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Have a Flag-Waving Fourth of July

June 28, 2011

Potlucks are a popular way to celebrate just about anything - and July Fourth is a great reason to get the friends and neighbors together for a patriotic potluck.
I'm bringing a fantastic flag cake to this year's party - it serves a lot of people and it's easy to make. I'll let you in on two little secrets that make this cake taste extra good: instant potato flakes keep the cake tender and moist, while mini chocolate chips give you little bursts of chocolate with every bite. The colorful fruit on top not only adds great flavor, but it turns this cake into a showstopper that has guests "oohing" and "ahhing" in delight!

If you're going to a potluck party this year, I have some tips for being a good guest:

• Keep it safe: It's tricky to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold, so make sure the food you're bringing will be safe at room temperature. For example, on a hot summer day, vinegar-based salad dressings are a better choice than mayonnaise-based ones.
• Keep it simple: Bring dishes that are ready to serve. Asking to pop something into the host's oven for "just a few minutes" is inconvenient for the host and the guests waiting to eat.
• Keep it practical: Label your dish so that guests know what they're getting. It's also a big help if you bring your own serving utensils - the host won't be forced to hunt for something and the line won't get held up waiting.
• Keep it yours: If you need to take your serving dish home, be sure to label it. A bit of masking tape with your name on it can be discreetly placed on the dish so it doesn't get mixed up with someone else's.
For more Independence Day recipe ideas to help you celebrate, visit www.verybestbaking.com.

Independence Cake
Makes 20 servings

1 cup water
1 cup instant mashed potato flakes
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
4 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
2 cups (12-ounce package) NestlÈ Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Mini Morsels
1 container (8 ounces) frozen lite whipped topping, thawed
2 cups sliced strawberries
1/2 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 13 x 9-inch baking pan; line with wax paper.
Heat water to boiling in small saucepan; remove from heat. Stir in potato flakes until moistened. Cool to room temperature. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium bowl.
Beat sugar and butter until crumbly. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; beat in potatoes. Gradually beat in flour mixture alternately with milk. Stir in morsels. Spoon into prepared baking pan.
Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 15 minutes. Invert onto wire rack; remove wax paper. Cool completely. Transfer to serving platter.
Frost sides and top of cake with whipped topping. Just prior to serving, arrange strawberry slices and blueberries on top of cake to represent the American flag.

Nutrition Information per serving: 390 calories; 150 calories from fat; 17g total fat; 11g saturated fat; 0g trans fat; 65mg cholesterol; 250mg sodium; 59g carbohydrate; 2g fiber; 38g sugars; 4g protein; 8% DV vitamin A; 20% DV vitamin C; 6% DV calcium; 6% DV iron

Jenny Harper is Consumer Test Kitchen Project Manager for the NestlÈ Test Kitchens and VeryBestBaking.com.

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