Fourth of July confessional: I’d rather have food than a sparkler in my hands!
Parties on Independence Day will always have tons of fun games to play. Even though the sparklers, poppers, streamers, and corn hole games are all very entertaining, they’ve never been my favorite things to do at those backyard parties.
This is mainly because they would distract my hands from something else they’d much prefer to grasp – all that delicious food!
Can you smell it in the warm summer air, that moment you park and step out of the car in front of your friend’s or family’s house the day of the party?
The smell of a hot grill cooking meat, of cheap, cold beer, of sugary cookies and sweets?
Does your mouth start to water in anticipation for those hearty potato salads, juicy gourmet burgers, and pulled pork sandwiches?
How can I think of picking up a volleyball, or tossing snappers on the ground, when there is a freshly grilled hot dog beckoning me to have a seat at the picnic table?
And now, my hands have something new to grab, and belly something sweet to eat, while watching the fireworks at night.
My recipe for Fourth of July mini cake trifles will give you layers of tasty fun and an explosion of vibrant decorations, served adorably in little, individual jars!
To get the different colors, I divide a plain vanilla batter into three separate bowls, and add food coloring to get red, white, and blue colors – classics for Independence Day!
Once the batter is baked, I cut out circles, and assemble them in a jar with alternating layers of fluffy buttercream.
After the final pretty layer of frosting, I decorate with sprinkles – I like to make my own mixture of an assorted variety of sprinkles with different shapes and sizes.
It’s a pretty treat to behold, especially in a glass jar, so you can see all the festive layers!
You technically could run around and have fun with this dessert, since it is served in a handheld jar.
But leave the games to the more energetic party-goers. We have a cake to eat.Print
Fourth of July Mini Cake Trifles
- Total Time: 2 hours
- Yield: 12 servings 1x
For a treat as mesmerizing as the fireworks on July 4th, make mini cake trifles with layers of red, white, and blue cake and frosting.
For the Cake:
- Nonstick cooking oil spray
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggs
- 3 cups cake flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 1/4 cups whole milk
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Red and blue food coloring
For the Buttercream:
- 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 8 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2–4 tablespoons heavy cream
- 12 mini glass trifle dishes or jars
- Assorted sprinkles
For the Cake:
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line three quarter-sized baking sheets with parchment paper. Grease evenly with cooking oil spray, and set aside.
- In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium-high speed until softened and lightly whipped. Add the salt and sugar. Continue to beat at medium-high speed until well combined.
- With the mixer running on low speed, add one egg at a time. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until fully incorporated. Repeat with the other two eggs.
- Sift together the flour and baking powder in a small bowl. Measure out the milk in a separate measuring pitcher. Measure the vanilla and stir it into the milk. On low speed, add the dry ingredients and liquid mixture alternately to the butter mixture, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl after each addition, beating well until a uniform batter develops.
- Divide the batter equally between three separate bowls. Add red food coloring to one bowl, and blue food coloring to the second bowl. Leave the third bowl as is.
- Stir to mix the dye into the batter. Once the desired color is obtained, transfer each bowl of batter to one of the prepared three baking sheets. Thinly and evenly spread the batter across the baking sheet.
- Bake each pan for 15-20 minutes, or until the cake springs back gently when touched and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Cool completely in the pans.
For the Buttercream:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the softened butter on medium speed until it is smooth with no lumps.
- Sift the confectioners’ sugar in a separate bowl. Add one cup at a time to the butter, beating very well after each addition.
- Add the salt, vanilla, and heavy cream. Mix on medium-high speed until very light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Add more heavy cream if mixture is too thick.
- Using a small cookie cutter the same size as the circumference of the jar or trifle dish, cut out 12 circles from each of the red, white, and blue cakes.
- Place one color cake round on the bottom of the jar. Pipe or spread a thick, even layer of buttercream on top. Repeat with the other two cake colors, ending with a layer of buttercream.
- Decorate with sprinkles on top. Serve and enjoy!
- Prep Time: 1 hour
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Category: Cake
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Dessert
Keywords: Fourth of July, cake, trifle, buttercream, mini dessert
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Make the Batter
Preheat your oven to 350°F.
