Hannah Drake

Fourth of July in England

LifeHannah DrakeComment

Fourth of July was the first holiday to roll around since moving to England. And it's obviously the most American holiday! One of my new British friends asked what a usual Fourth of July looked like for me back in the States, but I'm not one of those people who always goes to the lake or always goes to the same party or the same parade. Sure, the Fourth of July consists of BBQ with family and friends and of course fireworks after dark. I do, however, have one Fourth of July tradition and that involves making an American flag cake.

Luke and I got the supplies to make it and I spent Monday baking. The recipe I found online called for egg whites whipped to stiff peaks, so I set off with my whisk to get stiff peaks. I'm proud to say I eventually whipped them stiff enough by hand! The next step was creaming the fat and sugar, which made me break down and buy an electric mixer. Anyway, I finished the batter, divided it into thirds, leaving the white layer last, only to discover I was over 100g short on the remaining batter, meaning the red and white layers wouldn't be the same height. Around that time, the blue and red layers came out of the over and I could see that the food coloring didn't exactly work. The blue was more like a pale grey and the red was more like a brownish-purple.

Back to the store we went! This time, we went to Asda, which is the British Walmart, because they had white cake mix listed online. We found the baking aisle, but there was no white cake mix in sight. Just before we were about to leave and give up completely, I asked Luke to pull down a box of mixes that appeared to be a white cake. We opened it up, and sure enough it was! We got three of them, plus two bottles of blue gel food coloring and the sole bottle of red. (I was a bit nervous to use them because it specifically said they were pastel colors.)

The second attempt turned out slightly better than the first. The colors still weren't exactly right and I was still about 75 grams short on batter for the third cake, but this time it was the blue layer so I knew red and white were exactly the same. The layers were thinner than they ever have been before, but Luke expertly sliced the red and white layers in half for me and I spent Tuesday morning assembling and frosting the cake. We never found red, white, and blue sprinkles (unsurprisingly), so we made do with gold stars. 

Our friends said, "Oh yes, you found out about British food coloring?" Apparently it just doesn't have the same chemical make-up that gives American foods those beautiful, vibrant, unnatural colors. My sister saw my post on my Instagram Story and asked if they could send me food coloring. I might just take them up on that because I was certainly missing my gel colors from Wilton! I mean, just check out my cake from 2014, my best work to date! (Please ignore my poor use of Instagram filters, though.)

That evening, we went to our friends' house for a BBQ. (She's American, he's British, just like us.) British BBQs are a bit different than American BBQs, the biggest difference being the emphasis on meat over sides. At a class American BBQ, you're likely to find chips & dip, potato salad, coleslaw, salad, pasta salad, and whatever other sides someone might bring. At a British BBQ, everybody brings their own meat and you'll probably have a burger and a brat instead of one meat option with your plate piled high with sides. Luckily, there were other Americans coming to the party, so they brought baked beans and potato salad.

Even though our BBQ was inside... Even though there were no fireworks... And even though I didn't pack a single red item for my initial move... The Fourth was pretty great!

I discovered that Denmark also celebrates America's Independence Day because of a section of land donated to the government by Danish-Americans with the stipulation that it house a Fourth of July celebration every year. So expats all over Europe flock to Denmark for a small taste of home. I told Luke that if we're not back in the States next year on the Fourth, we should pop over to Denmark instead.

Fourth of July in England