True, the Fourth of July is about celebrating America’s independence from England, but it’s also about fireworks, big family barbecues, hot dog-eating contests, concerts, festivals, parades and fun. Of course, the continuing spread of covid-19 means celebrations will be different this year, with many festivities canceled or held virtually. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still wave your flag, don an adorable Fourth of July outfit, and dig into a delicious patriotic-themed dessert.
We checked in with three foodies who have whipped up festive red, white and blue treats that any American would be proud to present at their July Fourth feast — whether it’s at a socially distant backyard get-together, or a party strictly for immediate family. So, bring on the star-spangled sprinkles — it’s time to let freedom ring.
Creating something new
Jocelyn Delk Adams, founder of the food website Grandbaby Cakes and author of the cookbook “Grandbaby Cakes,” says making festive Fourth of July desserts is fun to do with kids, and can help add an extra punch of excitement to the holiday.
“The summer has so many days for grilling and cookout celebrations but the Fourth is the big one,” she says. “I really try to give it my all and create something new and exciting.”
One to add to your menu this holiday: her Berry Icebox Cake.
“This cake is really a showstopper and couldn’t be simpler to throw together,” Adams says. “To cut down on time, you can use store-bought ice creams, whipped topping and even a store-bought loaf pound cake, which is already the perfect size.”
9” x 5” Nonstick Loaf Pan Carbon Steel - Made By Design ($5; target.com)
Adams recommends this professional-grade 9-by-5-inch loaf pan for the cake portion of her icebox dessert, calling it one of her favorite kitchen tools. “It is sturdy and always comes through for me,” she says.
Wilton Angled Icing Spatula ($3.84, originally $7.29; amazon.com)
“I also use an offset spatula to make sure that all of the layers are clean,” Adams adds. “Wilton and Ateco have wonderful ones that are very easy to use.” This 13-inch Amazon bestseller is perfect for smoothing on frosting.
Another one of Adams’ favorite patriotic-themed desserts — for grown-ups only: Red and Blue Spiked Snow Cones.
“These are so easy to make, and because they are spiked, it is a great way for the adults to get in on the fun,” she says. “Make sure you grind your ice as fine as possible.” She recommends a heavy-duty blender like a Vitamix or Blendtec to get it the right consistency.
Vitamix Explorian Blender ($269.95; amazon.com)
To crush ice for your boozy snow cones, you’ll want a professional-grade blender such as this top-rated model that will turn your ice to a snow consistency in less than 30 seconds.
True, strawberries and blueberries are classic go-to options for Fourth of July-inspired desserts, but you don’t have to stop there with the creative ingredients.
“Honestly, the fun thing about the holiday is you can turn anything you dream of into something red, white and blue with some food dye,” Adams says. “White chocolate is a great ingredient to dye and play around with. You can also naturally dye foods with beet juice and blueberry juice. You can also easily add patriotic sprinkles to vanilla cupcakes to jazz them up easily or make red, white and blue Jell-O.”
SprinklePopShop Old Glory Sprinkle Mix (starting at $8; etsy.com)
Adams is a fan of the Golden Eagle sprinkle blend from Fancy Sprinkles, which you can mimic (for less money) with this metallic mix that includes red, white and blue pieces with a little gold mixed in.
Hit the Spot Patriotic Party Cups ($3.99; etsy.com)
This year, Adams also plans to make homemade ice cream. “You can make it in flavors like blueberry, vanilla and strawberry to keep the patriotic theme going,” she says.
Serve up your red, white and blue ice cream in Independence Day-themed paper cups. Eight 8-ounce cups come in this festive pack.
Classics with a festive twist
Tiffany Azure, founder of the food site Creme de la Crumb, says she loves the colors associated with patriotic holidays. “They make it easy to put a festive spin on classic recipes,” she says. Case in point: Her standout Firecracker Bundt Cake that uses food coloring to transform a regular cake into a Fourth of July masterpiece.
Watkins Pure Almond Extract ($2.76; amazon.com)
“The almond extract makes this recipe,” she says. “People always ask ‘What is that amazing flavor?’ and I know instantly they are falling in love with that bit of almond. Double the almond extract to take this cake to the next level.”
Azure recommends this classic, nonstick 9½-inch fluted Bundt cake pan.
“Be sure to grease the pan thoroughly so the cake comes out easily when it’s cooled and run a butter knife around the edges to loosen it up before turning out the cake,” she advises. “Nothing is worse than losing a big chunk of your gorgeous cake to a sticky pan.”
Kootek Cake Decorating Kit ($14.99; amazon.com)
When it comes to decorating the cake, Azure likes this 42-piece starter kit for piping. She also suggests adding some fun, festive holiday sprinkles to top the cake. “The icing resembles a firework explosion and can feel a little messy at first, but topping it with some pretty sprinkles ties the whole thing together,” she says.
