This guaranteed crowd-pleasing delicious Flag Cake is the perfect Independence Day dessert and is incredibly easy to prepare. The cake is moist, fluffy, and exceptionally tender because it combines butter, oil, and buttermilk. It's topped and decorated with creamy and luscious Cream Cheese frosting and fresh berries to create the iconic red, white, and blue. If your family is a sweet tooth like mine and is always looking for new cakes to try, check out my Vanilla Bundt Cake, Lemon Pound Cake, or Marble Bundt Cake.
What is Flag Cake?
Flag Cake is a patriotic dessert commonly associated with Independence Day celebrations in the United States. It is a sheet cake, typically baked in a 9x13-inch pan and decorated to resemble the American flag. The cake is moist, fluffy, buttery, often flavored with vanilla. It is frosted with a creamy cream cheese frosting and adorned with fresh blueberries and raspberries to create the iconic red, white, and blue pattern representing the American flag. Flag Cake is loved for its festive appearance and delicious taste, making it a popular dessert choice for Fourth of July gatherings and other patriotic events.
Flag Cake Ingredients
Note: The full ingredients list is provided in the recipe card below.
- Flour: All-purpose flour that has been sifted 1× to create a tender crumb.
- Granulated Sugar & Light Brown Sugar: It provides moisture and aeration and enhances color.
- Butter & Oil: I love combining unsalted butter, avocado, or grapeseed oil in my cake recipes. It makes it moist and tastes great, but any neutral-flavored oil will work, or you can use unsalted butter or oil.
- Eggs: It provides structure, moisture, and richness.
- Baking powder: It lends the flag cake light and fluffy texture.
- Buttermilk or Whole Milk: It adds body and a softer texture to the flag cake. (See Notes for Buttermilk substitution).
- Kosher Salt: Helps to balance the sweetness.
- Pure vanilla extract: Enhances the flavor.
- Cream Cheese & Unsalted Butter: These ingredients must be at room temperature to blend easily. Doing so will make the resulting frosting smoother and more consistent in texture. Also, for the best result, use full-fat, brick-style cream cheese, preferably Philadelphia Brand. Avoid the cream cheese that comes in a tub.
- Powdered Sugar: Sift the powdered sugar to help blend easily, creating a smooth and consistent cream cheese frosting. Be careful not to overmix; overmixing will cause the frosting to be too runny.
- Dry Milk Powder: This ingredient is optional but recommended. The dry milk powder enhances the frosting flavor and gives a thick and creamy texture.
Tools you'll need
- Stand Mixer or Hand Mixer
- (1) 9 by 13 nonstick sheet cake pan
- Silicone Spatula
- Mitten Oven
- Liquid Measuring Cups
- Dry Measuring Cups
- Fine-mesh strainer
- Pastry bag
- Star Tip
How to Make Flag Cake
Note: The full instructions are provided in the recipe card below.
Preheat the oven to 350°F and set an oven rack in the middle. Butter and flour, or use nonstick cooking spray with flour, such as Baker's Joy, a 9x13-inch ceramic baking pan, or a metal pan. Sift the flour and baking powder to remove lumps in a large bowl. Set aside. Combine the unsalted butter, sugars, oil, pure vanilla, clear vanilla, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
On medium speed, beat until light and fluffy for about 5 minutes; stop and scrape the bowl, and paddle with a rubber spatula as necessary. Add the eggs, beat on medium speed until well combined, about 2 to 3 minutes, and scrape the bowl. On low speed, stream in half of the buttermilk.
Increase speed to medium-high and mix for about 1 minute. Scrape the bowl. Add half of the flour mixture and mix on low speed until combined. Scrape the bowl again, add the remaining flour mixture and remaining buttermilk, and mix just until the batter comes together, about 45 seconds to 1 minute.
Finish folding the ingredients by hand using a rubber spatula to ensure the batter is well mixed and smooth; there should be no streaks of fat or liquid. Evenly pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake the flag Cake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool in the pan on a wire rack until completely cool.
How to Make Cream Cheese Frosting
Sift the powdered sugar and powdered milk in a large bowl to remove any lumps. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, butter, corn syrup, salt, and vanilla. Mix on low speed until combined, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light, about 2 to 3 minutes. Gradually add 2 cups of the confectioners' sugar mixture, mixing at low speed to combine.
