Flag Berry Tarts

Cover recipe - Martha Stewart Living, French Flag Tart: July 2002

Cover recipe – Martha Stewart Living, Flag Berry Tarts: July 2002

Today is Independence Day and what better way to celebrate than with the cover recipe from the July 2002 issue of Martha Stewart Living? These Flag Berry Tarts are a festive, beautiful take on other red, white and blue desserts.  The alternating rows of fresh berries are just lovely and paired with the creamy filling is perfect for a hot, summer day.  It’s also perfect for serving a crowd.

The sweet, creamy filling recipe is naturally gluten-free.  It’s made with a combination of lightly whipped creme fraiche and cream cheese.  The crust is a traditional pate sucree which I modified slightly to make gluten-free.  The slight amendments to the recipe did not affect the flavor or quality of the recipe even a little bit. There are a few time consuming steps, but overall this is very easy to make and involve the kids in. I have some tips I found helpful as I was assembling it. Read below to see what I thought of the recipe.

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Flag Berry Tarts

Yield: Two tarts, 16 or more servings

Prep Time: 2 hour 30 min

Cook Time: 30 min

Total Time: 3 hour


For Flag Berry Tarts:

All-purpose flour, for working (I used gluten-free all-purpose flour)
Pate Sucree (recipe follows)
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
Creme Fraiche Filling (recipe follows)
2 tablespoons apricot jam, for glazing
1/4 cup raspberry jam, for glazing
1 cup fresh blueberries (about 1/2 pint)
5 cups fresh red raspberries (about 2 1/2 pints)
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

For Flag Berry Pate Sucree:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface (I used gluten-free all-purpose flour)
3 Tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup cold water

For Creme Fraiche Filling:
2 8 ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
8 ounces creme fraiche
1 cup confectioners' sugar


For Flag Berry Tarts:
1. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out 1 piece of dough to 1/8 inch thick. Gently press into a 4-by-14-inch fluted, rectangular tart pan with a removable bottom. Trim dough flush with top edge of pan. Prick bottom of dough all over with a fork. Refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour. Repeat with remaining dough.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line each chilled tart shell with parchment paper, and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until just starting to color, about 20 minutes. Remove parchment and weights. Return to oven, and bake until bottom of tart is golden, about 5 minutes. Cover edges with foil to prevent burning, and bake until crisp and dark golden brown, about 12 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely. Carefully remove tart shells from pans.

3. Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring until smooth. Using the back of a spoon, spread half of the melted chocolate onto bottom of each tart shell, and refrigerate until chocolate is set, about 10 minutes.

4. Using the back of a spoon, spread half of the creme fraiche filling over each chocolate layer; set aside.

5. Heat each jam in a separate small saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until liquefied and smooth. Strain each through a fine sieve into a small bowl. Let cool slightly. Toss blueberries with the apricot jam to coat; set raspberry jam aside.

6. Make the first tart: Arrange 3 rows of raspberries 2/3 the length of the tart shell, leaving space between each row (you should have 4 empty rows). Dust raspberries and edges of tart shell with confectioners' sugar until coated white. Fill empty third with 2 layers of glazed blueberries, arranging them snugly in rows to cover the filling completely. Fill empty rows with raspberries, and carefully brush these raspberries with reserved raspberry jam.

7. Make the second tart: Repeat process with raspberries only, alternating 3 full-length rows of sugar-dusted berries with 3 full-length rows of glazed berries.

8. Arrange tarts on a serving tray or board, and serve immediately.

For Flag Berry Pate Sucree:
1. Place flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor fitted with the metal blade; pulse to combine. Add butter; process until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds.

2. In a small bowl, lightly beat yolks with the water. With machine running, add yolk mixture; process just until dough holds together, no more than 20 seconds. Divide dough in half, pat into flat disks, and wrap in plastic. Chill until ready to use, at least 2 hours.

For creme fraiche filling:
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese wand vanilla until soft. In a separate bowl, whisk creme fraiche until soft peaks form.

2. Whisk a third of the creme fraiche into the cream cheese mixture. Fol din remaining creme fraiche while gradually sifting confectioners' sugar over top; fold just until combined. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate until ready to use, up to 2 hours.


* I used two 8-by-11-inch rectangular tart pans with removable bottoms instead of the 4-by-14-inch tart pans. It worked great. One recipe of the pate sucree was enough for both tart pans.

*I bought two packages of red raspberries from Costco and it was the perfect amount for this recipe.

*Creme fraiche can be found at specialty stores, gourmet markets and some well-stocked grocery stores. I found mine at Trader Joe's. Whole Foods is another place that will definitely carry it.

*It's a bit tricky to get the rows just right. I mapped it out on paper and counted raspberries so it looked just like the cover image. But I still didn't get it exactly right. Close enough!

