I get to celebrate two historical milestones every 4th of July. One is the birth of our great nation (‘MURICA!!!). The second is the birth of my father (CAN I BORROW THE CAR???). Yup — July 4th is also my dad’s birthday. Sometimes, not often anymore, we’re even on the same side of the country on his birthday. This 4th of July happened to be one of those times. The 4th hit during my dad’s recent visit to DC and I wanted to celebrate it somehow. Except, I had to consider a couple of my dad’s personality quirks. 1) My dad isn’t the celebratory type, and 2) my dad is suuuuuuuper into his health (dare I say obsessed?) and refuses to eat anything unhealthy (double IPAs excluded). I decided to make him a healthy cake–but how? Vegan cakes are still loaded with sugar, while low-sugar oatmeal and nut cakes require a ton of ingredients that I have no interest in purchasing or using again. He’ll eat fruit though, and he eats a ton of berries. So, a fruit and berry cake? I felt pretty original when I thought, “I’m going to make something that looks like a cake, but is really just fruit and berries,” and then googled it. I’m not original. It’s already been done. But, I saw opportunities to tweak it and make it my own. This is the story of my watermelon “cake”.
Here’s what I used to put this bad boy together:
- A watermelon
- Edible herbs and greens from my garden for garnish (think mint and rosemary, they need to be edible since they’ll touch food)
- An assortment of berries (I chose strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries. This was overkill. I have no self control.)
- A long knife
(I apologize in advance for the subpar photos. I had to secretly construct this cake at night while my dad was out on his walk.)
With a knife, I chopped off the two ends of the watermelon leaving a rather thick middle disk in tact. That disk is what I turned into the watermelon cake. I made sure the disk was pretty thick–at least 7 inches–because I knew I would shave it down. I carefully chopped off the skin of the watermelon to make a cake shape, and shaved down the top and bottom of the cake to level it. I had to flip the cake again and again until I was able to achieve balance. Once I got it in the shape I wanted, and it wasn’t teetering around (meaning it was finally balanced), I placed it on top of a large green edible leaf from my garden.
I attached some herbs to the watermelon using toothpicks so they’d stay in place. On top of the herbs, I placed strawberries with toothpicks. I figured the strawberries were big and sturdy enough to serve as a bowl for the smaller berries. This is around the point where I realized how fast I had to work. The watermelon was starting to sweat and it wasn’t going to last very long outside of the fridge. I began to move quickly.
From there, I added more and more berries on top of and around the strawberries. Some, I attached with toothpicks so they wouldn’t move around. Others I tucked snuggly between other secure berries. I really didn’t want to have to shove 100 toothpicks into this thing.
After I loaded the top of the cake with berries, I went ahead and added a bunch around the bottom of the cake. That helped to cover any weird uneven edges left behind when I was sizing the watermelon disk. I happened to have a melon baller handy (on Amazon here) so I also created some watermelon balls from the two ends and added those to the mix.
We all sang “Happy Birthday” to my dad and watched him blow out his candles. He had one very painfully small slice of this cake. Later, he asked where I bought it.
With all of the red and blue fruit, this cake was a big hit at the 4th of July party! It’s definitely something I’d make again. It’s healthy, tasty, and pretty. I could see adding some whipped cream in places around it as well.
But wait! What about all of that extra watermelon?! Don’t worry — it did not go to waste. I decided to recreate a drink I once had and loved at Pen & Quill in Baltimore (I don’t think it’s on the menu anymore, boo). From what I could remember, the drink included watermelon ice cubes, crushed watermelon in watermelon juice, and some sort of liquor. I muddled the leftover watermelon in containers and then poured half of it into ice trays to make watermelon ice. Once the ice formed, I made my cocktail. Watermelon ice + a good vodka + muddled watermelon with the watermelon’s natural juice + seltzer water + mint for garnish. I’ve found it to be the perfect summer drink — easy to make, impressive, and refreshing! Bonus points: no added sugar required!