Once the confectioners' sugar mixture is mixed in, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and creamy, about 2 to 3 minutes; add 1 tablespoon of milk if needed for desired consistency. When the cake is completely cool, spread three-fourths of the frosting in an even layer on top of the cooled cake. Arrange the blueberries in 7 rows of 7 berries each in the cake's top left-hand corner to form the flag's blue portion.
Next, arrange 2 rows of raspberries across the top of the cake like a red stripe, leaving about 1 inch between each row to pipe the stripes. Place the remaining frosting in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe 1 row or 2 rows of white stripes below the raspberries. Alternate rows of raspberries and frosting until the flag is completed; pipe stars between the blueberries to form the stars. Using a sharp knife, slice and serve the flag cake immediately, or refrigerate until ready to serve the same day.
- All-purpose flour: If you prefer to use a different type of flour, you can try using cake flour for a lighter texture or a gluten-free flour blend for a gluten-free version. Keep in mind that different flours may affect the texture of the cake.
- Granulated sugar and light brown sugar: You can substitute these sugars with an equal amount of coconut sugar, maple sugar, or a sugar substitute suitable for baking. Remember that the flavor and sweetness may vary with different sugar substitutes.
- Avocado oil or grapeseed oil: While these oils provide a neutral flavor, you can substitute them with melted butter or a different neutral-flavored oil such as canola or vegetable oil.
- Buttermilk: If you don't have buttermilk, you can make a DIY substitute by adding 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to 1 cup of milk. Let it sit for 5 minutes to curdle before using it in the recipe. Alternatively, you can use plain yogurt or sour cream as a substitute for buttermilk.
- Cream cheese: Use full-fat cream cheese for the best texture and flavor. If you prefer a lighter option, you can use Neufchâtel cheese, which has a lower fat content but a similar taste and texture.
- Powdered milk: While the powdered milk enhances the frosting, it is optional. If you don't have it or prefer not to use it, you can omit it from the recipe.
- Blueberries and raspberries: If fresh berries are unavailable, you can use frozen berries instead. Just make sure to thaw and drain them before using. Additionally, you can substitute the berries with other fruits like strawberries or blackberries for a different flavor or color combination.
- Lemon Flag Cake: Add the zest of a lemon to the cake batter for a refreshing citrus twist. Add a tablespoon of lemon juice to the cream cheese frosting for an extra tangy flavor.
- Strawberry Flag Cake: Instead of raspberries, replace them with fresh sliced strawberries to create red stripes on the cake. For added flavor and texture, you can also mix sliced strawberries into the cream cheese frosting.
- Coconut Flag Cake: Add shredded coconut to the cake batter for a tropical twist. You can also sprinkle toasted coconut on top of the cream cheese frosting for added flavor and decoration.
- Chocolate Flag Cake: For chocolate lovers, add cocoa powder to the cake batter to make it chocolate-flavored. Use chocolate cream cheese frosting instead of the regular cream cheese frosting, and decorate with fresh berries as usual.
- Mixed Berry Flag Cake: Use a combination of different berries like blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries to create a colorful and vibrant flag pattern on top of the cake.
- Vanilla-Almond Flag Cake: Add a teaspoon of almond extract to the cake batter and the vanilla extract for a subtle almond flavor that complements the creamy frosting and berries.
How to Serve
- Independence Day Parties: Flag Cake is particularly popular during Fourth of July celebrations. Serve it as the centerpiece of your dessert table to showcase the patriotic theme. It can be the perfect finale to a barbecue or picnic, enjoyed alongside other festive treats.
- Family Gatherings: Flag Cake is a crowd-pleaser and a great choice for family gatherings or potluck events. Cut the cake into portions and arrange them on a platter or dessert table. Guests can help themselves to a slice and enjoy the delicious flavors.
- Dessert Buffets: If you're hosting a dessert buffet or a party with multiple sweet treats, include Flag Cake as one of the options. Display the cake on a cake stand or a decorative platter, allowing guests to slice and serve themselves.
- Decorative Presentation: Enhance the festive look of the Flag Cake by garnishing it with additional fresh berries, such as strawberries or blackberries, around the base of the cake. This adds a pop of color and freshness to the presentation.
- Toppings and Accompaniments: Consider serving Flag Cake with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The creamy elements complement the cake's texture and add extra indulgence.
- Portioning: When serving the Flag Cake, ensure that each slice has a balanced portion of cake, frosting, and fresh berries to ensure a delightful combination of flavors in every bite.
