Patriotic Drum Cake


All I really want for dessert in the summer is fruit pies and ice cream. One or the other is fine (obviously they are sublime together) but really I’d take just one and be perfectly content. If a Sunday dinner ends with either you can guarantee it will be the best meal you’ve had all week, even if the entrée was grilled (burned) chicken à la my house.


Even so, a Sunday dinner is a small beast: you might be feeding 4-6 people…maybe more if your siblings have been particularly prolific. A pie will feed that many (though I always factor in an extra half slice per dad), and so too will a quart of ice cream. But if I were asked to supply dessert for a  large crowd in the summertime–at a Fourth of July Party for example– I most certainly would not volunteer to be making 2+ pies in my 110 degree kitchen or accommodate individual orders while scooping out melting dairy product en masse. After exhaustive thought and close counsel I’ve determined that the best way to steer in this summer gathering situation is directly towards cake, the ultimate crowd feeder.  A cake can be made in advance and then left alone. Frost it, decorate it, and leave it out FOR THE PEOPLE.



This cake is inspired by a retro drum motif I kept seeing pop up in vintage cookbooks. Some iterations of it seem definitively Christmas-y (Little Drummer Boy, I guess?) but this one was titularly presidential and, therefore, I think perfectly fitting for the Fourth of July– a holiday which commemorates the independence of our nation and, for some, the independence from our faculties. I feel as if I speak for every woman and confident man who has discovered through experience that limited edition wine coolers are usually always a bad idea.


The cake appears in the 1947 Better Homes and Garden Cook Book and is called “George Washington” cake, presuming from the picture because someone had some old time-y figurines laying around. Who needs expensive food props??? You could top the cake in tiny cloth american flags on sticks, if you’re the kind of person who has those things on hand OR you could top the cake with candles. Don’t top it with sparklers, as I have foolishly done. This is one of those “food photography” things that looks nice but makes no sense. They are dangerous and probably toxic. Get it for the Gram another time. As for sparkler “candles” that they sell specifically for cake topping… my experience is that they flicker randomly and violently in a way which makes one unsure if the candles are flickering or if one is experiencing some type of damaging eyesight event–like looking at an eclipse or watching Donald Trump do literally anything. Best to avoid. Go to town with the sprinkles, though.

Who wants to get in there and light those other two sparklers for me? …..please?

Happy Fourth!

Patriotic Drum Cake

For the cake I used my Classic Yellow Cake recipe and added a few tablespoons of red and blue sprinkles right at the end of mixing.

American Buttercream 

  • 1 lb. unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1-2 tablespoons heavy cream or half & half
  • 2 teaspoons clear vanilla extract

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and powdered sugar together on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add vanilla and cream and increase speed to high. Continue to whip for another 2 minutes until mixture is light and fluffy.

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