*Make sure to dry the raspberries really well after washing them. I didn't let mine dry as well as I should have and it took a lot of powdered sugar to get the white rows because the remaining water on the raspberries kept absorbing the powdered sugar.

*Make the white rows first, dust them with powdered sugar and then add the remaining blue and red rows. I had to work very carefully so I didn't bump into the white rows and remove the powdered sugar. It's a bit finicky, but looks great when it's all done!

*I didn't end up using the jam to glaze the berries and it was fine. I do think it produces a striking effect, but I decided to forgo that step.

*Chill the tart really well before cutting into it for neater slices.

*Leftover tart keeps well for up to about 2 days. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.

*This is the gluten-free all-purpose flour I used: 1 1/2 cups fine brown rice flour, 1/2 cup sorghum flour, 1/2 cup potato starch . You can also use 1/2 cup almond flour for some of the brown rice flour for a little more texture.

*Instead of rolling the tart dough, I pressed it into the tart pans and chilled it well before baking.

Recipe Source: Martha Stewart Living; July 2002

The results

Everyone in our family loved this tart. Even with the gluten-free crust. :) The filling is very decadent–a little too rich for everyday, but perfect for a special occasion. I was able to find real creme fraiche for this and I think that made the difference. The blueberry with the creamy filling was particularly delicious.

This recipe is a bit time consuming because of the different components and their chilling and baking times. But it’s well worth the effort. I was actually surprised how much time it took to make the rows of raspberries and get it just right. And even then I didn’t do it as perfectly as the cover of the magazine! In any case, it was worth the time and effort. The tarts were really stunning and our neighbors really enjoyed the one we took to them too.

Did this post deserve the cover spotlight?

Of course! It’s the perfect dessert to celebrate the 4th of July. I think we might make this a tradition for the 4th of July from now on.

Lori is the founder of RecipeGirl.com. She's a professional recipe developer and food writer, and she's the author of The Recipe Girl Cookbook (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: April 2013). Beyond food, Lori enjoys traveling, being outdoors, running, and maybe even singing a little karaoke. The mountains near Lake Tahoe are home for Lori and her husband of 18 years. They have an 12 year-old son who blogs at RecipeBoy.com.

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27 Responses to “Simple Layer Cake with Vanilla Frosting”

  1. 1

    Averie @ Averie Cooks — May 20, 2013 @ 5:10 am

    Thanks for the review! It puzzles me too about the cake mix when cakes like this are practically as easy!

    I just got a cookbook about cooking with edible flowers. I have been loving reading/learning about a whole new world to me. Who knew you could bake with dandelions. I sure didn’t!

  2. 2

    Kelster — May 20, 2013 @ 7:31 am

    Your perfect wedding cake cupcakes are made with cake mix so they aren’t all soooo bad. But anyway, I bake from scratch a lot but I can understand why some will reach for a cake mix. A lot of my friends don’t bake often and so they don’t keep certain ingredients on hand. They have no use for baking powder so they don’t buy it. It’s easier to just grab a box of cake mix whenever they feel the need to bake a cake instead of getting a can of baking powder just for 2 teaspoons and not being able to use it all before it’s no longer active. I have other friends who rarely have flour on hand. It seems like it would be a staple but for some it’s not.

    • Lori Lange replied: — May 20th, 2013 @ 7:53 am

      That is such a good point… it’s so commonplace for me to have all baking ingredients at hand, but totally understandable for those who don’t bake! And you’re right- those Wedding Cupcakes are pretty darn good for a boxed mix.

  3. 3

    Laurie @ A Wiener Dog in the Kitchen — May 20, 2013 @ 12:34 pm

    I totally agree, Lori. It’s just as easy to make it from scratch and only usually takes a couple of extra steps, but the results are so much better. Your cake is gorgeous and not having had lunch yet, is making me totally hungry… I could put away a slice right now.

  4. 4

    sara — May 20, 2013 @ 3:00 pm

    This cake looks so amazing! Love the edible dandelions…I haven’t seen those before but they’re really pretty! :)

  5. 5

    Stacy | Wicked Good Kitchen — May 20, 2013 @ 3:05 pm

    What a great basic cake to feature here at Culinary Covers! Interesting about the frosting. Warm kitchens can sometimes be the culprit with butter that is a bit soft. Your tip of starting with just 3 tablespoons of liquid (milk) is spot on for the home baker. Thanks for sharing, Lori!

  6. 6

    Kim L. — May 20, 2013 @ 3:33 pm

    I am having friends over for dinner on Thursday and wast trying to come up with a desert. Problem solved!

    Oh, and about the box mixes… Growing up my mom made everything from scratch except for cakes. She always used a box. When I got married and was on my own, I used box cakes for a long time too because I assumed that they were really hard to make. Glad I learned the truth!

