Happy Fourth! If the day finds you late to the table with minimum of time to cook, and you’re scrambling to come up with a festive celebratory dish, I have a suggestion: Skip the following recipe, purchase a boxed cake mix, canned white icing, blueberries and strawberries, and this celebratory cake can be out the door in 30 minutes.
That’s not to say the following recipe is difficult; oh no, not in the least. There are elaborately decorated American Flag cakes to be sure, but my arrangement of berries to resemble a flag was completed with a minimum of effort.
As well, the glory of making sheet cakes is you don’t need to use an electric mixer, and they’re adaptable to a myriad of flavors and ingredients to accommodate various tastes. Since they’re only one layer and traditionally served in their baking dish, they’re also easy to serve and transport to pot lucks and celebrations.
Our family (I’m thinking of the young ‘uns) would prefer a sugary sweet cake made from a box to the recipe I’ve penned below, and there are decent organic mixes out there. My husband and I, however, are always on a quest to reduce our intake of refined sugar and indecipherable ingredients, and prefer substituting healthier alternatives. One of the best things about scratch cooking is the ability to control ingredients, in the case of this cake: processed flour, excessive sugar and saturated fat.
I don’t wish, however, to compromise the pleasure of finishing a meal with something sweet, and there’s ample fat and sugar in the following recipe, just not as much; I tried to defuse the sugar bomb without compromising the aesthetics. Sugar is sugar, after all, and the unrefined, organic Coconut Palm sugar (made from the nectar of a coconut palm tree) I used for the cake probably metabolizes in my body affecting my blood sugar the same way as refined; I’m wary of those hyped-up health claims on product web sites. But I like the complexity of flavor in palm sugar – like a cross between brown sugar and molasses – which gives this cake a gingerbread sort of taste.
The addition of toasted chopped nuts and golden raisins soaked in a liquor would be nice additions for the more sophisticated palate. The whole wheat flour I used made for a denser cake, and I’m curious if toasted quinoa flour would lighten it up – it would certainly be friendly to gluten-free diets.
I made my icing with yogurt, reduced fat cream cheese and powdered sugar; the type of icing style often used on carrot cakes. If I’d had used the palm sugar instead of powdered, it would be difficult to blend and the color would have lent a brownish cast to Old Glory; not my intention. My icing recipe is generous to insure there’s enough for painting the sides, if you decide to remove it from the baking dish and serve it on a platter.
A typical sheet cake is twice as large as my recipe below, often referred to as a Texas sheet cake; a dessert the size of Texas. I halved the usual sheet cake size to amply serve 12, a Michigan sheet cake, if you will; a dessert the size of Michigan. Deliver the cake to the table decorated with lit sparklers and keep your eye on the grand ole’ flag!