In figuring out how to make an American flag roll cake, I wanted a lemon sponge cake that was well aerated and soft in texture, pliable yet had the firm structure to hold up after rolling. This delicious lemon sponge cake can be baked plain and finished off with just a dusting of powdered sugar. Or, if you’re feeling crafty and would like to dress it up for a holiday such as Independence Day, Veterans Day, Memorial Day or even Thanksgiving, you can bake a flag pattern onto the cake. Or you can customize the pattern based on your country’s flag. Any baked-on design truly makes a roll cake something that’s not only a joy to eat but a delight to behold as well.
There are three parts to this flag roll cake, namely, the paste batter that’s used for the stars and stripes pattern, the actual cake batter, and the whipped cream filling. If you just want to bake a plain cake straight away, then you can skip the paste batter and just make the cake batter and the filling.
I actually baked a couple of cakes firstly to figure out the pattern and where I wanted the main design to end on the front of the roll cake. I also needed to calculate how much paste batter I needed to make the stars and stripes. The amount of paste batter will cover just about any design and if you’re making a pattern only for the front of the cake, you’ll have some left over.
I also tried out different proportions until I found the right balance for a cake that work well with a baked pattern and of course, stand on its own if baked plain. At the same time, I wanted to test the cake batter on two baking sheet sizes, 11” x 16” and 10” x 15” and it worked well for both. Baking time for both sheets was almost identical, the smaller sheet being slightly deeper requiring just one more minute.
You can use any filling to fill the cake, but for this recipe, I decided on whipping cream stabilized with cream cheese. I also sprinkled some chopped strawberries in the filling, which turned it into a bit of a roly-poly roll cake. It’s a great time saver to chop the strawberries ahead and keep them chilled in an airtight container sandwiched between layers of paper towels to absorb as much moisture as possible.
Make the paste batter and separate about 2 ½ tablespoons for the stars. Divide the remaining paste batter and tint one half red and the other half blue with a few drops of gel food coloring. Fill a piping bag and fit with a small round tip # 2 for the stars.
You can pipe the design free hand as I did on my first test cake which came out fine, or use a template underneath the parchment paper as a guide. Print out the top and bottom templates on letter size paper and tape them together to fit your baking sheet. This is how my template looked after I taped the two sheets.
Pipe the stars first onto the parchment paper. The stars are piped upside down so that they turn right side up when the cake is rolled. Freeze the baking sheet until the stars are set and firm so that they keep their shape when you pipe the blue batter on them. Mix any unused white paste batter back with the blue and/or red pastes. Mix in 1 teaspoon cake flour each to the blue and red pastes.
Fill a piping bag fitted with a flat tip # 48 for the blue field. Pipe the blue batter evenly over the stars. You can use tape to help keep your lines straight; when you remove the tape, the lines will be pretty clean. Gently even out the blue batter with an offset spatula, removing any excess from the spatula. Freeze the sheet again until the blue field is firm.
When the blue field is set and firm, pipe the red stripes. Fill a piping bag fitted with a flat tip # 48 for the red batter. Again, it helps to tape over the white stripes to keep the lines straight and just remove the tape after. But if you have a steady hand, you can just pipe the red stripes directly. If you decide to tape over the white stripes, lift the parchment paper and template out of the baking sheet and tape it directly onto the countertop. Carefully flatten out red stripes with an offset spatula removing any excess from the spatula. Then remove the tape and freeze the baking sheet again while you make the cake batter.
For the cake batter, whisk the sugar with the egg yolks until thick and lemon colored, then add one teaspoon lemon juice and the vegetable oil whisking further to combine. Change to a silicon spatula and sift in the cake flour in three parts mixing well after each addition. Sift in the first part of flour with one teaspoon of water, mix well. Sift in the second part with one teaspoon of water and one teaspoon of lemon juice. Finally, sift in the third part of cake flour with the third teaspoon of water. Your mixture will be thick, smooth and fall in ribbons from the spatula. Set the yolk mixture aside while you whip the egg whites.
Whip the egg whites using the wire whip of a stand mixer. Once the meringue starts to take shape, add the cream of tartar in pinches so it is evenly distributed and doesn’t fall in one clump. Gradually add the sugar and whip the meringue until it holds stiff peaks and is firm and glossy. Fold the meringue into the yolk mixture in three parts using a silicon spatula. Use a clean separate spatula to scoop out the meringue so you don’t deflate it. Fold the meringue until it is well blended without any lumps or streaks, taking care to keep as much volume as possible. The batter will be thick yet light and fluffy.
Pour the batter over the pattern. Carefully bang the bake sheet from a height of just about 2 inches onto your work surface to release any large air bubbles. Bake in an oven preheated to 350°F for about 15 minutes if using an 11 x16-inch baking sheet or about 16 minutes if using a 10×15-inch baking sheet. The center of the cake will spring back when lightly touched.
Dust a clean kitchen towel with powdered sugar. Once the cake is baked, remove it from the oven, and immediately place the kitchen towel on top of the cake and flip it over. A larger baking sheet placed over the hot sheet helps a lot in the flipping. Gently peel off the parchment paper and, lo and behold, you have a design! There’s a great element of surprise at this point that’s kind of addictive; it made me want to do it over and over. Then place another clean kitchen towel (no powdered sugar) and the now empty baking sheet over the cake and flip it once again so that the blank side is facing up. Carefully roll the cake sandwiched between the two kitchen towels. Make sure to start rolling the cake on the short end that has the blue field on the lower left corner nearest you. Rolling the cake while it’s hot allows it to curve without cracking. Unroll the cake after about 20 minutes even if it is still warm to give it a chance to cool down completely.