    • Lori Lange replied: — May 20th, 2013 @ 3:45 pm

      My Mom always made spice cake from a box. I loved it then and I still love boxed spice cake now too :)

  7. 7

    Jill P. (@MamaGing.com) — May 20, 2013 @ 5:52 pm

    This sounds perfect! I’ve been in search for a good, simple (not just using egg whites) vanilla cake recipe. I can not handle boxed mixes – they have such a chemical, mass produced taste to them, as well as canned frosting. When I see a delicious recipe on Pinterest and and soon as I see that first ingredient says a boxed mix, I immediately back out. My mother made most everything from scratch and I try to too. My new years resolution is no canned cream of whatever soups… make my own! Thanks for sharing this one, this I WILL pin! ;)

  8. 8

    Anna @ Crunchy Creamy Sweet — May 20, 2013 @ 7:23 pm

    The cake came out gorgeous, Lori! I love your thoughts on the cake. Definitely will be trying it! And edible dandelions? Who knew? Pinning!

  9. 9

    Katrina — May 20, 2013 @ 8:14 pm

    Beautiful! And I agree–why do people used boxed cake mixes. sigh

  10. 10

    Faith — May 21, 2013 @ 7:34 am

    This cake is such a beauty – I love Martha Stewart Living for the same reasons you mentioned above. I’m glad this cake was a winner flavor-wise too!

  11. 11

    Deborah Harroun — May 21, 2013 @ 8:31 am

    This is so pretty! I’m on the search for the perfect yellow cake so I definitely need to give this one a try!

  12. 12

    Tieghan — May 21, 2013 @ 7:35 pm

    Sp pretty!! I am not normally a yellow cake person, but this one just looks so good! I need to venture away from chocolate and make it!

  13. 13

    Renee @ Awesome on $20 — May 21, 2013 @ 11:50 pm

    I love a quick simple cake. This one looks beautiful. I’d love to give it a try. I also love decorating cakes with flowers. It just looks so simple and beautiful.

  14. 14

    Donalyn@The Creekside Cook — May 23, 2013 @ 4:49 pm

    I definitely hang out with food bloggers too much – the idea of using a mix always shocks me just a tiny bit. This cake looks wonderful and I love a nice vanilla cake, so I’ll be giving it a try – thanks for the review!

  15. 15

    Clover — May 23, 2013 @ 5:52 pm

    That cake looks perfect. I will definitely be setting aside this recipe for a special occasion. Thanks for the review.

  16. 16

    Donna @ The Slow Roasted Italian — May 24, 2013 @ 10:25 am

    What a lovely cake. I am tucking this one away. I have found such awful recipes for yellow cake and would love to try this one.

  17. 17

    Darla — May 24, 2013 @ 10:55 am

    Just baked this cake this morning! I didn’t want to do layers so I did a 9×13 cake pan. It worked beautifully and the cake had such a smooth level top, my cakes don’t usually come out that nice. It has a very nice light tender crumb to it, reminiscent of a cake mix, but it tastes soooooo much better! Made a half a batch of frosting as well and since I like my frosting with a light touch, we still have enough leftover for a pan of cinnamon rolls! :) Thanks for sharing this recipe, Lori…will definitely make it again!

  18. 18

    Suzanne — May 24, 2013 @ 8:45 pm

    I made this as cupcakes & it was really good!

  19. 19

    chris — May 28, 2013 @ 10:36 am

    Hi Lori, I am looking forward to making this cake, however, it states-“Yield: One 8-inch layer cake; but the
    instructions state-“Butter two 8-inch round cake pans.” Could you let me know which to use?
    I just bought your cookbook and can’t wait to make some of those delicious recipes!!

    • Lori Lange replied: — May 28th, 2013 @ 11:41 am

      Hi Chris- One 8-inch layer cake means that you will butter two 8-inch round cake pans (the layer cake uses two round pans). Does that make sense? I hope you enjoy my cookbook!

  20. 20

    Teana — February 24, 2014 @ 3:59 pm

    im 13 yrs old and did this cake yesterday b/c i want to become a baker i wish i could see Lori so she can help me work on cakes for in the future thanks lori for putting this up !

    • Lori Lange replied: — February 25th, 2014 @ 6:59 pm

      You’re welcome!

  21. 21

    Mary — February 25, 2014 @ 2:05 am

    This is my first cake from scratch and it was a great success. The texture, moistness and density was perfect. It was truly simple to make. The batter tasted great too. It will be our ‘go to’ vanilla cake recipe from now on.

    • Lori Lange replied: — February 25th, 2014 @ 6:59 pm

      Glad to hear it worked out so well for you!

  22. 22

    Mary — February 25, 2014 @ 2:09 am

    One more comment. For the middle I spread a thin layer of strawberry (or raspberry) jam and then put icing on. It gives it a little ‘other’ flavor which complements the vanilla nicely.

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