top side up. Or let it cool in the pan completely, and then loosen it up and turn it out onto a cutting board when ready to serve; and then flip it over so that the top side is up, for icing or for serving just as is.
Makes 1 8-inch or 9-inch cake, square or round.
Old Time Vanilla Cream Icing
This classic icing requires just a little cooking on top of the stove to mix the flour and milk into a velvety base for the frosting. Then it’s as easy as beating butter and sugar together, along with a flavoring, adding in the flour-milk mixture, and you have an irresistibly luscious icing for your favorite cakes. If you’re looking for speed, use Cream Cheese Frosting, or any other favorite cake finishing-touch.
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (1 sticks butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine the milk and flour in a small or medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring often and well with a whisk or large spoon, until the mixture becomes thick, shiny, and white, like very softly whipped cream. Set aside to cool.
To complete the frosting, beat the butter with a mixer at high speed until light and fluffy. Add the sugar in 2 batches, beating well each time. Add the vanilla and then the thick, cooled milk mixture. Beat for about 2 minutes more, stopping often to scrape down the bowl, until the icing is fluffy and soft, and thick enough to spread.
A bit of berry in every bite!
This icing, your favorite confectioner’s sugar recipe, whipped cream, ice cream — or just this berry-ful cake. Plain or fancy, I love it and hope you do, too!