Tuesday, October 16, 2012

An introduction

Meet Pink Champagne Cake. She looks pretty good, non? Well, it was supposed to be easy to get her there. Easy white cake, easy American-style powdered sugar frosting. Frosting. Not buttercream, but frosting. I know. It was a big day.

This cake is all Pinterest's fault. I would never in my life come up with the need for a pink cake, but I saw the photo, I pinned it, and so it has camped out in the back of my mind for months.

What is the appeal of this pink cake--or champagne cake for that matter? For me, there is something that just sighs happy in me at the sight of this. First of all, it is pink. Don't think too much about why this particular cake is pink; there are plenty of good natural dyes on the market, and there are beets too. Don't forget the beet juice. But aside from the glory of color, that champagne flavor actually comes through. Even though I know that the frosting curdled and I had to make two batches before I figured it out, even though I used the bad kind of red food coloring, even though I sweated profusely through most of it, and even though it is a really sweet cake and a really sweet frosting, I kind of liked it. It was so very American. So very sweet-spirited and girly. And then the roses. I made roses! I haven't piped roses for a nearly fifteen years. And taking into account I completely forgot the technique, I did pretty well. They were only a little blobby. 

I was surprised to find my family loved it, unless they lied. Apparently this one made it to the top of the charts in their minds. (Family, if you are listening, this is just a friendly reminder to never ever lie or be nice about the cakes I make. I will take your enthusiasm at face value and tweak my family repertoire accordingly.)

I was most nervous about the cake, because the last two I made were double recipe monstrosities. The carrot cake I dropped a quarter of it on the floor and had to primp it and paste it into tiered silliness. The German chocolate cake, whose icings and fillings were incredible--doing that again--fell to a pathetic height and was the wrong kind of dense.

But in this case, the cake really was easy. There was no whipping or frothing involved and yet it baked up to a delightful height. It was exactly what one might expect from an American cake: moist, springy, and sweet. Not exactly, I'll admit, my usual style or taste, but we can't win every time.

The icing is a whole different story. I was calm and collected until I started adding all the liquid. For those who make these frostings, maybe you already know that usually there is just a tiny bit of liquid to smooth out and lighten up the relationship between the sugar and the butter. That's why its there. You might add, tops, a quarter cup. This recipe called for three times that amount.

But eventually I got it and I frosted with it and my sister collaborated with me to make the perfect darker pink and the perfect green to go with it. Lets just say I never expected pink to be the perfect base to make the perfect green. (Color additions noted in the recipe.) 

Aside from the disaster of a kitchen I created--with all manner of tips here and there and open dye bottles, spatulas, bowls, pastry bags, and cake boards, there was only that little mishap with the lime wedge. As my mother lifted the dome to get a closer look at dessert, she slipped, or stumbled, or was too close to Cedar and the cut limes I had resting on the cake rim (which she did not see) rolled into the side of the cake. When she couldn't get the dome back on she smudged the roses, and when she got it on good she pushed the limes even further into the cake.

Hilarity ensued, as well as much teasing, but I extracted the limes (which were destined for a dark and stormy), smoothed the sides, and shaped the roses back to life. See what a little Champagne does? Do you see how calm I am now?

Pink Champagne Cake

I hesitate to even give this recipe--because I want to usually post all things I personally adore here, but in the name of family and community, I relent. It is a sweet American cake. I trust that if you like this kind of cake you know who you are.  

For the Cake:
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 egg whites
2 cups champagne

Have all ingredients at room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Butter the sides and bottom of two nine-inch cake pans. Flour the sides and line the bottom with parchment.

In a bowl combine the first three ingredients and whisk to combine. In another, large bowl, beat butter and sugar for a few minutes--until it is really light and frothy. Note that it will eventually become light, even if your sugar is a little course, like mine. Add in the vanilla. Add the eggwhites one at a time, mixing well after each.

Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the Champagne. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake 30-40 minutes. Test with a skewer in the center. It should come out clean and the cake should spring back when pressed in the middle. Cool completely.

For the Frosting:
1 1/2 cup unsalted butter
4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup champagne
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
a few drops red food coloring or alternative

Beat the butter in a medium-sized bowl for a minute or two. Gradually add the sugar, beating well after each addition. Measure out the Champagne in a liquid cup measure and add the vanilla to it. Slowly, drop by drop even, add the champagne mixture. Beat well. If at any time the frosting begins to curdle, stop.

~recipe adapted from Booze Cakes: Confections Spiked with Spirits, Wine, and Beer by Krystina Castella and Terry Lee Stone.


  1. do you have a photo of the inside of the cake? :)

    1. Tora, I would love to give a peak at the insides! Unfortunately we are experiencing technical difficulties on the matter. Check back tomorrow. And do know that I'll try to always show the innards from now on; a picture of the texture is what tells me whether the recipe is something I'd like to try.