This fun, layered, colorful 4th of July Cake is perfect for the holiday, or for any time you want to celebrate the red, white, and blue with an impressive dessert.
Three cake layers, dyed to match the colors of the American flag, make this fourth of July cake super impressive. Everyone will ooo and ahh when you cut into this delicious dessert!
Use the images here as a guide for decorating a 4th of July cake, or get creative and add your own frosting designs.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Easy Cake Decorations– This cake for the 4th of July is simply frosted with delicious homemade buttercream. Festive patriotic sprinkles are all that’s needed to decorate it, and you can add a simple piped border if you like.
- Fun 4th of July Cake Colors –It’s not hard to make a red, white, and blue cake. Simply use food coloring to turn the cake layers into different colors!
- Scratch Vanilla Cake Recipe– It’s easy to make a delicious vanilla cake from scratch as long as you have a good recipe! This sponge cake recipe uses real butter and buttermilk to create a tender, bakery-style cake that everyone loves.
- Easy Step-by-step Instructions – If you’ve never made a beautiful layer cake like this one, my recipe will teach you how to bake, stack, and fill a layer cake perfectly.
Ingredients In 4th of July Cake
Here’s what you need to make this homemade vanilla layer cake from scratch:
Complete list of ingredients and amounts can be found in the recipe card below.
- Butter: Unsalted butter is used in the cake batter as well as to make a rich buttercream frosting. Be sure to let the butter soften before starting this recipe.
- Sugar: Regular granulated sugar is the best choice for baking a cake.
- Eggs: 3 large eggs pull the cake batter together. Let your eggs come to room temperature along with the butter before mixing.
- Buttermilk: Adding buttermilk to a cake recipe makes it extra soft and velvety. You can use regular whole milk in place of the buttermilk if you need to.
- Vanilla Extract: The perfect flavor for a vanilla cake comes from pure vanilla extract. You can try adding almond extract or coconut extract too.
- Flour, Baking Soda, Baking Powder, and Salt: These common pantry ingredients are the dry mix for our scratch cake recipe. Sift them together before adding to the cake batter.
- Gel Food Coloring: Use red and blue food coloring to color your cake layers and a bit of blue for the frosting.
- Vanilla Buttercream: An easy Vanilla Buttercream frosting is made by whipping together unsalted butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, salt, and heavy cream.
- Sprinkles: Use red, white, and blue sprinkles to decorate your cake for the fourth of July! You should be able to find these in stores in the summertime or grab these fun patriotic sprinkles from Amazon.
How To Make a Red, White, and Blue Cake
- Prepare to Bake a Layer Cake: Preheat the oven and grease three 9-inch pans with shortening or butter and dust with flour. You can also add parchment paper circles to the pans first to make the cakes super easy to remove later. Set the pans aside.
- Make the Batter: Start by creaming together the butter and sugar using an electric mixer at medium speed. Add the eggs, one at a time, incorporating each before adding the next. Add the vanilla extract, and beat until well-blended.
- Mix in the dry ingredients and buttermilk: In a separate bowl, sift and then whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt so that it’s well-combined. With a wooden spoon or spatula, gradually fold in the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, alternating adding the flour with adding buttermilk, until just barely combined. Do not overmix the batter.
- Color the Cakes: Divide the batter equally into three small bowls. Add a few drops of blue food coloring to one bowl, a few drops of red food coloring to another bowl, and leave the other bowl white. Stir gently until the color is mixed. Pour each batter into each of the 3 cake pans.
It’s hard to say exactly how much food coloring you’ll need to add. Add a few drops or gel food coloring at a time until the color is as deep as you’d like it to be.
- Bake: Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
- Make Buttercream Frosting: While the cakes are cooling, make the buttercream frosting by creaming the butter with an electric hand mixer on medium speed. Gradually add in the powdered sugar a half cup at a time until all of it is mixed in. Pour in the vanilla extract, salt, and cream, and blend on low speed until completely smooth. Add ¼ of the frosting into a piping bag with a large round tip.
- Build the Layer Cake: Put a small amount of buttercream in the center of your cake stand or platter and place the blue cake in the middle of the stand. Pipe the buttercream around the top of the blue cake, spiraling inward until the top is covered. Use an offset spatula to smooth out the buttercream. Continue the same process with the white cake and then the red cake. Use the spatula to spread buttercream thinly on the sides of the cake (the crumb coat), then place the cake in the freezer for 20 minutes.
- To Decorate a 4th of July Cake: Add a fresh layer of buttercream to the entire outside of the chilled cake, reserving about a half cup of frosting. Add a few drops of blue food coloring to the reserved frosting and mix. Use the blue frosting in a piping bag with a star tip to add a border to the top of the cake, then add sprinkles to the bottom. Use your hands to gently press the sprinkles into the sides of the cake.
To simplify the decoration for this cake, skip the blue frosting. Instead, just add extra sprinkles to the top edge of the cake!
- Use a scale: To be sure that your layers are all the same size, use a kitchen scale to weigh the three bowls of batter.