Prepare the recipe for a vanilla batter. You can use your favorite recipe as an alternative to ours, as long as it yields the typical 2 8-inch or 9-inch round pans.
We love our vanilla butter cake recipe, and it’s the one we like to use for this recipe: soft crumb, buttery flavor, very vanilla aroma!
But if you already have a bag of our DIY yellow cake mix in your freezer, easily use that!
If you need a refresher course on how to bake the perfect cake, read our tips now.
Step 2 – Color the Batter
Divide the batter between three separate medium-sized bowls. Set aside one bowl (this is the “white” in our red, white, and blue colors!).
In the second bowl, mix in red food coloring to achieve the desired red color. If you’re feeling extra motivated as a star baker, you can use our homemade recipe for red velvet cake instead. Keep in mind that the final baked result will be a bit lighter than the hue of the batter, so be sure to add enough dye without going overboard.
In the third bowl, mix in blue food coloring to achieve the desired blue color.
I suggest adding the food coloring a little at a time with a spoon or spatula to gently incorporate without mixing in too much additional air.
Step 3 – Spread in the Pans
Prepare three quarter-sized baking sheets: line the bottom with parchment paper, and grease the entire pan with a thin layer of cooking oil spray.
Add each bowl of prepared batter to one baking sheet. Spread the batter evenly across the entire pan. This will be thin layer of batter.
I like to use the flat end of a pastry scraper (plastic or metal will work!) to get a very even layer.
Step 4 – Bake
Bake the batters for about 15-20 minutes – until the cake springs back gently when touched, or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove from the oven, and let them cool completely in the pans.
Step 5 – Make the Frosting
While they are cooling, make the frosting following our technique for American-style buttercream. The frosting should be thick and fluffy.
For other variations, try our Swiss meringue buttercream, or cream cheese frosting.
Step 6 – Assemble
Set 12 mini glass trifle cups or mini jars on your work station.
Using a small cookie cutter that is close to the same size as the circumference of your jars or trifle dishes, cut out 12 circles from each of the red, white, and blue cakes.
Don’t throw away any scraps. They can be used to make cake pops!
Place one color cake round in the bottom of one jar. Pipe or spread a thick, even layer of buttercream on top. Repeat with the other two colors, ending with a layer of buttercream. If piping, you can use a round or star tip, depending on what you want the final top layer to look like.
It helps to gently press down on each cake layer to gently push the frosting towards the walls of the jar to create a seamless visual effect.
Step 7 – Decorate
Decorate with assorted sprinkles on top. For a more dynamic presentation, mix together sprinkles in assorted shapes, sizes, and colors.
I like to place the jars in a larger bowl when I’m decorating, to catch any sprinkles that fall. Better in the bowl than all over your floor!
Serve and enjoy both the cake and your holiday celebration!
Colorful, Festive Options
Just like the fireworks you’ll see at night, this cake can be made with a variety of different decorative options!
Instead of coloring the batters, you can color the frosting in red, white, and blue instead.
And you don’t have to use sprinkles. If elegance is the name of the game, we’ve been obsessed with sugaring flower petals, an absolutely breathtaking technique for the summer months.
Don’t want to bother with cutting perfect circles? Don’t bother with the cookie cutter and just slice the cake into cubes instead, or break it into pieces with your hands. It’s our typical technique with other dessert trifles, like our chocolate trifle and our pumpkin trifle.
Have fun with it! We’re celebrating!
Do you like serving desserts in jars? What do you think of this treat for the Fourth of July? Are you more of an eater or a gamer during the party? Send me a message, and let’s chat!
For more sweet dessert recipes perfect for the Fourth of July, you need to try these:
Photos by Nikki Cervone, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Nikki Cervone
Nikki Cervone is a full-time cheesemonger and specialty foods buyer living in Pittsburgh. Nikki holds an AAS in baking/pastry from Westmoreland County Community College, a BA in Communications from Duquesne University, and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University. When she's not nibbling on her favorite cheeses or testing a batch of cupcakes, Nikki enjoys a healthy dose of yoga, wine, hiking, singing in the shower, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.