Borrowing BarefooT Watermelon Flag Cake
Ina Garten is an East Hampton icon. In the 80s, she bought a specialty foods store on one of two streets in downtown East Hampton, and launched a food empire that has expanded to cookbooks and a Food Network show all under the name of Barefoot Contessa. I think Barefoot Contessa speaks to the way most people would like to imagine “The Hamptons.” Much more casual and slow-paced than New York, but with an air of chic. She is quoted as saying the name is "earthy."
I grew up in East Hampton every summer. Before you start to click away thinking “nope too highbrow,” the East Hampton that I know and love is just like any other happy summer place from your childhood. As children we rode our bikes everywhere, ate popsicles every day, and went to sleep in our bathing suits knowing that tomorrow we would wake up and do it all over again. My East Hampton is full of farm-stands run by the families of the local farmers, who are striving to make sure that local delicious produce is available for all. My East Hampton is full of family dinners with Summer Chicken and grilled vegetables and lots and lots and lots of Tate’s cookies. And, in my East Hampton I grew up begging my mom to go to Barefoot Contessa to get curried chicken salad and “the good olive oil.”
Since it is finally summer and I’m in East Hampton, I’m going to embark on a project cooking Barefoot Contessa recipes with a twist. This isn’t a full Julie & Julia…I don’t have a demoralizing job. In fact, right now, cooking for people is my job, which is something I love. I don’t live in the somewhat demoralizing outer boroughs of New York. I live in Chelsea, which is fun and diverse and colorful. I don’t need to revitalize my marriage. We’ve been married just over two years, and my husband travels so much for work that when he’s home, I become this like a starfish nearly suctioned to him. I’m also not going to pledge to cook all of Ina Garten’s recipes. Between her website, The Food Network and at least 10 cookbooks, that is a little bit of a loftier goal than my girl Julie took on, but here’s what I want to do.
I want to make small tweaks to the Contessa’s recipes to make them accessible for all eaters. Ina Garten, at least in the circles I participate in, is widely considered the best and most accessible chef of beautiful meals. Buuuuut she gets a bad rap for being “unhealthy.” This is not a word I like to use. She uses high-quality ingredients and eats vegetables at every meal. However, she does use a lot of butter. Personally, I’m of the food mentality that there are no inherently BAD foods. You’re not going to suddenly become fat or sacrifice ALL of your wellness from eating a pat of butter. That said, for my own health, I have learned that avoiding gluten (always) and dairy (90% of the time) keeps my tummy happy and my skin clear.
Ina Garten is and has always been one of my idols, so I want to be clear that I am doing this project out of deference to her. I’m not trying to make her recipes better—they’re perfection on their own. I’m not trying to be her, because my god, I just don’t have the poise. I, like she, believe that food is about sharing. Preparing food for someone, giving them health and nourishment, is the greatest act of love I have to offer anyone.
So here I begin. My goal for this project is to re-create some of Ina’s most iconic recipes, with ingredients that are going to make all the eaters in your family feel healthy—whatever that is for them. I also want to give you a peak in to my hometown, because my guess is, it’s not that different from yours.
My first Borrowing Barefoot recipe is in honor of one of the greatest family holidays there is: Fourth of July. One of the Barefoot Contessa’s most recognizable recipes is her Fourth of July Flag Cake. You can find that recipe here.
As I said, I can’t eat gluten, and dairy makes my face lumpy, so instead of cake and buttercream icing, I give you…THE WATERMELON FLAG!
By slicing the top and bottom and rind off of a seedless watermelon, you can create a cake like shape. It doesn’t matter if it’s a little lumpy because you’re going to cover it with dense and creamy coconut cream. Once the “cake” is iced, you’ll top it with an American Flag design.
I think this recipe is one of the most Patriotic things you can do this fourth—give your fellow Americans some health by creating a naturally sweet, but oh so beautiful dessert.
What You’ll Need:
- 1 seedless watermelon
- 2 cans full-fat coconut milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 pint blueberries
- 1 half pint raspberries
- 1 half pint white or golden raspberries
- 1 pint strawberries
What I Did:
- Place the cans of coconut milk in the fridge for at least 8 hours. This will make the cream separate from the milk. For this recipe, you’ll need to skim off just the cream.
- Carefully cut off the top and bottoms of the watermelon to create two flat planes. Using a very sharp knife and working slowly, slice off the rind of the watermelon. It doesn’t have to be perfect because you’re going to cover it with coconut cream in just a minute.
- Clean all the berries and slice the green tops of the strawberries.
- Open the cans of coconut milk and skim the water off of the cream. Add the vanilla. Dump the remaining cream in a bowl. Using a hand mixer, whip the coconut cream until it is fluffy. (It won’t quite be as fluffy as whipped cream).
- Ice your watermelon with the coconut cream like you would a cake.
- Design the top of your cake to resemble a patriotic pattern that speaks to you!