Nordic Ware Bundt Cake Keeper ($13.23, originally $17.50; amazon.com)
Azure likes this plastic cake keeper for keeping your dessert fresh. With its twist-to-lock base, it also makes traveling with the cake a breeze.
Red, white and blue
Looking to make a dessert that not only screams summertime, but also USA? Azure’s Red, White + Blue Crinkle Cookies are a good bet, as is her pretty Mixed Berry Tart, topped with blueberries, raspberries and whipped cream.
“Raspberries tend to be more expensive but can easily be replaced or supplemented with strawberries,” she says, adding that if your fruit isn’t quite ripe enough and running a little too tart, “a dusting of granulated sugar over the berries goes a long way in presentation and sweetening up the fruit.”
Azure recommends this 9½-inch glass baking dish for baking the tart.
For her own Fourth of July feast, Azure plans to make her Firecracker cake, along with her Chewy White Chocolate Cashew Cookies, adding in red, white and blue M&Ms.
“My family also begs for this Berry Cheesecake Salad for every backyard barbecue and it just happens to to look really festive so it works especially well for patriotic holidays,” she says.
Red, White & Blue Mix M&M’s ($2.99; target.com)
Eat these patriotic candies by the handful or mix them into your favorite cookie recipe for a little Fourth of July flair.
“July 4th is one of the few holidays that has such a defined theme: the American flag and red, white and blue,” says Lindsay Conchar, founder of the food and lifestyle website Life, Love and Sugar. “You grow up with that all around on the Fourth, so it’s both nostalgic in a way and also patriotic to break out all those colors to celebrate. There are also endless ways to incorporate them into food — which is a big part of the holiday for many.”
Conchar’s Red, White and Blue Swirl Cupcakes do just that.
“They are certainly festive and really not hard to make,” she says. “Just be sure to use gel icing color, rather than regular food coloring, for the colors in the batter and frosting. Not only will you be able to get bolder colors more easily, but you won’t thin out the batter so much. Thinning out the batter could make the colors mix together when baking, rather than staying separate. The cupcakes also hold up well, so you can easily make them a day ahead.”
Wilton Gel-Based Icing Food Color ($13, originally $15.59; amazon.com)
Conchar uses this gel-based food coloring — the set includes 12 colors — for cake batter, frosting and royal icing. To make the cupcakes, she also likes Wilton’s nonstick 12-cup muffin pan, Betty Crocker cupcake liners, Wilton decorating bags and Ateco pastry tips. And when it comes to mixers, she uses this KitchenAid stand mixer.
Wave the flag
Flags also make for a great Fourth of July dessert theme, and Conchar calls her Flag Angel Food Cake a great “guilt-less pleasure.”
“The angel food cake is so light and it’s topped with whipped cream and fruit — does it get any better?” she says. “It’s perfect for hot days where you don’t want something heavy.”
Her Flag Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake, meanwhile, is another Independence Day classic. “Who doesn’t love a chocolate chip cookie?” she says. “The flag decoration is so fun on top and just really makes it an all-American dessert.”
USA Pan Bakeware Nonstick Cake Pan ($19.99, originally $24.95; amazon.com)
Conchar uses this 9-by-13-by-2¼-inch commercial-grade aluminized steel pan for the angel food cake. She recommends this sifter for making the treat.
She also encourages getting the kids involved in making Fourth of July desserts.
“We have 2-year-old twin boys and they are always interested in what’s going on,” Conchar says. “It can be fun to pre-measure ingredients and have them help add them when mixing things together. I also have some smaller spatulas and whisks that they can use/play with and feel like they are part of things.”
A fun recipe for little chefs: her American Flag Rice Krispie Treats. “Once they are on sticks, kids can dip them into chocolate and add sprinkles. It may make a little mess, but what activity with kids doesn’t?”
Inspired to get a little creative? Conchar says she often strolls the candy aisle to mix and match red, white and blue treats.
“You can even add things like yogurt-covered raisins and white chocolate-covered pretzels,” she adds. “Another thing that can really help with red, white and blue is Wilton candy melts. They come in all colors and are so easy to use. You could dip Oreos, Rice Krispie treats, marshmallows or even pretzel rods in them. The possibilities are endless.”
Norpro Mini Spatula Set ($7.21, originally $8.41; amazon.com)
Perfect for small hands, this set of two includes a mini spatula and mini scoop that Conchar recommends for frosting cakes, cupcakes and cookies.
Wilton Red, White and Blue Candy Bark Set ($13.99; amazon.com)
Conchar uses these candy melts to sweeten up her Fourth of July desserts. This set includes three bags of melts along with red, white and blue jimmies and silver stars.
Note: The prices above reflect the retailer’s listed price at the time of publication.