- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Of all the holidays in the year, the one I anticipate the most and stress about the least is the Fourth of July. It’s so simple to throw together a backyard cookout with friends and family.

Think about it: no trips to the mall, no presents to wrap, no cards to mail. All we need are a few red, white and blue balloons on the mailbox; a sweet, fat watermelon sliced for eating; and something grilling in the background. That’s about it.

Oh, and a stellar and mighty festive red, white and blue cake that you, the perfect host, have prepared ahead of time and tucked away in the freezer.

Buy an angel food cake at the grocery, or make one in a jiffy using an angel food mix. Layer strawberry and blueberry ice creams between the cake layers for the desired effect.

Whipped cream goes on last as the frosting. Frozen whipped topping does not taste nearly as good as whipped cream, but it will do in a pinch. Happy Fourth.

Five time-shaving red, white and blue menu ideas:

• Slice tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese, and alternate on a blue platter. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and garnish with fresh basil (if desired).

• Carve a watermelon into a watermelon boat, and fill it with strawberries, raspberries, the reserved watermelon and blueberries.

• Bake 42 cupcakes, frost them with vanilla butter cream or whipped cream, then top nine with blueberries and the rest with a fat slice of strawberry. Arrange them on a large platter in a flag shape with the nine blueberry cupcakes in the top left corner to represent the stars and the strawberry cupcakes resembling the stripes.

• Surround a bowl of salsa with blue corn tortilla chips.

• Make festive sundaes with a brownie in the bottom of the bowl, covered with a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with raspberries and blueberries and drizzles of raspberry and blueberry fruit syrups.

Red, white and blue angel food ice cream cake

The preparation time is 10 minutes, the baking time is 40 to 44 minutes, the assembly time is 25 minutes, and the freezing time is 2½ hours.

1 16-ounce box angel food cake mix

4 cups (2 pints) strawberry ice cream, softened

2 cups (1 pint) blueberry ice cream, softened

Sweetened cream (recipe follows)

1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted

1 cup fresh small, whole strawberries, rinsed and drained, for garnish

Remove top oven rack, and move other rack to lowest position. Set aside an ungreased 10-inch tube pan.

Prepare cake mix according to package instructions, using 11/4 cups water. The batter should look well combined. Pour batter into pan, smoothing it out with a rubber spatula. Place pan on rack on lowest position of preheated 350-degree oven. Bake cake until it is golden brown and springs back when lightly pressed with your finger, 40 to 44 minutes.

Remove pan from oven, and invert pan onto neck of heatproof glass bottle. Allow it to cool completely, 1 to 1½ hours. Remove pan from bottle. Run a long, sharp knife around edge of cake, and invert it onto a platter that can withstand the freezer.

Carefully split cake horizontally into 4 layers. Place bottom layer on platter and spread with half of strawberry ice cream. Place platter in freezer, and freeze until ice cream is solid, about 15 minutes. Remove platter from freezer.

Place second cake layer on top of strawberry ice cream, and spread blueberry ice cream on top. Place platter in freezer and freeze for 15 minutes or until ice cream is solid.

Remove platter from freezer, add third layer of cake, and spread with remaining strawberry ice cream. Place remaining cake layer on top. Cover cake with plastic wrap and place in freezer until cake is quite firm, 2 hours.

When cake is frozen, prepare sweetened cream. Remove platter from freezer, and spread the top and sides of cake quickly with sweetened cream, using clean, smooth strokes. Sprinkle toasted almonds over the top. Garnish with whole strawberries. Slice and serve at once, or wrap cake lightly with waxed paper and return platter to freezer. Makes 16 servings.

Note: Store cake, covered in waxed paper or in a plastic cake saver, in freezer for up to 2 weeks.

SWEETENED CREAM:

1 cup heavy (whipping) cream

1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

Place a clean mixing bowl and beaters in freezer for a few minutes. Pour cream into chilled bowl, and beat it with electric mixer on high speed until cream has thickened, 1½ minutes. Stop machine and add confectioners’ sugar. Beat cream and sugar on high speed until stiff peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes more.

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