scp1127 Posted 13 Sep 2011 , 7:31am

To all scratch bakers, I need some help.

I need a gourmet scratch recipe for pink champane cake. I am trying to replicate a cake from The Victorian Cake Company in Phoenix. The client had it as her wedding cake 23 years ago and would like for me to make a similar cake for her birthday at the end of this month.

Here is what I know:

The cake is tinted pink and she believes that some champagne was baked into the cake. The Frosting was Italian meringue buttercream in white.

Here are my questions:

I usually don't bake large quantities of alcohol into my cakes. It seems to me that a reduction would be better than straight.

Would a champagne reduction in the cake, a simple syrup with reduction brushed on the layers, and reduction in the buttercream work?

Is it white cake or yellow? Since I will be tinting, I would rather use yellow, but I have a good white and two good yellows.

Even though I have recipes, a great recipe with the cake and a coordinating European frosting will be much appreciated.

Any suggestions on the brand of pink champagne? I don't mind spending more to get a good one. All of my alcohol is top shelf. I will price the cake based on ingredients, so the price is not an issue.

Does the reduction make sense?

I look forward to your sugestions

Thanks, Susan

165 replies
LisaPeps Posted 13 Sep 2011 , 9:09am

This was a pink champagne recipe sent to me by CC user Dynee several months ago. This uses Strawberry puree in it as well.

Like most of my recipes, this is a composite of several. The champagne brand is inexpensive here around $5.00 a bottle. I hope this all makes sense.
Dynees Pink Champagne Strawberry Cake
Used for "Nancys Flamingo" cake in my photos. I baked 2- 11x15 layers, one batch in each for perfect tort size layers.
2 ¾ C cake flour   1 T baking powder
¼ tsp soda   2 T. Potato starch or corn flour   ½ tsp salt   ¾ C.(1 ½ sticks) butter  
1 1/3 C x-fine sugar   3 Whole eggs or 6 whites ½ C or 4 oz sour cream  one dot Rose gel color 1 ½ tsp. vanilla or almond ½ C Andre Pink Champagne(flat) ½ tsp. strawberry extract   1 C. strawberry puree  
Sift together flour, baking powder, soda, and potato starch into bowl and set aside. Mix together in a separate bowl, the puree, the champagne and the flavorings and set aside; Cream butter and sugar until smooth and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time until well incorporated then add sour cream and gel color. Color will not spread out evenly if mixed with liquids. When color is even, add the flour and the strawberry mixtures in alternating batches beginning and ending with the flour. Working quickly, flour does not have to be mixed completely before going on to next addition. Spread evenly into 1 11x15 pan or 2-8 or 9 inch pans. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Drain 1 Quart frozen strawberries and reserve syrup for simple syrup and puree the berries by pulsing in blender.
Champagne SMBC
3 T.+1tsp. Meringue Powder Scant 2/3 C. pink champagne 1 ½ C. sugar Pinch of salt.  
2 C.(1lb.)[4 sticks] butter room temp. ½ C strawberry puree
Place first 4 ingredients in top of double boiler. Fill bottom pan with ½ inch water and bring to boil and lower to simmer. Place top pan over simmering water and gently whisk until ingredients are hot (about 130-140 degrees) and sugar is dissolved. Pour into mixer bowl with the wire whisk attached and whip on medium until mixture is cooled, about 5 + minutes. Outside of bowl should be cool to touch. Stop mixer, remove whisk and attach paddle. Beating at low speed, add butter in 8 to 10 additions. Increase speed to medium and continue to beat until butter cream is thick and smooth--up to 5 minutes longer; add puree.
Champagne Simple Syrup
1 ½ C. pink champagne   ½ c. sugar
½ to 1 C. reserved strawberry syrup
Place champagne and sugar in 1 quart saucepan and boil until reduced to 1 cup. Add reserved strawberry syrup and bring to a boil. Let cool.
To Assemble: Secure first layer on board with dab of icing. Brush simple syrup on top and sides. Fill with Champagne SMBC and position top layer over that. Brush remainder of simple syrup on top and sides of that. Ice as desired. I used a crusting buttercream. If you wanted the Champagne BC make a double batch.

