Some people celebrate the Fourth of July with picnics, or barbecues, or fireworks, to which I say, fireworks, shmireworks! Let's celebrate with cake instead.
Red, White and Blue Velvet cake, to be exact. It looks super-impressive when it's cut into, but it's not any more complicated to make than a regular red velvet cake. The tricky part is actually getting the blue velvet layer to be the right color. I must have very wimpy blue food coloring, because it takes a *ton* of dye to get the cake a nice, rich, dark shade of blue. I find Americolor gel coloring usually gives me the best results.
I decorated this particular cake with fondant cut-outs. If you don't have any fondant and are too lazy to go buy some, you can make your own with mini marshmallows! Marshmallow fondant is really easy, and I think it tastes better than many store-bought kinds. (Recipe below). It's good for decorations, but I haven't had the best luck using it to cover entire cakes--it's also sensitive to humidity, so if your cake will be in a humid environment for an extended period of time, either apply the decorations at the last minute, or choose another decorating option.
These are also adorable as cupcakes, so don't hold back just because you can't face a layer cake in this abominable heat. Go on, stuff your face with cake and frosting--it's the American way.
Red and Blue Velvet Cake
* 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 1/2 cups sugar
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
* 1 cup vegetable oil
* 1-1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
* 2 large eggs, room temperature
* 2 tablespoons red food coloring (or more, depending on your brand)
* 2 tablespoons blue food coloring (or more, depending on your brand)
* 1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cream Cheese Frosting
* 1 pound cream cheese, softened
* 2 sticks butter, softened
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
For the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray two 9" cake pans and line them with parchment.
In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In a large mixing bowl gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, vinegar, and vanilla. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined, scraping down the sides several times.
Divide the batter in half and gently fold the red food coloring into half, and the blue into the other half. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for about 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through. Test the cakes with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.
For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until light and smooth.
8 ounces miniature marshmallows (4 cups not packed, or half of a 16-ounce bag)
1 pound powdered sugar (4 cups), plus extra for dusting
2 tbsp water
Food coloring or flavored extracts, optional
Dust your counter or a large cutting board with powdered sugar. Place the marshmallows and the water in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 1 minute, until the marshmallows are puffy and expanded.
Stir the marshmallows with a rubber spatula until they are melted and smooth. If some unmelted marshmallow pieces remain, return to the microwave for 30-45 seconds, until the marshmallow mixture is entirely smooth and free of lumps. If you want colored or flavored fondant, you can add several drops of food coloring or extracts at this point and stir until incorporated. If you want to create multiple colors or flavors from one batch of fondant, do not add the colors or flavors now.
Add the powdered sugar and begin to stir with the spatula. Stir until the sugar begins to incorporate and it becomes impossible to stir anymore.
Scrape the marshmallow-sugar mixture out onto the prepared work surface. It will be sticky and lumpy, with lots of sugar that has not been incorporated yet--this is normal. Dust your hands with powdered sugar, and begin to knead the fondant mixture like bread dough, working the sugar into the marshmallow with your hands.
Continue to knead the fondant until it smooths out and loses its stickiness. Add more sugar if necessary, but stop adding sugar once it is smooth--too much sugar will make it stiff and difficult to work with. Once the fondant is a smooth ball, it is ready to be used. You can now roll it out, shape it, or wrap it in cling wrap to use later. Well-wrapped fondant can be stored in a cool room or in the refrigerator, and needs to be kneaded until supple before later use.If you want to add coloring or flavoring to your fondant, flatten it into a round disc. You might want to wear gloves to avoid getting food coloring on your hands during this step. Add your desired amount of coloring or flavoring to the center of the disc, and fold the disc over on itself so that the color or flavor is enclosed in the center of the fondant ball. Begin to knead the ball of fondant just like you did before. As you work it, you will begin to see streaks of color coming through from the center. Continue to knead until the streaks are gone and the fondant is a uniform color. Your fondant is now ready to be used or stored as outlined above.