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A Red, White and Blue Celebration!
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Each 4th of July finds my family celebrating at a friend's home at a nearby lake.  This celebration gathers together many families and multiple generations from toddlers to grandparents, and even great-grandparents.  Swimming, boating, lawn games and just plain old good conversation fill the day.  And of course, there is great food!  Everyone brings something to grill and something to share.  The resulting smorgasbord is an outstanding display of homemade delights.  Baked beans, fresh salads, garden vegetables and tasty snacks cover a minimum of three large tables.  But, the dessert table is the crowning glory! 

 Scratch-baked cookies and bars, sweet fresh fruit, special desserts and more tempt everyone from the youngest to the oldest!  Almond Celebration Cake  fits right into this delectable array.  Fresh raspberries and blueberries top the creamy frosting creating a beautiful and patriotic display.  Almond is the featured flavor which complements the fresh fruit.  You can even decorate the cake to look like Old Glory if you really want to "Wow!" your friends.  Oh, and it is large enough to feed a crowd.

 The cake is similiar to shortcake so will be a little drier than your typical cake.  Start by heating your oven and preparing a 15 x10x1-inch jelly-roll pan by greasing and flouring it.  Combine the flour and the baking powder and then set it aside.  Now, cream together the sugar and butter.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until well mixed.  Then add the almond extract. 

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Reduce the mixer speed to low and begin adding the flour and baking powder mixture  alternately with the milk.  Beat after each addition.

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 By hand, stir in the almonds.

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Spread the batter into the prepared pan.

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Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack.  Let the cake cool completely before frosting it. 

Once the cake is cool, prepare the frosting.  Now, don't be afraid of this frosting.  If you have never tried a "flour frosting" you are in for a treat.  It's my favorite frosting because of its silky texture.  It is a little more involved to make than your typical butter and powdered sugar frosting but, worth it and really not difficult at all.  To start, combine the milk, flour and salt in a small saucepan.  Stir the mixture well with a wire whisk until smooth.  Cook this mixture, being sure to stir with the wire whisk constantly.  The mixture thickens and will just begin to boil.  Check out the pictures below to see this process.

Whisking the flour.

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 Starting to cook.

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Just starting to thicken a little.

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 See how it has thickened.

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 Now it is just starting to boil (see the bubbles?).  It's ready to be removed from the heat.  Let it cool for 15 minutes.  Less than 15 minutes and the mixture is too warm and can melt the butter in the next step of the frosting.  More than 15 minutes and it will be too thick to incorporate into the butter/sugar mixture. 

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 To finish the frosting,  combine the butter, sugar and almond extract in a medium bowl.  Beat until creamy.  While you continue to beat, gradually add about 1 tablespoon of the warm flour/milk mixture to the butter/sugar mixture.  Keep doing this until you have added all the flour/milk mixture and the frosting is light and creamy,  and the sugar is completely dissolved.  Take your time as you add the flour milk mixture to make sure you are mixing each addition well. 

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Now you can see why I described the frosting as having a silky texture.

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Frost the cooled cake and decorate with fresh raspberries, blueberries and almond slices. 

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I recommend  you make this cake for any big gathering this summer from a neighborhood cookout to a family reunion or block party.  Everyone will love Almond Celebration Cake and you will be the star of the dessert table! 

Come back on Monday and learn about fish tacos, hot-off-the-grill.

Happy (and delicious) 4th of July!

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