The champagne flavour came through once it was baked, however as the champagne had bubbles in it, it made the cupcakes have some air holes in them too. I don't know if you are supposed to let the champagne go flat or not before you bake?? (ETA: She says in the recipe to use flat champagne, but in the UK we don't have that so I used sparkling... and now I know why she says to use flat lol)

I think if I were to make champagne cupcakes again I would use a vanilla cake recipe as the base and replace some of the liquid for some champagne (not a lot, just to get the initial flavour in there). I would then do the champagne reduction as you said.

This makes me want to try it now!! The vanilla cake recipe I use is Sylvia Weinstock's. She uses sour cream as the liquid, how do you think the champagne would sub in for that?


imagenthatnj Posted 13 Sep 2011 , 9:58pm

Hi Susan, I looked for a while for this thread in my archives. I just found it. I've had champagne cake, and I haven't made this one, but I think it might be easier to tweak this one to your style and to what your customer wants.;file=viewtopic&t=382023&postdays=0&postorder=asc&&start=0

(snarkybaker hasn't been around here for a while, unless she changed her profile name.)

cakestyles Posted 14 Sep 2011 , 12:27am

If my memory serves me, snarkybaker is the owner of Sugarland Bakery in Chapel Hill, NC. She has a very good reputation so I'm sure her recipe is a good one.

Having said that, Susan I personally haven't tasted a pink champagne cake that I'm in love with, have you?

I've tried a few recipes and maybe it's not the recipes...maybe I just don't like the taste. To me they all had a sour undertone that I couldn't get past. I think using a champagne reduction may eliminate that sourness, that's a great idea.

After seeing the recipe submitted by Snarkybaker, I may have to give champagne cake another chance.

scp1127 Posted 14 Sep 2011 , 4:12am

Thanks Lisa, Imagen, and cakestyles.

If you have seen my site, I offer more than 5 bakeries combined, but somehow I keep getting requests for something I don't make. I recently had to decline an order for a black walnut cake because Ihate those things and I didn't want to test it. But I do love getting special requests. And no, I have never had this cake.

I bake probably 25% of my cakes, pies, and cupcakes with alcohol, but pink champagne is not one I can see just pouring it in instead of the liquid. I looked at my white cake and it has 1 c milk. The recipe would suffer without it.

The mimosa cake sounds like something I would bake and offer, but I am worried about replicating this cake for the lady. My plan is to make one that most likely will include strawberries. but for this one cake, I have to try to reproduce a cake from across the country. I have the dilemma of replicating the cake, but I want the people who end up eating it to enjoy it.

I think I will try Lisa's and the Mimosa. Because I have never tasted it, I am letting my customer be my cake tester. I may get lucky and she will like one of these better. I will also try my white cake and go with my gut feeling on the recipe.

I'm not one who puts alcohol in cake for the novelty, and cakestyles, I think this is what it sounds like. I judge the outcome in flavor by the smell when you open the bottle and champagne seems too one-dimensional in flavor.

I'll make that reduction and add some sugar if it needs it.

I'll get this right, I'm sure and I will send you all the tweaked recipe as a thank you.

Any suggestions on the champagne? I'm thinking about $10 to $15 in cost. If I reduce the whole bottle, I guess I can freeze it to store it.

cakestyles Posted 14 Sep 2011 , 12:12pm

I wish I could offer your a suggestion for the champagne, but I'm one of those who takes the smallest sip on New Years Eve at midnight...I just don't care for it.

Whenever I cook or bake with liquor, I use something that is enjoyable to if it doesn't taste good I won't use it.

Good luck!

scp1127 Posted 14 Sep 2011 , 12:37pm

That's my problem, cakestyles, I'm like you. I never drink. It gives me a headache, especially wine. But I love what alcohol brings to cooking and baking.

There is a wine store in Annapolis where my husband goes every weekend. He goes in there and hands the phone over to the salesperson so that I can describe what I want. If I can't find a CC member with a good suggestion, I'll do that.

Debcent Posted 14 Sep 2011 , 1:04pm

May I ask What is Champagne reduction?? Never heard of it

scp1127 Posted 14 Sep 2011 , 1:42pm

A reduction of anything is cooking it on the stove on low until the actual amount is reduced through evaporation. It concentrates the flavor in a smaller amount of liquid.

