As American as Cake

As most of you know, last night America held presidential elections. The election process in this country can be an ugly, nasty affair. So, what better way to get rid of the bitterness than with dessert?

I was invited to an election watching party on Tuesday night, and thought I should bring something a bit patriotic… which means red, white, and blue. After searching online for something suitable, I found a cake on that fit the bill. Except it was an entirely homemade affair. What’s a working girl to do? No time to spend the day baking a cake. So, I took the recipe and made it the easy (and if I do say so myself, American) way. That’s right… I used a few boxed cake mixes. Rock on, America!

Red, White and Blue Cake

For the red velvet cake layers:

  • 1 red velvet boxed cake mix
  • Ingredients on the back of the box (usually water, oil, and eggs)
  • 2 T cocoa powder (think Hershey’s, not Dutch process or extra dark)
  • 1 C sour cream

For the white cake layer:

  • 1 white boxed cake mix
  • Ingredients on the back of the box (usually water, oil, and eggs)
  • 1 T grated lemon zest
  • 1 t vanilla extract

For the cream cheese frosting (this one I did make according to epicrack):

  • 2½ (8-oz) packages cream cheese (20 oz total), softened
  • 2½ sticks (1¼ C) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2½ T fresh lemon juice
  • 2 t vanilla extract
  • ¼ t salt
  • 3¼ C confectioners’ sugar

For the fruit topping:

  • 2 pints blueberries
  • 1 pint raspberries

You’ll need two or three 9″ cake pans (and a muffin tin… you’ll see.) Let’s start with the red velvet layer. Butter and lightly flour two of your pans. Preheat your oven according to the directions. Open your box mix and put the contents in a bowl. Add the extra cocoa powder. Now, replace 1 C of liquid (usually water) with the sour cream. For example, my box mix called for 1¼ C water and ⅓ C oil. Instead I added 1 C sour cream, ¼ C water, and ⅓ C. Divide the batter between two pans and bake/cool according to the directions.

Now, do the same with the white boxed mix. This time, make everything according to the package just add the lemon zest and vanilla extract. You’ll only need one cake so use the extra batter to make a few cupcakes (depending upon the size of your muffin tin, it will probably be between six and 10).

While your cakes are cooling, make cream cheese frosting. Beat together cream cheese and butter in a large bowl with an electric mixture until creamy and smooth. Beat in lemon juice, vanilla extract, and salt.

Sift confectioners’ sugar into a bowl and add to cream cheese mixture. Mix on low speed until incorporated, then increase speed to medium-high and beat until smooth.

So, now the fun begins. Let’s assemble this sucker. Brush loose crumbs from cake layers with a pastry brush.

Put a red velvet layer, bottom side up, on a cake plate or stand. Spread 1 cup of frosting over layer. Now, take a look at that white layer. Is it a bit domed on the top? You should probably cut the dome part off so you have a pretty even layer on both sides. Be careful at first if you’re not used to sawing cakes. And, remember to brush off any extra crumbs. Put the white layer, bottom side up, and spread with another cup of frosting. Do the same for the last red velvet layer… making sure it’s bottom side up as well. (Putting them bottom side up will give you a flatter surface for working the frosting.)

Spread a thin layer of frosting around sides and over top of cake. (This is called crumb-coating. It tamps down any loose crumbs to keep them out of the top layer of frosting and fills in any crevices. This is particularly important with red velvet cake layers.) Chill or briefly freeze cake just until frosting is firm. (Also, as a note, if this takes you some time, feel free to put your icing in the fridge to firm it up… especially if you’re working in a very warm kitchen. Drippy icing is just no fun.)

Spread sides and top of cake with remaining frosting. Chill or briefly freeze cake just until frosting is firm.

Put the berries on the top. I could only find blueberries and raspberries this time of year. (Well, my sister found them on her way home from work.) But, if you’re making this recipe for Independence Day, strawberries and blackberries would also work. Maybe just pile them up in the middle.


This is how it shook out. The sides of the cake were a bit mushed due to my horrible planning and lack of cake box with which to transport the dessert.

American Cake

It turned out pretty tasty. The lemon juice really gives it a nice edge and cuts through the sweetness. That’s why I’d recommend making your own frosting as opposed to buying it from the store. I just find store-bought frosting a bit too sweet.

Slice of red, white, and blue cake


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  1. #1 by trialsinfood on 11.7.2012 - 7:18 pm

    The cake looks really good! A nice treat for election night.

  2. #2 by thecookingchook on 11.8.2012 - 1:49 am

    Yum yum yum!!!!! Love the layers and your use of berries. Looks sensational 🙂

  3. #3 by kerna2 on 11.16.2012 - 10:24 am

    la la la (with fingers in ears) I did not just hear you used a box mix, the horror! All joking aside, looks like a fun cake.

    • #4 by e.marie on 11.19.2012 - 8:47 pm

      my baking skills are lacking in the cake from scratch department… boxed cake mixes are my fall back when i don’t want to embarrass myself

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