- Level if needed: If your cakes come out domed you may need to level them using a serrated knife. Also, if the bottoms of the cakes are too brown for any reason, you can carefully slice off the brown layer to get perfectly colored cakes.
- The Best Cake Pans: The best cake pans for layer cakes are straight-sided round pans. They will make removing the cakes easier, and the layers will rise evenly when baking. I use these non-stick pans and get great results every time.
- Use Gel Food Coloring: You’ll get the most vivid and bright colors in your baked goods using a gel-based food coloring rather than a liquid. Wilton gel food colors are my favorites. The set linked here has all of the basic colors and will last you a long time.
- Is your freezer full? Instead of setting the crumb coat in the freezer, put the cake in the fridge for 40 minutes instead.
- Adjust Bake Time if Needed. Dark metal pans often need less time in the oven than light ones. Keep an eye on your cake at the end of the baking time to avoid overcooking it.
What To Serve With Fourth of July Cake
This is the perfect patriotic cake to serve at your 4th of July barbecues! It also works for memorial day, veterans day, or flag day. Try some of our favorite summer barbecue dishes:
You can create a buttermilk substitute, which works the exact same way as buttermilk, by combining regular whole milk with a splash (about a tablespoon) of white vinegar. Give it a stir and let it sit for a couple of minutes, it will thicken up and work perfectly in this recipe. Regular whole milk can be used as well.
You can make the cake and store it, covered, in the refrigerator for up to three days. You can also freeze the unfrosted cake layers. Wrap them well with plastic wrap and keep in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw in the fridge before assembling.
Make a red white and blue cake in a 9×13 pan by carefully layering the batters and lightly swirling them together before baking. You will need to bake the cake for 30-45 minutes in this size pan. If you’re using a glass 9 x13 pan, reduce the oven temperature by 25°F/15°C,
Sure! You’ll want to make 2 boxes of vanilla cake mix to get enough batter to make this cake. Bake the cake as directed on the box, and then decorate using homemade buttercream.
This is truly the perfect 4th of July cake! Everyone will love the care and attention you put into making a festive dessert to celebrate America’s birthday. Pin this recipe to save it for later!
For the Cake:
- 1 cup/2 sticks (250g) unsalted butter softened
- 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 cup buttermilk or whole milk
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 3 cups all purpose flour spooned and leveled, plus extra for dusting pans
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 drop Gel Food Coloring each about ⅛ teaspoon: Red and blue
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting:
- 2 cups/4 sticks (450g) unsalted butter softened
- 8 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup heavy whipping cream
- red, white, and blue sprinkles optional, to decorate
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Grease 3 x 9-inch pans with shortening or butter and dust with a tablespoon of flour each. Set pans aside.
- In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed. Add the eggs, one at a time, and make sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. Add the vanilla extract, and beat until well blended.
- In a separate medium bowl, sift and then whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to make sure it’s thoroughly combined. With a wooden spoon or spatula, gradually fold in the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, alternating adding the flour and the buttermilk, until just barely combined. Do not over-mix the batter.
- Divide the batter equally into three small or medium bowls. (It’s best to use a digital kitchen scale to make sure the weights are equal.) Add a drop of the red and blue food coloring separately to two of the bowls of batter. Leave the other one plain. Stir the batter gently until the color is well mixed. Pour each batter into each of the 3 cake tins. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the tin for about ten minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool the cakes completely.
To make the buttercream:
- While the cakes are cooling, cream the 2 cups of butter with an electric hand mixer on medium speed. Gradually add in the powdered sugar (about ½ cup at a time) until all of the powdered sugar has been mixed into the butter. Pour in the vanilla extract, salt, and heavy whipping cream, and blend at low speed until completely smooth. Put about a ¼ of the buttercream into a piping bag with a large round tip.
- Put a small about of buttercream on to the base of a cake stand or platter, and place the blue cake in the middle of the stand. Pipe the buttercream around the top of the blue cake, and spiral inward until the top is covered. Use a spatula to smooth out the buttercream. Continue with the white cake and then the red cake. Use a spatula to add buttercream to the sides of the cake and spread thinly. This will be your crumb coat. Place the cake in the freezer for 20 minutes (or in the refrigerator for 40 minutes).
- Add a fresh layer of buttercream to the sides, then decorate with additional frosting that you've colored blue or red if desired. Add some patriotic sprinkles to finish the look.
- Gel food color is very vibrant. A tiny drop is enough to give bright colors.
- If baking with dark cake pans, the cakes will cook faster. Keep an eye on them in the last 5 minutes of baking to avoid overcooking.
- Make a red white and blue cake in a 9×13 pan by carefully layering the batters and lightly swirling them together before baking. You will need to bake the cake for 30-45 minutes in this size pan.
- To Store: Leftover cake can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
- To make ahead: Frost the cake completely and store, covered, in the fridge for up to 3 days. Individual cake layers can also be frozen. Wrap them well with plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 months.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.
© Little Sunny Kitchen