With luscious blades of green grass and a waving flag, you would never guess that it is all cake. This flag cake defies gravity and has people wondering how the heck it does that! It looks really impressive, but it is easier than it looks! The secret is to build a sturdy structure. Then there will be no chance of this flag cake falling, even during transport. So how did I do it? Keep reading on to find out!
This flag cake would be a perfect cake for Independence Day or Memorial Day! But I didn’t make this cake for either one. I made this flag cake to celebrate Gotcha Day – the day our son officially became a part of our family. Last year I made a three-tier cake that celebrated our journey from Ukraine to NY. This year, I decided to celebrate each country by making a flag cake. On the one side is the US flag waving in the breeze. On the other side is the Ukrainian flag. Both symbolizing a part of what makes up the whole of our family.
The most critical part of this flag cake is the structure. If done properly, it will be super sturdy, even if it looks like it is magically suspended in air. Here are the things you will need:
1/4″ threaded rod 24″ long
14″ long 1/2″ copper pipe
8″ long 1/2″ PVC pipe
10 – 1/4″ nuts
4 large Washers to fit 1/4″ threaded rod
Drill with 3/8″ drill bit
Adjustable wrench x2
Pipe cutter and/or hacksaw (optional)
Flag Cake Structure
I started with a wood base that I happened to have from a ship cake I made previously. I glued two wood strips on the bottom to keep the base off the table by an inch or so. This is a very important step as I needed space for nuts to fit under the base.
Next, it’s time to plan out the main support. I used 1/4″ threaded rod and 1/2″ copper pipe. It’s important to check these components together. Nuts for the threaded rod must fit inside the copper pipe. I wanted a small copper pipe to add to the illusion of a flagpole, which means I went with the smallest size possible that was also sturdy enough to keep the cake from swaying. Size your pipe and threaded rod accordingly. The washers must have a hole large enough to fit your threaded rod, but have an outside diameter bigger than the copper pipe. The washers will be used to sandwich the copper pipe later.
Plan where you want your flagpole to sit. I wanted mine on the edge of the cake board so that the flag was roughly center on the board. The location is not uber critical. Once you pick your spot, drill a hole to fit the threaded rod. The hole should be between 3/8″ and 1/2″ in diameter.
Now it’s time to start assembling the structure. Put the threaded rod through the hole in the base and put a washer and two nuts on either side of the cake board. These nuts are going to keep the threaded rod in place. It is the main support for the entire cake, so make sure these are tight! I put on a second nut to prevent the first one from loosening. You could skip this step and instead glue the first nut in place. When it’s done, it should be nut, nut, washer, cake board, washer, nut, nut. If done correctly, the threaded rod and nuts won’t touch the counter. The 1″ supports put in place earlier will keep the threaded rod elevated.
Next, cut the copper pipe into a 12″ piece and a 2″ piece. I used a pipe cutter for this. They are super easy to use and cut the pipe nice and level. If you don’t have a pipe cutter, you could also use a hacksaw or ask your local hardware store to cut the pipe.
Place one or two more nuts on the threaded rod 11″ to 12″ above the cake board. Then, place the copper pipe over the threaded rod. It should go over the nuts and hide the nuts from view. The top nut should be completely below the top of the pipe. It is there to keep the pipe from shaking back and forth.
Put another washer and nut on the threaded rod and sandwich the copper pipe in place, tightening the nut securely.
That’s it until the cake is ready!
The secret inside this cake is a PVC pipe. By putting a pipe inside, that cake can go on and off the threaded rod easily. That means the cake can be refrigerated without needing a walk-in fridge to hold the entire structure! I actually made this cake a month in advance, froze it, and then thawed it before the big day. It worked out perfectly!
The first step is to cut out the cake boards. I put a cake board at the bottom, top, and in the middle of the cake layers. To make the wave shape, I draw a large S shape on a piece of paper. I used standard US flag dimensions and made the cake 11″ long and 8″ tall. That means measuring along the S cave me a total length of 11″. If I put a straight ruler at each end of the S, the straight dimension would be under 11″. Once I was happy with the curve, I cut along the S to create a template.
Next, take your curved template and trace it onto your cake board. I recommend using foam board.
Once one curve is drawn, measure up 4″ from each corner of the S and make a small mark. 4″ will be the depth of the cake. If you want a more narrow cake or a larger cake, adjust this dimension.
Using the 2 marks you just created, place your S template on the cake board and draw another curve. This will result in two parallel curves. Then connect the two curves with vertical lines at the ends.