How to Store
This American Flag Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting can be refrigerated airtight for up to 3 days; remove it from the fridge about 15 to 30 minutes before serving to allow it to warm up and lose its chill. Plain flag cake without frosting can be kept at room temperature for up to 2 days or refrigerated in an airtight for up to 5 days; remove it from the fridge about 15 to 30 minutes before serving to allow the flag cake to warm up and lose its chill.
Cream Cheese Frosting can be refrigerated airtight for up to 5 days; remove it from the fridge for about 30 minutes to 1 hour before decorating the cake to allow the frosting to warm up and lose its chill.
To make the flag cake in advance, wrap the cooled cake tightly in plastic wrap and keep it at room temperature for up to 2 days. Refrigerate the frosting for up to 2 days. Then assemble the flag cake shortly before serving so the berries don't release juices into the frosting.
How to Freeze
Freeze the flag cake without the Cream Cheese Frosting for up to 3 months. Wrap the cake in clingfilm twice and foil once. To defrost, unwrap and defrost for about 5 to 8 hours at room temperature on a wire rack—Assemble the flag cake shortly before serving so the berries don't release juices into the frosting.
Tips for Making The Best American Flag Cake
- Follow the recipe: Follow the recipe directions precisely.
- Measure Properly: Measure the flour by spooning it into the measuring cup, then level it with the back of a knife or use the weight measurements. ( I use a 240 ml Dry Measuring cup, every cup is 125g of flour).
- Use room temperature ingredients: Ensure all your ingredients are at room temperature (this helps ensure everything gets incorporated properly; not doing this can result in poor emulsification).
- Butter and Flour the Pan: Butter a 9" x 13" nonstick sheet cake pan, add a few tablespoons of flour, then shake, turn, and tap the pan so that the flour lightly and evenly coats the bottom and sides. Finally, tap excess flour out of the buttered and floured pan.
- Sift Dry Ingredients: Sift dry ingredients but not sugar to combine and aerate, making a fluffier cake. Then, place it in a fine-mesh strainer over a piece of parchment paper, and shake the strainer until everything's on the paper: When it's time to add, pick up the paper and let the ingredients slide out into the mixing bowl. However, if you don't have one, whisk the dry ingredients for 30 seconds to combine.
- Creaming: Beating the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy creates tiny air pockets in the butter, which helps the cake keep its texture light and rise.
- Beat in Eggs: One at a time, add the eggs, ensuring that they emulsify or blend completely with the butter mixture. Then, if desired, flavor with vanilla extract or other flavorings. It's easier to incorporate eggs that are at room temperature. To get the eggs to warm up faster. For a few minutes, place them in a bowl of warm water.
- Alternate the Wet and Dry Ingredients: Often, a recipe calls for adding wet and dry ingredients in alternating batches. This helps prevent the gluten in the flour from developing too much, which causes heavier and not-so-fluffy flag cake. Also, do not overmix — overworking the flour makes for tough results.
- Pour cake batter into prepared pan: Pour the batter into the 9" x 13" nonstick sheet cake pan and smooth the top.
- Bake and Test for Doneness: Insert a wooden skewer or a toothpick into the center of a cake and see if it comes out clean; if it does, the flag cake is made. You may also notice the cake pulling away from the pan's sides. When you get more practice, you can tell if the cake is made when you lightly press on the top and feel a slight spring back.
- Cool the Cake: Remove the flag cake from the oven and let it cool in the pan on a wire rack until completely cool.
- Glossy Frosting: Use one tablespoon of Light Corn Syrup. in your frosting recipe if you want the frosting to have a glossy appearance.
Can I Substitute the buttermilk?
Yes, you can substitute it with homemade sour milk or whole milk. However, I recommend using the full-fat kind for the best flag cake.
Is it possible to make this recipe using only oil?
Yes, if you make the flag cake, it will be delicious.
What is the secret to making moist flag cake?
You can do a few things to ensure your flag cake is moist and delicious. First, use oil or a combination of unsalted butter and oil. These fats help create a moist and tender texture while flavoring the muffin. Second, before mixing the batter, be sure to preheat your oven; this will help the cafe cook more evenly and prevent them from drying.
Third, don’t overmix the batter – overmixing can result in a tough, dry cake. And finally, use a combination of light or brown sugar and granulated sugar for moisture, depth of flavor, and crisp top.
