On the Fourth of July, I always say I’m going to make a patriotic-themed dessert. Well, I always plan to, and then I run out of time and end up making a boxed white cake mix with a few blueberries and strawberries tossed on the side. At least it’s red, white, and blue! Perhaps this year, I’ll finally do it.

If you want to try your hand at a July 4 th -themed dessert this year, here are a few easy-to-make ideas from some very patriotic sources.

DAR Strawberry Shortcake

From the Daughters of the American Revolution Book of Recipes, Genesee Chapter, Flint Michigan, 1922. See the entire cookbook on line here.

Note: older recipes are often vague on temps and cooking time. Bake the shortcake at 400 degrees for about 12-15 minutes, or until golden.

Lafayette Gingerbread

The Mount Vernon Inn, a restaurant on the grounds of George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate in Virginia offers this recipe for gingerbread cake that George Washington’s mother is said to have served to the Marquis de Lafayette. Get more revolutionary era recipes at the Mount Vernon Museum’s website here.


½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 cup molasses
2 ¾ cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
2 large eggs, plus 2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
¼ cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch-square cake pan.

  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, or in a large bowl beating by hand, combine the butter and brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the molasses, and continue to beat until well combined.

  3. Sift the flour with the ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice.

  4. Alternately add the eggs and flour to the butter mixture, beating very well after each addition.

  5. Add the orange juice and zest, and continue beating for several minutes until the batter is smooth and light.

  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Set the cake on a rack to cool completely in the pan before slicing.

Eton Mess

(four servings)

While it might seem contrarian to suggest a very British dish for a Fourth of July dessert, but Eton Mess (named after the elite British school for boys) is a favorite with my children. It is indeed a mess—a delicious mess of whipped cream, crushed berries and crumbled up meringue cookies. Annoy your British friends and serve this with the addition of some blueberries to give it that all American color scheme. Here’s my adaption of a BBC recipe (found here).


A pound or so of strawberries, hulls removed
½ cup sugar
1¾ cups heavy whipping cream
A package of ready-made meringue cookies (can be found at Trader Joes. If you can’t find them, any vanilla cookie will do)
Mint and a few blackberries or blueberries, for garnish


  1. Purée half the strawberries in a blender with the sugar. Chop the remaining strawberries.

  2. Whip the double cream until stiff peaks form, then fold in the strawberry purée and crushed meringue. Fold in the chopped strawberries.

  3. Spoon equal amounts of the mixture into four bowls. Serve garnished with the black or blueberries and a sprig of mint.

The Betsy Ross

(one cocktail)

I get it; cocktails are not desserts. But this cocktail, from House and Garden, is just sweet enough that it might just fit the bill for some adults.


1 ½ ounces brandy
1 ½ ounces port
1 dash curaçao
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon sugar
3 or 4 ice cubes


Combine all ingredients except the nutmeg in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Strain into a large cocktail glass and top with a grating of nutmeg.