Crackling fireworks, sizzling grills, giggling kids and billowing flags are just a few of the things that make up one special day every summer. July Fourth marks a time of celebration for America’s rich history and unwavering freedoms. Over time, Americans have established July Fourth as THE day for outdoor entertaining topped with all of the fixings. As a host, entertaining can seem daunting to some and thrilling to others. With the help of luxury outdoor furniture and delectable dishes, your outdoor entertaining for July Fourth is sure to be a squeeze.
First up for every host is nailing down the overall look for your party. Starting with a base of sturdy and comfortable furniture pieces is a great place to begin decorating your July Fourth space. Sprucing up an outdoor area for the holidays is made simple through the Summer Classics Home Stores. Stocked with plenty of accessories, your outdoor space can shine patriotic, yet sophisticated style through blue and white vases and colorful throw pillows. Check the listing here to see if you have a location near you.
Creating a menu that will “wow” your guests is easy with the help of an experienced chef. Julie Grimes, the owner and chef at Black Sheep Kitchen, recently developed the perfect July Fourth menu (exclusive to Summer Classics) that is full of fresh foods and savory sweets. After going to culinary school in NYC, Grimes spent numerous years working in top kitchens and over 16 years developing recipes for magazines such as Southern Living, Cooking Light, and Women’s Health (to name a few). First up, we are sharing her dazzling recipe for Blueberry-Basil Gin Fizz and Red,White,and Blue Velvet Cake. Guests are sure to swoon over the rich, creamy layers of cake and of course come back for refills of the summery cocktail. Stay tuned to the blog to see our next post with Grimes recipes for two savory July Fourth dishes!
Blueberry-Basil Gin Fizz
Make an infused simple syrup up to a week ahead. Just cover and keep chilled until you’re ready to make this refreshingly simple cocktail. The sweet fruit and syrup, tinged with vanilla and basil, pair perfectly with gin, but you can make this beverage with vodka, instead, if you prefer.
1/2 vanilla bean
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
4 large fresh basil sprigs
1 (12-oz.) package fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 2 medium-size limes)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup gin
1 cup club soda
- Halve vanilla bean, lengthwise; reserve half for another use. Scrape seeds from remaining half of vanilla bean, using the tip of a pairing knife to flatten the inside of vanilla bean. Add bean and seeds to a small saucepan with sugar and 1 cup water. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves; remove from heat. Add basil; steep 10 minutes. Strain syrup; discard basil and vanilla bean.
- Pulse berries with 1/4 cup syrup in a food processor or mini chopper until finely ground. Stir puree, lime juice, and lemon juice into syrup; let stand 20 minutes. Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a serving pitcher, pressing to release all juices; discard solids. Stir in gin. Chill until ready to serve.
- Stir club soda into gin mixture just before serving, and serve cocktail over ice.
Yield: 6 servings (serving size: about 1/2 cup)
Red, White, and Blue Velvet Cake
A mix of blueberries and blackberries add the “blue”to this glorious holiday cake. Use a blend of your favorite summer berries so long as some are blue.
Baking spray with flour
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup canola oil
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon red food coloring
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
5 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons heavy cream (or milk)
1/8 teaspoon salt
11/3 cups cold heavy whipping cream
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
4 cups mixed berries
- Preheat oven to 350˚. Coat 2 (9-inch) cake pans with baking spray; set aside.
- To prepare cake, place 12 tablespoons butter, canola oil, and granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl; beat with a mixer at medium-high speed until mixture is well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition until egg is completely incorporated, scraping sides as needed. Beat in 1/2 cup sour cream.
- Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours, baking soda, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in another mixing bowl; stir well. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to batter, beginning and ending with flour mixture, beating at low speed just until combined, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Stir in vinegar and vanilla.
- Spoon half of batter into one prepared pan. Tap pan on countertop 2 or 3 times to remove air bubbles. Set aside.
- Fold cocoa powder and red food color into remaining batter, and pour into remaining prepared pan. Tap pan on countertop 2 or 3 times to remove air bubbles. Place both cake pans in oven and bake at 350˚ 23 to 28 minutes or until layers are set and wooden picks inserted in the center of each come out clean. Allow layers to cool in pans on wire racks 5 minutes. Turn cakes out onto wire racks; cool completely.
- To prepare frosting, place 1/2 cup butter and cream cheese together in a small mixing bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Gradually add 2 cups powdered sugar to cream cheese mixture, beating until blended and smooth. Beat in 3 tablespoons cream. Gradually add 2 more cups powdered sugar, beating until blended and smooth, scraping sides as needed. Add enough of remaining 1 cup powdered sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, until frosting is a spreadable consistency, beating until blended after each addition.
- Place white cake layer on a cake stand. Spread about 1/3 of frosting over top of white cake layer; top with red cake layer. Spread about 1/3 of frosting over top of cake. Spread remaining 1/3 of frosting in a thin layer over sides of cake, leaving edges visible.
- To prepare topping, place a metal bowl and beaters in freezer for 10 minutes. Whip 11/3 cups cold cream in cold bowl, using cold beaters, at high speed with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually add 1 cup powdered sugar, beating until sugar is incorporated and stiff peaks form. Gently fold sour cream into whipped cream.
- Mound whipped cream on top of cake; top with berries.
Yield: 1 (9-inch) cake (serves 8 – 10)