In the case of spirits, wines and liqueurs, the alcohol will evaporate at a more rapid speed than the rest of the contents. The result is that much of the bitterness of the alcohol has disappeared and the taste left is usually a little more mellow and concentrated.

In the case of frosting, adding the amount of pink champagne needed to taste it would probably be 1/2 c or more, and still the taste would be mild because the wine is mild. It adds too much liquid to your frosting, making it less stable and harder to work with. By using the reduction, you add half or even less liquid to the frosting, and the flavor is more concentrated for a fuller flavor than you could have gotten from the wine straight out of the bottle. If you need to add a tiny amount of sugar, the sugar will dissolve when heated.

In my carrot cake cream cheese frosting, I sometimes add 100% natural frozen orange juice concentrate. Cream cheese frosting is already softer than other frostings and adding concentrate allows me to use the least amount of liquid. By the way, you can reduce the orange juice yourself by cooking it on the stove.

You can reduce your ingredient to just about any amount. Many will reduce to a syrup if you want it that concentrated. Just don't burn it and don't forget about it because you will come back to a pan with nothing in it.

JohnnyCakes1966 Posted 14 Sep 2011 , 2:18pm

I looked at the website for Victorian Cake Co. The owner said he/she actually replicated the cake from one they remember growing up. It took 2 years to perfect it.

Just an idea...Since you don't live near them and aren't competing for the business, why not contact them and ask if they would share the recipe or give you any help on replicating it? Let them know the story about your client having had the cake at their wedding and wanting it again for their birthday. Since it's their signature cake, they might tell you to jump in a lake icon_lol.gif but they just might share the recipe with you. It can't hurt to ask.

By the way, their website says the cake is filled with strawberry cream cheese, so that's something to keep in mind.

Oh...for the champagne, I would ask at your liquor store for something sweet....demi-sec or doux (8-10% sugar). The bruts, with 0% to 1.5% sugar, won't be sweet enough. Even sec/dry might not be sweet enough. Doux is the sweetest. Although...sec might be a good choice if you want to add sugar to achieve your desired sweetness. Anyway, a sweet champagne should take care of the sour problem cakestyles mentioned. And leave the champagne out overnight so that it goes flat. Otherwise, the carbonation will probably destroy the texture of your cake. thumbsdown.gif

Good luck to you!!

cakestyles Posted 14 Sep 2011 , 7:27pm

Johnnycakes, your description of the different champagnes is very helpful. I believe I used a brut champagne the few times I was experimenting which explains the sour undertone.

Thank you!

scp1127 Posted 14 Sep 2011 , 11:28pm

Johnny cakes, I did contact Victorian Cake Co. and only asked the basics. Was it a champagne cake and frosting? Did they use a syrup? I explained that I if I had been in the area, I would have bought the cake and figured these out on my own. I didn't ask any question except what anyone would be able to figure out. She sent me a nice email stating that even her employees don't know the answers. I was fine with that but it would have been nice to just get the description that anyone planning to purchase the cake would have gotten.

My client didn't remember strawberries, but she did have this cake 23 years ago. Either she forgot or the recipe changed. I think it is probably a subtle accent flavor that blends.

Thanks so much for the wine description. Now that you have explained, I think I can go to my local store. I don't really want to add sugar to the reduction, so I think your suggestion will work. My cakes are not overly sweet, so it can handle the sweet champagne. On Lisa's recipe, maybe she can help out there. It's nice to know it needs to go flat because I want to keep any leftovers.

I'm looking forward to conquering this cake. And because Victorian Cake Co. gave me no guideance, I'm determined to make a champagne cake that will be liked by the mainstream. I feel challenged. The last time I had to develop a recipe that I had never tasted, I ended up with a very good vegan cake that surprised even the vegan guests and was preferred by the non-vegans. It's now on my menu.

I am overwhelmed with orders this week and next week I have volunteered to make hundreds of cookies for my daughter's school carnival. Somewhere between that, I'll begin. I'll keep everyone updated on the recipe development. I think I will do Lisa's and imagen's first and then I'll have something to compare.

instant-gratificaketion Posted 14 Sep 2011 , 11:49pm

I just saw this thread but I am super interested to see how this turns out! A friend asked me about pink champagne cake about 2 years ago, she wanted a recipe she saw online but I think it used box mix so I didn't make I remember it called for champagne in the batter and the frosting.