To assemble, spread a thin layer of whipped cream on the cooled cake. Place the chopped strawberries evenly on the whipped cream. Then spread another layer of whipped cream over the strawberries. You don’t have to use all of the whipped cream so make sure not to overfill so that the filling doesn’t spill out. Carefully roll the cake with the short end facing you. If you are making the stars and stripes pattern and want red and white stripes below the blue field, make sure to roll with the blue end nearest you.
And there you have it, a flag roll cake perfect for the 4th of July!
Transfer the cake onto a serving plate, store it in an airtight container in the fridge. I used one of those wide Tupperware cupcake holders.
You can bake any flag, or any pattern for that matter, onto the cake. If your idea of fun is a little bit of craftwork combined with baking, then this might be a project to keep in mind.
There’s also the option to bake a simple lemon roll cake without a pattern.
For a simple and easy patriotic themed cake, try funfetti angel food cake covered with fat free frosting.
American flag macarons are also another option. Then again, if you just want to make something quicker and easier, soft and chewy chocolate chip cookies are always irresistible, or banana chocolate chip cookies make for a different twist.
Happy Independence Day!
- 6 ½ tablespoons butter (75 g)
- ¾ cup powdered sugar (92 g)
- 2 egg whites
- ¾ cup + 1 tablespoon cake flour (92)
- Red and blue gel food coloring
- 1 teaspoon cake flour - mixed in with the red paste batter
- 1 teaspoon cake flour – mixed in with the blue paste batter
- 4 egg yolks
- ½ cup granulated sugar (104 g)
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 3 teaspoons water
- ⅓ cup canola or any light vegetable oil (68 g)
- 1 cup cake flour (114 g)
- 4 egg whites:
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- ¼ cup granulated sugar (52 g)
- 6 ounces cream cheese
- 2 cups whipping cream
- ½ cup granulated sugar (104 g)
- 1 cup chopped strawberries (chop ahead of time and layer the strawberries between paper towels to absorb extra moisture)
- Line an 11x16-inch or 10x15-inch baking sheet with parchment paper. Place template underneath parchment paper.
- Cream the butter until smooth. Add powdered sugar and mix until blended.
- Continue mixing adding egg whites one at a time. Mixture will curdle slightly but will smoothen once the cake flour is added.
- Add the cake flour and beat until smooth. For the stars, fill a piping bag fitted with a small round tip # 2 with about 2 ½ tablespoons of the batter. Divide the remaining batter in half. Tint one half blue and one half red. Pipe the stars first. Freeze for about 15 – 20 minutes until set.
- Mix unused star paste back with the blue and/or red pastes. Mix in 1 teaspoon cake flour each to the blue and red paste batters. Place each of the blue and red batter in piping bags fitted with a flat tip # 48.
- Pipe the blue batter over the stars and freeze again for about 15 -20 minutes. Then finally pipe the red batter for the stripes. Tip: to pipe straight lines, transfer the parchment paper onto the countertop and tape over the white stripes; remove the tape after piping the red stripes.
- Freeze the pattern while you make the cake batter.
- Preheat oven to 350° F.
- Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl until light using a wire whip. Add ½ cup sugar gradually whisking until thick and lemon colored. Mix in 1 teaspoon lemon juice whisking further until light.
- Add the canola or vegetable oil and mix well. The mixture by now should be thick and smooth.
- Sift in the cake flour in 3 parts mixing well after each addition. Switch to a silicon spatula to mix in the cake flour. Add 1 teaspoon water together with the first of 3 parts of the cake flour. Mix until well blended. Add the 1 teaspoon lemon juice and 1 teaspoon water together with the second part. Finally add 1 teaspoon of water together with the last part of the flour. Mixture should be very smooth and fall in ribbons.
- Whip the egg whites using a stand mixer with the wire whip attachment. When the egg whites start to take shape, add the cream of tartar in pinches to distribute evenly and so it doesn’t fall in one clump.
- Whip on medium high while gradually adding ¼ cup sugar. Whip until glossy with stiff peaks.
- Gently fold the meringue into the yolk mixture in three parts using a silicon spatula. Cut and fold until well blended and there are no more streaks of meringue taking care not to deflate the egg whites.
- Remove bake sheet from freezer and pour the batter over the pattern. Gently spread the batter evenly with an offset spatula. Carefully bang the bake sheet from a height of just about 2 inches onto your work surface to release any large air bubbles.
- Bake for 15 – 16 minutes or until the center of the cake springs back to the touch. Remove the cake from the oven. Slide a knife around the edges of the cake. Flip the cake onto a clean kitchen towel that has been dusted with powdered sugar. A larger baking sheet placed over the hot sheet will make flipping easier. Carefully peel off the parchment paper from the flag pattern.
- Place another clean kitchen towel (no powdered sugar) and the now empty baking sheet on the cake and flip it once again so that the blank side is facing up and the flag pattern is underneath. Roll the cake sandwiched between both kitchen towels.
- Roll the cake starting from the short end with the blue field on the lower left corner. Unroll the cake after about 20 minutes even while it is still warm to let it cool completely.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer using a flat beater, on medium speed, beat the cream cheese until smooth and free of lumps. Add half off the sugar mixing until well combined.
- On medium low speed, add the whipping cream in a thin stream so that it is completely incorporated with the cream cheese. Mix in the rest of the sugar and continue to beat until very smooth.
- Switch to the wire whip and increase speed to medium high. Whip the filling until it is thick and holds its shape. Do not overbeat.
- Unroll the cake and let it cool completely. Spread a thin layer of whipped cream filling. Evenly scatter the strawberries over the filling. Spread another thin layer of filling over the strawberries. You don’t have to use up all the filling, so make sure not to overfill the cake.
- Roll the cake starting with the short end with the blue field on the lower left corner. Transfer the cake onto a serving plate. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container.
How to Make a Flag Roll Cake