- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 29, 2004

What I love about the upcoming July 4 holiday is the festivity and simplicity of it all: shorts, T-shirts, flip-flops, swimming, fireworks, a parade and the same easy fun in the menu.

By all means, keep the meal simple. Grill burgers, hot dogs or chicken. Get someone to bring a platter of fixings: sliced sweet onion, good tomatoes, lettuce, nice pickles, sliced cheese and condiments, and tell someone else to bring the potato salad, either homemade or from the deli.

That leaves you to ice down some drinks, pat out the burgers, slice watermelon and make this simple but incredibly powerful cake aptly called the “holy cow” cake.

That’s what your mouth will say when you take a bite of the chocolate cake, caramel, cream cheese, whipped topping and crunchy Butterfinger candy bar pieces coming together in one pan.

It’s easy to make and so festive to taste, like fireworks in your mouth. And that’s one perfect ending to our country’s birthday meal.


Canned baked beans are a great candidate for doctoring. Here are some fast ideas to help get the July 4 meal on the table:

• Spoon the beans into a baking dish, then stir in ketchup, brown sugar or maple syrup and a dash of yellow mustard. Top this with bacon slices and bake in a 375-degree oven until heated through.

• Brown some ground beef and chopped onion in a skillet. Stir this into the beans, then heat them through for what I call “cowboy beans.”

• Stir enough smoky barbecue sauce to suit your taste into the beans and cook them until heated through.

• Add as much chili powder as you like and a can of Tex-Mex flavored chili beans to the baked beans, heat through and serve.

• Add a dab of curry powder, some crushed pineapple and a handful of chopped scallions to the beans before heating them in a saucepan.

Menu for an all-American July 4 barbecue:

Hamburgers on the grill and all the fixings

Baked beans

Potato salad from the deli

Fresh fruit salad or watermelon wedges

Holy cow cake

Holy cow cake

Vegetable oil spray for misting the pan

1 18.25-ounce package plain devil’s food cake mix

½ cup vegetable oil

3 large eggs


1 8-ounce jar caramel topping

1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

4 (2.1-ounce each) Butterfinger candy bars, crushed

1 12-ounce container frozen whipped topping, thawed

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature

Lightly mist a 13-by 9-inch baking pan with vegetable oil spray. Set the pan aside.

Place cake mix, 11/3 cups water, oil and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute.

Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping the sides down again if needed. The batter should look thick and well blended.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing out the top with the rubber spatula. Place pan on center rack of a preheated 350-degree oven.

Bake the cake until it springs back when lightly pressed with your finger and just starts to pull away from the sides of the pan, 35 to 38 minutes. Remove pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack. Immediately poke holes in top of cake with a drinking straw or chopstick.

To make the topping, place caramel topping and sweetened condensed milk in a small bowl and stir to combine. Spoon this mixture over the warm cake so that it can seep down into the holes.

Measure out half the crushed candy bars and sprinkle the pieces over the cake.

Place the whipped topping and cream cheese in a large mixing bowl and blend with an electric mixer on low speed until smooth and combined, 1 minute. Spread the mixture over the top of the candy. Sprinkle remaining candy pieces over top.

Place the pan, uncovered, in the refrigerator to chill the cake for about 20 minutes before cutting it into squares and serving.

Store this cake, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Makes 16 to 20 servings.


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