The Fourth of July—or Independence Day as it is more officially known—has always been a celebratory day in my family. It's partly because my birthday is on the 2nd and the local Barnum Parade always takes place around that date. As a kid I remember getting up early and excitedly readying myself for the party and parade. My cousins would come over and we would spread a blanket on the sidewalk to watch the parade. My mother would stay home to prepare fried chicken and potato salad. My dad would grill hamburgers and hot dogs once we got back. And of course the celebration always ended with a great big birthday cake.
For me any celebration, party, or simple gathering cannot end properly without dessert. Dessert may come last in the succession of a meal, but it should never be considered the least important. Even after filling our bellies to the brim with wonderful food, there's always room for dessert. A sweet concoction like cake or ice cream is the ideal ending to an old-fashioned backyard barbecue. You don't want something heavy, but also not something too light. Still it should be rich yet refreshing.
I always take the opportunity to make a special dessert for a special occasion, such as this flag cake. This recipe is a twist on trifle, the classic British no-bake dessert, but assembled like an Italian tiramisu. What could be funnier on a day that celebrates independence from Britain? I can't help but think about all the different cakes I ate every single birthday. This one is probably the most festive.
This trifle has everything going for it: soft lady fingers doused in raspberry syrup, layered with mascarpone and white chocolate filling, and finished with a whipped cream frosting studded with fresh red raspberries and blue blueberries. It's red, white, and blue in a cake.
Raspberry and White Chocolate Trifle Flag Cake
12 ounces white chocolate chips
16 ounces mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup seedless raspberry jam
1 cup hot water
40 store-bought ladyfingers
2 cups heavy cream
1 pint raspberries
1/2 pint raspberries
On medium heat, melt white chocolate in a heat-proof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Once white chocolate is glossy, stir until incorporated and smooth. Let cool slightly.
Combine mascarpone with 1/4 cup sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Blend until smooth. Add melted white chocolate and beat until smooth.
Combine raspberry jam and hot water in a shallow bowl. Dip ladyfingers into syrup and lay in rows in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch dish. Spread half of the mascarpone and white chocolate filling on top. Make one more layer of ladyfingers and the remaining filling.
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat heavy cream and 2 tablespoons sugar until stiff peaks form. Spread two-thirds of the whipped cream on top, reserving the remaining third for decorating.
Decorate the cake with blueberries and raspberries to form a flag design. Fit a pastry bag with a star tip and fill with remaining whipped cream. Pipe stars into white spaces. Let rest in the refrigerator for two hours or overnight before serving.
Yield: 10 to 12 slices.
Joseph Erdos is a New York–based writer and editor, butabove all a gastronomer and oenophile. He shares his passion for foodon his blog, Gastronomer's Guide , which features unique recipes and restaurant reviews among many other musings on the all-encompassing topic of food.