Stand Up for a Slice of Old Glory!

25 Jun
By Valerie Lemke

Indulge your Independence!

What a cake! I cannot take credit for this wonderful creation, we owe it all to the award winning young blogger Elissa Bernstein from her blog “17 and Baking”.  I will give you the links below to her site for assembly instructions and for the cake recipe.

As for actually making the cake recipe itself, well now that is another story. There is nothing wrong with the recipe, I am sure, I just have my own obstacles to deal with in my kitchen. The recipe is lightly lemon flavored and very delicious.  The cream cheese frosting is heavenly and it comes together with great looks and taste.  I would definitely not attempt this with a box mix, they tend to be very soft and you need it to be workable.

Okay, I am going to be brutally honest with you.  The first time I attempted this, it bombed, and bombed in the worst way;  not in taste, which was actually delicious despite it all. The recipe cannot be blamed, my kitchen is the culprit here. So how did it bomb? It was flat. Flat as a pancake.  In fact,  I have made pancakes higher than these cakes. It was also a bit rubbery, and maybe we could have had some fun bouncing it around the kitchen.

I actually expected that might happen, and made the first one as my test to see what I needed to do to make it right.  I mentioned my obstacles, and there is just something not right about how things bake in my kitchen. I have exhausted all ideas. I have been baking for most of my life, (we’re talking a lot of years!) but since we moved here 6 years ago, something is different. The oven temperature is fine, the baking powder is always fresh as are all the other ingredients. I also know the chemistry of baking thanks to the internet and all my research.

I know, I know, some of you might think it is this or that, that there isn’t enough air so I need to mix more, or that I over-mixed, or that the chemistry is wrong, eggs too cold, flour old, did I use cake flour (yes, brand new boxes from different stores) or flour not sealed and got too much moisture, or that I should turn my head to the right 3 times and bark like a dog (just making sure you are paying attention), etc…but believe me over the last 6 years I have tried it ALL.  It might be my oven, though it is a quality Jenn Air brand and everything else turns out fines, cakes just do not. But for now, I will just take the challenge of making it work.  It also could be my elevation, or that it is  humid in my redwood forest, or that this 75 year old house is just plain weird. I have learned to compensate, and so with a new recipe like this I knew a trial had to be done. If you have any other ideas and/or suggestions, please post below!

My first attempt was flat, rubbery and dense.  This cake has a heavy texture anyway and that is what I wanted because it is perfect for assembling this cake, but not to the degree of being so massively dense, that it might create a black hole or a cosmic rift.   The flat rubbery cake was far from perfect, but yet tasted great. So for this first trial, I just assembled the 3 flat layers and made a striped cake, and believe it or not my kids loved it.

Now, I was more determined than ever. I had to get this cake higher so I could cut them in half and make that darn flag if it killed me! I looked up m0re ideas online and here is what I tried differently:

  • I added 2 extra egg whites
  • I cranked up my oven 25 more degrees
  • I used 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda, taking away 1/4 t of baking powder. (This has to do with the chemistry and acid ratio)
  • I beat the heck out of the butter, sugar and zest mixture, adding 2 more minutes to a total of 5.
  • I whisked in some air into the dry ingredients for good measure.
  • I didn’t beat in the food coloring with the mixer, I used a whisk.

Well, it worked a lot better the second time around. However, it was still not quite as high as I hoped, but it turned out fine.  Success! It made the holiday fun and now we have a new tradition. In the recipe link I will provide for you, they took a cake recipe that made 2 layers, and then they adjusted the ingredients to make 3 layers. Next time  I might just double the original recipe and try that.  For all of you people with normal ovens and who don’t live in a 75 year old house in forest,  this recipe should be fine as is.  All in all it actually turned out perfectly fine as you can see.

However, when you are cutting the layers and leveling this cake, remember the texture of this cake is kind of different, don’t be alarmed if it looks strange after cutting and leveling. The frosting will hide all flaws. Cutting through the layers works best with a cake leveler, as Elissa shows us her dad was the inventor of it.  For the circle in the middle, I used a bowl as a guide ensuring the inner circle would be bigger than the outer ring, you want that outer ring to be more narrow, and the inner ring to be wider.  The assembly is easy once you begin, I promise!

There were lots of “oooohs and ahhhhs” and that was even before the fireworks display! It was an impressive and rewarding surprise.

First things first, here are the links I promised:

Elissa Bernstein’s Blog “17 and Baking”:

Link to the cake (recipe from “My Home to Yours”) and cream cheese frosting (Recipe from “The Joy of Cooking”–Blue-Cake-Recipe-97088344.html

Here are pictures of the process that took place in my 50+ year old pyrex bowls.

All ingredients prepared…Here we go.

Whipped and beat! Lots of beating to get air into the mix.

It’s science!!!


Batter to cake in 30 minutes! I did not take photos of the cutting, I was a little busy (and determined!)

Voila! Finished and with a surprise inside. Are you ready?

Here is the reward!



It really is a flag cake! Hooray!




Have fun! ~ Valerie


Dashing and Splashing!

17 Jun

I grew up cooking. I don’t remember ever not cooking, or at least helping someone cook. I remember when my mom would have to drag over a chair or kitchen stool for me to watch or to participate in some way,  while she  made fabulous meals.  My mom loves to cook, and has always been a great cook of everything.

Well, then I got the most brilliant idea, and decided to do my own cooking blog. It would be a place where I can blend my passion for writing, and my passion for cooking…  I began with great excitement and found an empty page.

Did I mention empty? Empty, and more empty?

In fact it was so empty it might implode upon itself, or worse, upon me.   I don’t know about you, but I am under the impression that empty blog pages don’t quite work. Here we go again. I can’t actually write the stupid recipe down, because there is no recipe! I always just throw things together, a dash of this, spash of that, You get the picture. 

An empty page, not a pretty sight. What a dilemma. Not only am I a very prolific writer by nature, (who would have thought, right?) but one who gets writer’s block from her own recipes.  That is just sad, so very, very sad.  Cue the violins and pass the tissues…sniff sniff.

I guess it is time for this non-conformist to show some discipline for the sake of sharing something we all love…food! I will do my best.

Have fun! I know I will.

Special thanks to my wonderful daughter for making the background picture for this blog!