This Fourth of July cheesecake cake is a festive summer dessert, and is easier to make than you’d think!
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Every year when football season rolls around I think of getting a green O (temporarily) painted on Cookie’s back. I always resist because A) I don’t want to be that girl, and B) pink is her power color so I worry that she won’t care for the green.
But after this cake she’s experienced in the pink fur department so we might just go for that O in September.
Let’s talk for a sec about kitchen mishaps OK?
As you can probably tell from the pictures, this cheesecake cake required quite a bit of food coloring.
Poor planner that I am, I didn’t have any rubber gloves on hand when I set out to dye my cake batter. And some gloves would have been quite helpful. . .As I was stirring the food coloring into my red cake layer (after I already had left bunches of red fingerprints all over the counter) the doorbell rang. And Cookie lost it. And I didn’t know who was out there so I had to answer—and I had to pick Cookie up so she wouldn’t dart outside, as she’s inclined to do.
Dog parents, I know you feel my pain.
I grabbed Cookie without thinking and opened the door; it was UPS, BTW, so this whole thing could have been avoided if I’d thought to peek outside before picking up the dog and touching the doorknob. (See? Not a planner.) By the time I’d retrieved my package, door, doorknob, and dog were all covered in red food coloring. My entryway looked like it had witnessed some kind of slaughter.
After a dog bath and quite a bit of door scrubbing, I refined my technique and made it through the blue layer without further incident.
(Cookie is dye free at the moment and losing her ever-loving mind chasing a fly around the living room. I think it’s teasing her but she’s caught them before so she’ll have the last laugh, I’m sure.)
The food coloring headache was definitely worth it though. Because just look at those colors! The Fourth of July is my very favorite holiday—America, BBQs, fireworks, what’s not to love?
So I knew a Fourth of July was in order. And since I had so much fun making (and eating) my carrot cake cheesecake cake I wanted to make another version.
However! It wasn’t easy for me to make the decision to use food coloring inside the cake. I love a little food coloring in frosting but to make vivid red and blue cake layers you have to use quite a bit of food coloring, and I don’t love the idea of eating that much dye.
But I made an exception for such a special occasion. I also used a white box cake mix to ease the workload so you can spend more time having fun with your family than mixing up cake. If you’re cake mix-averse you can use your favorite from-scratch recipe, as long as it makes enough for two cake layers. You can also use your favorite doctored white cake mix–I find that sometimes white cake mixes can be dry without the addition of some extra fat, so do whatever you please.
A cheesecake cake is no more difficult to make than a regular layer cake. The only difficulty is getting the cheesecake layer out of the pan. Be sure you spray your pan with plenty of cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment. Since the cheesecake layer has to refrigerate overnight, be sure to plan accordingly.
Make this cheesecake-ified Fourth of July cake and impress your friends and family! (Just don’t answer the doorbell while you’re mixing your cake batter.)
Notes on decorating and dyeing your cake
I STRONGLY urge you to use gel food coloring for this cake because you have to use a lot of the liquid stuff to get true a true color and that will affect how your cake turns out. I used this red food coloring and this blue food coloring.
I also recommend using rubber gloves when you’re mixing the batter.
Adding a little bit of cocoa powder to your red layer, as instructed in the recipe, ensures you get a true red rather than pink.
For my tips on frosting a cake without doing a crumb coat first, see this death by chocolate cake.
- 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 15.25 ounce white cake mix (or use your favorite white cake recipe)
- water, oil, and eggs according to directions on the box
- 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- red gel food coloring
- blue gel food coloring
- 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 4 1/2 to 5 cups powdered sugar
- 2 to 5 tablespoons milk or heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla (use clear vanilla if you want your frosting really white)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8-inch round cake pan with cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, then generously spray the pan with cooking spray again. Set pan aside.
- Beat the cream cheese, sugar, and flour together with an electric mixer set to medium speed. Beat in eggs and egg yolks one at a time, mixing until eggs are just incorporated. Turn mixer to low and beat in the sour cream, heavy cream, and vanilla.
- Pour batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Set pan in a roasting pan (or any large baking pan) and carry over to the oven. Pour a couple inches of water into the pan, then carefully transfer to the oven. Bake 27 to 32 minutes, until the center of the cheesecake barely wobbles. Remove from the oven and immediately run a knife between the cake and the edge of the pan. Cool cheesecake to room temperature. Once cooled, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- After the cheesecake has refrigerated, dip the pan in a bowl of hot water for about 15 seconds. Run a knife around the edge of the cake again, then set a large plate or a cake circle on top of the pan. Invert the cake onto the plate. Keep refrigerated until you assemble the cake.
- Preheat the oven to 350 (or whatever temperature stated on the box of your cake mix). Spray 2 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray, line the bottoms of the pans with parchment, then spray the pans with additional cooking spray. Set pans aside.
- Mix your white cake according to the directions on the box. Pour half of the batter into a second bowl. (I weighed this to ensure my layers would be the same size but you can eyeball it.)
- Add red food coloring and the cocoa powder to half of the batter and mix to combine; continue adding food coloring until you reach the color you desire. Pour into one of the prepared pans and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Repeat with the blue food coloring (don't add cocoa powder to this layer).
- Bake according to the directions on the box. Cool completely on a wire rack before assembling your cake.
- Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until very smooth. Add 4 1/2 cups of the powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons of the milk, and the vanilla and salt. Mix on low until well combined, then turn mixer to high for 3 minutes, beating until frosting is very light and fluffy. Add additional powdered sugar if frosting is too thin and additional milk if it is too thick.
- Place the red cake layer on a cake stand or cake circle. Spread a thin layer of frosting over the top. Carefully top with the cheesecake layer. Top cheesecake with another thin layer of frosting, spreading it gently into an even layer. Top with blue cake layer. (It’s possible your cheesecake layer will be a little wider than your cake; if this is the case you can trim it by running a sharp paring knife around the perimeter of the cake.) Use remaining frosting to frost the cake, and decorate if desired. Serve and enjoy.
Cheesecake layer adapted from The Baker’s Manual