How do you freeze flag cake after baking?
Double wrap completely cooled flag cake with aluminum foil or plastic freezer wrap and place them in a heavy-duty bag—thaw overnight on the countertop.
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How to Make American Flag Cake
For the Yellow Sheet Cake:
- 375 g (3 cups) all-purpose flour , spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off
- 1 tablespoon plus 1-½ teaspoons non aluminum baking powder
- 1 cup plus 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 4 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 cup buttermilk (See Notes for Buttermilk substitution) or whole milk , at room temperature
- 4 large eggs , at room temperature
- 15 ml (3 teaspoons) pure vanilla extract
- 1 ml (1 teaspoon) clear vanilla flavor
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 170 g (1 stick plus 4 tablespoons) unsalted butter softened at room temperature
- 60 ml (¼ cup/4 tablespoons )grapeseed oil, avocado oil, or vegetable oil
For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 226 g (8 oz) brick-style full fat cream cheese, preferably Philadelphia brand , at room temperature
- 113 g (1 stick or ½ cup) unsalted butter , at room temperature
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- 15 ml (3 teaspoons ) pure vanilla extract
- 240 g (2 cups) confectioners' sugar
- 1 tablespoon Dry whole milk such as Nido , optional but highly recommended
For the Topping:
- 1 half pint (6 oz) fresh blueberries
- 4 half pints (24 oz) fresh raspberries
How to make the Yellow Cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and set an oven rack in the middle position. Butter and flour, or use nonstick cooking spray with flour, such as Baker's Joy, a 9x13-inch ceramic baking pan, or metal pan. Sift together the flour and baking powder to remove any lumps in a large bowl. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the unsalted butter, sugars, oil, pure vanilla, clear vanilla, and salt. On medium speed, beat until light and fluffy for about 5 minutes, stop and scrape the bowl, and paddle with a rubber spatula as necessary.
- Add the eggs, beat on medium speed until well combined, about 2 to 3 minutes, and scrape the bowl. On low speed, stream in half of the buttermilk. Increase speed to medium-high and mix for about 1 minute. Scrape the bowl. Add half of the flour mixture and mix on low speed just until combined.
- Scrape the bowl again, add the remaining flour mixture and remaining buttermilk and mix just until the batter comes together, about 45 seconds to 1 minute. Finish folding the ingredients by hand using a rubber spatula to ensure the batter is well mixed and smooth; there should be no streaks of fat or liquid.
- Evenly pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake the Cake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool in the pan on a wire rack until completely cool.
How to Make the Cream Cheese Frosting
- Sift the powdered sugar and powdered milk in a large bowl to remove any lumps. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, butter, salt, and vanilla. Mix on low speed until combined, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Gradually add 2 cups of the confectioners' sugar mixture, mixing at low speed to combine. Once the confectioners' sugar mixture is mixed in, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and creamy, about 2 to 3 minutes; adding 1 tablespoon of milk if needed for desired consistency.
How to Assemble the American Flag Cake:
- When the Cake is completely cool, spread three-fourths of the frosting in an even layer on the top of the cooled cake. Arrange the blueberries in 7 rows of 7 berries each in the top left-hand corner of the cake to form the blue portion of the flag.
- Next, arrange 2 rows of raspberries across the top of the cake like a red stripe, leaving about 1 inch between each row to pipe the stripes. Place the remaining frosting in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe 1 row or 2 rows of white stripes below the raspberries. Alternate rows of raspberries and frosting until the flag is completed; pipe stars between the blueberries to form the stars. Using a sharp knife, slice and serve the cake immediately, or refrigerate until ready to serve the same day.
- How to Make Homemade Buttermilk: add 4 teaspoons of fresh lemon, lime, or white distilled vinegar to a glass measuring cup, and add enough milk to make 1 cup of total liquid; stir to combine and let stand for 5 minutes (the mixture will begin to curdle). Then, use as stated in the recipe.
- For thinner frosting, add 1 to 4 tablespoons of milk or evaporated milk.
- Cover and refrigerate any leftovers for up to 5 days, making sure to bring the flag cake back to room temperature before serving.
- 1 tablespoon of light corn syrup gives the cream cheese frosting a glossy appearance. You can leave it out if you'd like.
- Use a combination of avocado oil and unsalted butter—for moistness and flavor.
- Don't overdo it when it comes to mixing; mix until just combined.
- Do not overcook them.
All nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.