Cut out along the lines and repeat for each of the cake board layers. Then, it’s time to make a hole for the threaded rod. Along one edge, measure halfway down and measure in about 1 inch. Cut a hole that is just large enough for the threaded rod. This will be the top cake board
On the middle board, measure the same position as you did for the threaded rod, but cut a hole large enough to go over the PVC pipe.
On the bottom cake board, make the same measurement. Cut a hole for the threaded rod. Then make an offest for a nut. Trace a nut and cut into the foam board just enough for a nut. This hole should not go all the way through the foam core.
Once all the foam pieces are cut, they should be able to be assembled as shown. The middle board is floating on the PVC pipe.
When the cake is done, there will be another section of copper pipe. There should be at least one nut at the top and bottom of the copper pipe, to be hidden by the pipe. My picture below shows a washer, but in the final assembly, I decided not to put the washer in as it would be visible on the final cake. There should be some threaded rod sticking out of the top of the copper pipe. The flag pole ball will sit here.
To create a template for the cake pieces, use the same curve that was used for the cake boards and trace this curve on a piece of paper. Make a parallel curve 3.5″ to 3.75″ apart from each other. The template for the cake should be narrower than the template for the cake boards. This will allow space for frosting. If you make the cake template 3.5″ wide, there will be 1/4″ of frosting on each side of the cake. use this template to cut out the cake layers.
I used 4 layers of cake. Ice the layers, stacking the layers and cake board as you go. Make sure you put the middle board in the center of the layers. Put the PVC pipe through all of the cake layer and middle board before putting the top cake board in place. When this is done, the cake should be 8″ tall. The cake layers for my cake baked thinner than I expected and I ended up using foam core to make the whole cake the 8″ height I had planned. You could do the same thing or add another layer of cake. Here is a look at the crumb coated cake on the flag pole structure.
Frost the cake, only adding icing to the edge of the cake boards. The cake boards can provide a guide for your straight edge when frosting to get nice smooth sides that are even and straight up and down. It is easiest to use a full butter buttercream that will set firm in the fridge for this cake. I used Italian Meringue Buttercream.
Once frosted, completely cover the cake with white fondant. All sides and the top should be covered. Next, add the flag details. I cut out fondant stripes using a ribbon cutter. You could also measure them and cut them straight. Each stripe should be 1/13 times the height of the cake. Place the stripes on the cake and add a blue square for the star area. I then used a star punch cutter to cut out 50 stars. I aligned all 50 stars evenly in the pattern of the US flag. For the Ukrainian side, I put one large band of blue and one band of yellow.
Flag Pole and Grass
To set the scene, cover the cake board with buttercream grass. First, cover the wood board with foam board. This will make it food safe. I used two pieces and cut a notch in one of them to go around the copper pipe. It doesn’t have to be exact since it will be covered.
Next, make Rice Krispie treats and cover the cake board. Add lumps in the Rice Krispie treats to give it some interest and make it look like hills.
Cover the copper pipe with grey fondant or modeling chocolate. Be sure to cover the 2″ section of copper pipe at this time as well. Make sure you cover the pipe before adding the buttercream grass.
Then, pipe grass with a grass/fur piping tip, such as a Wilton #233 tip. I used American Buttercream with only shortening (no butter) and colored it green with blue and yellow gel food coloring. I didn’t use butter in my buttercream because I wanted something that would be stable at room temperature for many days. My board was too big to fit into the fridge.
Freezing and Assembling Flag Cake
At this point, I covered and froze the cake until the big day. I first put the cake in the fridge until the buttercream was firm. Then I covered the cake in 3 layers of plastic wrap and 1 layer of aluminum foil. I then froze it for about 1 month. To defrost it, I put it in the fridge, fully wrapped, for 12-24 hours. I then took the cake out and left it at room temperature, still fully covered, until it reached room temperature. Then I took off the wrappings. By bringing it to room temperature slowly and keeping it wrapped, condensation did not get on the fondant. It is also a good idea to keep the cake in a cardboard box during the defrosting process. The cardboard will absorb moisture.
Once defrosted, insert the flag cake on the cake rod, using the hole in the bottom cake board as a guide. Assemble the nuts and the copper pipe on the top section of the threaded rod. Make a large ball out of fondant and gently push it over the top of the threaded rod.
That’s it! You’re done!
It looks like a lot of steps, but this cake was actually quite simple to make. One of the best things about this flag cake is it can almost all be done in advance. Only the assembly needs to be done close to the event.
Have any questions? Let me know! I’m always here to help!