For those of you who don’t know me, I have to admit I can be a bit of a perfectionist at times. As such, I’m always disappointed on those occasions when things don’t turn out the way I originally planned. Case in point: my Memorial Day Flag Cake.
I was so looking forward to bringing this decorative cake to a friend’s Memorial Day cookout this past weekend and gratifying the guests with a real taste treat. I thought I had followed the recipe to a “t”, and was sure, as I put the last dab of icing on the cake, that my endeavor was a success. But later, as I and the other guests lifted our forks to our mouths and took the first bite, I knew in an instant – the cake was overcooked and too dry. Everyone “mmmm’d” as they tried to swallow the cake without aid of a beverage to help wash it down, and they were generously complimentary. But I knew they were just being kind. Although the final creation was beautiful on the outside and the taste of the icing was superb, the cake itself was not great. I wanted great. And I was sorely disappointed.
Often in cases like these, if you retrace your steps a bit, you can usually discover where the problem originated, but even after I read and re-read the recipe, and confirmed that I had followed all of the directions completely, I was at a loss. A 5-star recipe with glowing comments on the internet suggested the problem was mine, but what was it?! As my husband watched my consternation, he quietly asked “Could your oven temperature be off? Maybe you need to get one of those oven thermometers and measure it.” Such a simple suggestion . . . and it turned out to be the perfect one. A new oven thermometer indicated my oven temperature is off by 25 degrees! Easily remedied, I look forward to giving this recipe another try!
Yellow Pound Cake with Butter Cream Icing (Flag Cake)
adapted from Barefoot Contessa Family Style by Ina Garten
18 tablespoons (2-1/4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs at room temperature
1-1/2 cups sour cream at room temperature
1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
zest of one lemon
3 cups flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
For the icing:
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1-1/2 pounds (20 ounces) cream cheese at room temperature
1 pound confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 half-pints blueberries
3 half-pints raspberries
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour an 18 by 13 by 1 1/2-inch sheet pan.
Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed, until light and fluffy. (Don’t skimp on this – light and fluffy is a must!) On medium speed, add the eggs, 2 at a time, then add the sour cream, vanilla, and lemon zest. Scrape down the sides and stir until smooth.
Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda in a bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until just combined. Pour into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with a spatula. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out fairly clean. Cool to room temperature.
For the icing, combine the butter, cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mixing just until smooth.
Spread three-fourths of the icing on the top of the cooled sheet cake. Outline the flag on the top of the cake with a toothpick. Fill the upper left corner with blueberries, approximately 12 blueberries across and 8 blueberries down. Place 2 rows of raspberries across the top of the cake like a red stripe. Put the remaining icing in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe two rows of white stripes below the raspberries. Alternate rows of raspberries and icing until the flag is completed. Pipe stars on top of the blueberries.
Serve the cake right in the pan, or if you want to turn it out onto a board before frosting, use parchment paper when you grease and flour the pan. Any leftover cake freezes really well – just wrap it in foil loosely a few times over.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT:
It’s virtually impossible to produce something that’s excellent when you’re working with a defective tool, but I now have a remedy. I will adjust the temperature for the oven discrepancy . . . and will make this cake again, perhaps for the 4th of July! Next time, I know it will be excellent in every way!
In a similar way, no matter how many great ingredients go in to the mix, all human beings are incapable of attaining an excellent eternal outcome through their own defective efforts.
- For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; (Romans 3:23)
- And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.(Revelation 20:13-15)
Talk about an overcooked cake! I promise you, eternity in hell is not the desired outcome for anyone! But God has provided a perfect remedy for each one of us.
- For God so love the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16)
- For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
- For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
- If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
- Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
And the icing on the cake!
- But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.” ( 1 Corinthians 2:9)
- Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelations 21:1-5
I hope you will choose the perfect remedy for an excellent ending . . . Jesus Christ.