Bonus Column: Martha Stewart
Food, flower and decorating ideas for the Fourth of July and more.
CELEBRATE: LET YOUR FLAG FLY
These mini ever-waving flags make any treat — be it a cake, cupcake or cocktail — fit for the Fourth of July. Brush 3-to-5-inch pieces of grosgrain ribbon with fabric stiffener, like Aleene’s ($7, amazon.com), then lay them on top of pencils to form the ripples. (Prevent sticking by placing plastic wrap between the ribbon and the tools.) Let set overnight; hot-glue them to wooden skewers.
WAVY FLAG CAKE
Get into the Fourth of July spirit with this festive buttermilk cake. Fresh strawberries and blueberries, amped up with their respective jams, and rich buttercream frosting form the red, white and blue layers.
Active: 1 hour
Total Time: 3 hours 15 minutes
Yield: Makes one 8-inch cake
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 cup very thinly sliced strawberries
1/4 cup strawberry jam
1 cup small fresh blueberries
6 tablespoons blueberry jam
1 recipe Swiss-Meringue Buttercream for Wavy Flag Cake (recipe below)
1. Heat oven to 350 F. Butter two 8-by-2-inch round cake pans; line with parchment rounds and butter parchment. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.
2. With a mixer on medium speed, beat butter until softened, 2 minutes. Add sugar; continue beating until pale and fluffy, 4 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.
3. Reduce speed to low and slowly add flour mixture in 2 batches, alternating with buttermilk and beginning and ending with flour mixture; beat just until incorporated.
4. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans. Bake, rotating halfway through, until cakes are golden brown and a tester inserted into centers comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack; let cool 15 minutes. Turn out cakes onto racks and let cool completely.
5. In a bowl, combine strawberries with strawberry jam. In another bowl, combine blueberries with blueberry jam.
6. With a large serrated knife, trim cake tops level; split each cake in half horizontally. Fill a small pastry bag with 1/2 cup buttercream; cut a 1/4-inch tip. Transfer one layer to a cake stand or platter. Pipe a circle of buttercream around outside of cake (to keep blueberry mixture from spreading out), then spread blueberry mixture evenly inside circle. Place another cake layer on top; spread evenly with 1 cup buttercream. Place a third cake layer on top; pipe a circle of buttercream around outside of the cake, then spread strawberry mixture evenly inside circle. Place remaining cake layer on top. Spread buttercream over top and sides of cake to form a crumb coat; refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Spread remaining buttercream over top and sides of cake, using an offset spatula to smooth sides and create swirls on top.
SWISS-MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM FOR WAVY FLAG CAKE
If you’ll be using the buttercream within several hours, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature in a cool environment. Otherwise, transfer it to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to three days. Before using, bring buttercream back to room temperature, and beat it on the lowest speed with the paddle attachment until smooth, about 5 minutes.
Active/Total Time: 30 minutes
Yield: Makes about 7 cups
2 1/4 cups sugar
9 large egg whites, room temperature
6 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1. Place sugar and egg whites in a heatproof mixer bowl; set over (not in) a pan of gently simmering water and whisk until sugar is dissolved and egg whites are hot to the touch, 2 to 3 minutes. (Test by rubbing mixture between your fingers; it should feel completely smooth.)
2. Transfer bowl to stand mixer with whisk attachment and beat on medium speed 5 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form and meringue has cooled (test by feeling bottom of bowl), about 7 minutes.
3. Reduce speed to medium-low and add butter, several tablespoons at a time; beat after each addition until incorporated. (Don’t worry if buttercream appears curdled after all of butter has been added; it will become smooth again with continued beating.) Add vanilla and beat just until combined.
4. Switch to paddle attachment and beat on lowest speed until any air pockets are eliminated, about 5 minutes.
TABLE TOPPERS: TRUE COLORS
Get your flowers into the Fourth of July spirit, too. This robust bunch with fiery anemones, deep-blue alliums and white phlox, because they say, “America the beautiful” — and they hold up in the heat (especially when you place them in cool water).
DO-IT-YOURSELF DECOR: FIVE-POINT PLAN
A casual backyard barbecue becomes a star-studded event with these oversize ornaments twirling around. Simply bend and glue inexpensive brass strips from the hardware store to form celestial shapes. They will withstand the elements and catch the light as they spin in the breeze.
2 brass strips (each 1⁄2 inch wide and 36 inches long)
1. With a pencil, mark seven 5-inch-long sections on one brass strip; cut off excess with scissors.
2. Using pliers, bend strip at each mark to form points of top part of star.
3. Cut a 17-inch-long strip. Mark at 1 inch, then three 5-inch intervals, and then another 1-inch interval. Bend at each mark to complete star. Glue short end sections of 17-inch strip to ends of first strip. Let dry 24 hours, then hang with string.
K & S brass strips, 36” by 1⁄2”, $19 each, acehardware.com. E6000 clear adhesive, $5 for 2 ounces, homedepot.com.
RECIPE REMIX: POP HITS
This summer-ready riff on creamy Mexican “horchata” is even cooler than the original: Freeze the cinnamon-rice beverage into lickable ice-pop form.
To make 16 crowd-pleasing treats, blend together 4 cups rice milk, one 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk and 1⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Skim any foam off the top and discard. Pour the remaining liquid into molds; insert a wooden stick into each. Freeze until solid, about 8 hours and up to 2 weeks.
INSTANT UPGRADE: HAPPY CAMPERS
With a little paint, the classic folding stool is ready to come indoors, creating a chic entryway — and extra seating. To give the plain canvas some color, detach the seat from the base and lay it on a paper-covered surface. Brush on an easy pattern freehand, or block off areas with painters’ tape or geometric stencils before painting. Let the canvas dry overnight, then remove the tape and stencils and reassemble.
Byer of Maine Pangean folding stools, $40 each, byerofmaine.com. Martha Stewart Crafts multisurface craft paint, from $2.50 for 2 ounces, michaels.com.
(Questions may be sent by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. (Questions of general interest will be answered in this column; Martha Stewart regrets that unpublished letters cannot be answered individually. For more information on the topics covered in the Ask Martha column, visit www.marthastewart.com.)