By Meghan Splawn

Tribune Content Agency

Flag Cake

Servings: 16

For the cake

Cooking spray

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs

3/4 cup canola oil or melted and cooled unsalted butter

1 cup whole milk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Red food coloring

Blue food coloring

For the whipped topping

2 cups cold heavy cream

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the garnish

4 cups fresh strawberries

1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

Make the cake: Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350 F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.

Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in together a large bowl. Add the eggs, oil or butter, milk and vanilla, and mix with an electric hand mixer on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute.

Pour half of the batter into the prepared baking dish. Divide the remaining batter between two bowls. Dye one red with 3 to 4 drops of red food coloring, and dye the other blue with 4 to 5 drops of blue food coloring. Dollop the red and blue batter onto the cake. You can do a pattern or random placement.

Bake the cake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the cakes are lightly browned and spring back when tapped gingerly.

Cool the cake on a cooling rack for 30 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan, and cool completely on the rack.

Make the whipped topping: Place the cream, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat with a hand mixer on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form.

Cover the entire cake with the whipped cream frosting. Arrange the berries in a flag shape by making a square of blueberries in the top left corner and then making stripes with the sliced strawberries. You can use a small offset spatula to mark lines for the stripes, if needed.

Refrigerate the cake for up to four hours before serving or serving immediately.

One of my favorite annual traditions is making this super-simple flag cake with my daughter. Yes, turning a cake into an American flag is somewhat cliche, but if you consider this the best way to dress up berry shortcake then it’s as fun to make as it is to share.

This charming, whipped cream-frosted cake has a colorful surprise inside. It’s what makes this vanilla-cake-meets-berry-shortcake recipe stand out from the rest.

The secret surprise

To make a big impact, portions of the batter are dyed red and blue and then swirled into the pan to create a patriotic surprise inside. A sweetened whipped cream is the best topping for this cake, as it complements both the cake and the berries. Use blueberries and sliced strawberries to decorate the top of the cake.