Sunday, July 5, 2009

God Bless the 4th of July!

The 4th of July is easily my favorite holiday. I have loved it since I was little. This year we mixed it up a little and started a whole new batch of traditions. After a lifetime of going to the Provo Freedom Festival Grand Parade we decided to bag it.  The arduous task of saving a spot was painful. Someone had to argue all night with college kids on roadside space, only to be too tired to enjoy it the next day. Although me and my siblings loved the parade, our children sat there asking for snow cones every 10 seconds, only to ask to go home halfway through.   I was uneasy with giving up the parade because it was such a steadfast tradition in the family, and I felt it was a real patriotic gesture, so this year we decided to decorate our own float and enter the children's parade. It was a raging success, the children and adults loved decorating it,and they even gave us a trophy (they weren't giving out rankings, so we went ahead and gave ourselves 1st place. We're number one! we're number one!) 

So now that the patriotic gesture was out of the way a week early, all that was left was to party and eat!
The night before the 4th the whole crew came up to my parents house for a camp out in the back yard. We ate my sheesh kabob minus the kabob (which I will post in the coming week) with egg rice Watermelon and corn on the cob of course!
During the camp out we had a talent competition and story telling contest to which the children were very eager to participate in. It was quite a variety show, from a six year old singing "America the Beautiful"  A Capella to a 10 year old lip syncing to Weird Al Yankovich. It was great.
I also cooked for the BBQ lunch the next day which was pulled pork and a bunch of great side dishes (pasta salad, coleslaw, fruit, corn, rolls). That is when I debuted my crowning achievement, the Star Spangled Cake! Feel free to count the stripes, no need to count the stars please. I gave been looking at star spangled cake recipes for a while, but I decided long ago, I am a cake mix girl, so here is what I did.
I mixed 3 cake boxes according to direction but added lemon zest and substituted 1/4 c lemon juice for some of the water.
 I covered 2 cookie sheets (jelly roll) with parchment that I greased in shortening and floured. That way I was positive I could get the cakes out of the pan (it worked perfectly).
I split the batter between the 2 sheets and baked them at 20-25 minutes till they were done.
Meanwhile, I made lemon curd I doubled this recipe, but didn't need it all for the cake.
Lemon curd filling (Paula deans recipe)

3 large lemons, zested and juiced

1 c sugar

1/2 butter melted

4 eggs

Using a food processor, pulse together sugar and zest. Add lemon juice and eggs and blend. Then add melted butter slowly pulsing as you go. Then thicken on the stove over simmering water. (put in a bowl that can sit over a pot of simmering water) Stir often till thicken. Paula's recipe says 5 minutes, but it took me much longer.

Once the cakes and lemon curd were completely cooled, it was time to assemble.  First, you need to wash your berries, and give them time to dry. Also you need to sweeten and whip about 5 cups of cream really stiff. 

Time to assemble:  Liberally add the lemon curd to the top of the first layer (put your first layer on your serving tray) and carefully top it with the second cake. Liberally frost the whole cake with the whipped cream, reserving some cream for piping.

I put on 49 blueberries, spacing them evenly to make a square in the left corner. Next make seven rows of raspberries evenly spacing them down the cake. Put the remaining cream in a bag with a star cake decorating tip and pipe the cream between the red stripes and the blueberries and on the bottom edge of the cake. I gotta say, it was pretty dang fun, and everyone was extremely impressed, but only because I kept fishing for compliments, "have you seen my cake yet?" I made the cake the day before and kept it in the fridge.

Now if you were to use strawberries, from my experience, once you cut strawberries the longer they sit out, they bleed and get soggy. So you can't use strawberries unless you put them on the cake just before serving.

Even with all the food in my belly we managed to go to another BBQ and do some fireworks, it was an amazing holiday, and after cooking for 2 days straight and doing about 8 loads of dishes, I am pooped!

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