I have been interested to try a pink champagne recipe but I don't even like champagne and have read not so good reviews on here about them in general so I haven't gone for it...

The reduction is a super idea! Let us know how it comes out, Susan! Good luck! I'm sure you'll conquer it!

cakestyles Posted 15 Sep 2011 , 12:00am

I have some free time this weekend.

I think I'll make Snarky's cake recipe using champagne. I'll let you know how it turns out.

JohnnyCakes1966 Posted 15 Sep 2011 , 12:13am

I'm glad I could help with the champagne descriptions.

I thought you might have contacted seem to be very thorough thumbs_up.gif ...but I wanted to suggest it, just in case. It's too bad they wouldn't help you at all, but I do understand being protective of a "signature" recipe.

I admire you for taking on this challenge! I'm the same way.....I refuse to let a cake beat me! icon_lol.gif It's a bit tougher when you've never tasted the original cake and are just going off a description, but I'm sure your customer will be happy as long as you produce a great tasting champagne cake.

Happy testing!

tigachu Posted 15 Sep 2011 , 12:23am

I saw in the recipe that snarkybaker used Moscato Di Asti. That is a sweet wine and one of the only wines that I will drink. I have also tasted and love how sweet Verdi is but I am not sure if it is classified as a wine or champagne. Verdi costs about $6. I haven't tried many expensive champagnes as I don't drink them at home and wouldn't know where to begin with buying it.

I hope my ramblings above offered a bit of helpful info for you in your search. I would like to test the two recipes, too. I will post my results if I get a chance to make it.

scp1127, I know you will create an awesome cake that will exceed your client's expectations!

scp1127 Posted 15 Sep 2011 , 12:35am

So is Moscato a pink champagne? Or just champagne? I plan on trying some variations anyway if I do this much research.

I feel like Tom Sawyer telling everyone how much fun it is to paint a fence. You all bake those cakes and let me know how it turns out! Kidding.

If this is such a controversial cake because of flavor, this will be fun to finally get a good one.

cakestyles Posted 15 Sep 2011 , 12:39am

I remember tasting a Moscato wine when we toured some of the vineyards in Napa and I would describe it as a white sparkling dessert wine. It was really very sweet for my palette.

JohnnyCakes1966 Posted 15 Sep 2011 , 12:58am

Technically, true Champagne can only come from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France. Most of the "champagnes" found in grocery stores in the US are really sparkling wines.

Moscato isn't champagne, but a sparking white wine as it is mostly produced in the Asti region. It's sweet and pretty low in alcohol and is considered a dessert wine.

JohnnyCakes1966 Posted 15 Sep 2011 , 1:07am

scp - I wouldn't be too concerned about the champagne being "pink," especially for baking. That just means that the red grape skins were left in the liquid longer, imparting a pink color. "Pink Champagne" doesn't have a particular flavor....the flavors of pink champagnes can vary as much as non-pink champagnes. I would be more focused on finding a good tasting, sweet champagne....add a little pink coloring to the batter and you're done. thumbs_up.gif

scp1127 Posted 15 Sep 2011 , 1:34am

Johnnycakes, thanks for the info. The client said that she was sure that the cake was lightly tinted and the frosting was white. OK, so ask for what you said... I'll take a copy of your post with me. Are you sure you don't know a few brands? Help! This champagne or sparkling wine is probably going to be the key to a good part of the success. I think the liquor store is going to think I'm nuts as usual. I don't think we have any wine specialty stores in our area. This may be a job for the Annapolis store. Their staff is very knowledgeable.

I hope nobody ever asks me for a vodka cake.

cakestyles Posted 15 Sep 2011 , 1:50am

I remember tasting Moscato wine at Robert Mondavi's vineyard.

I found an interesting read about Moscato wines and his is listed as one of the best.

JohnnyCakes1966 Posted 15 Sep 2011 , 2:07am

Actually, I could probably help you more with vodka! icon_lol.gificon_eek.gif

You really could use a Moscato or any sparkling dessert wine...just keep in mind that they are usually very sweet. Personally, I wouldn't go for something expensive because I don't think you'll taste the quality once it's been baked. There are some very decent, inexpensive sparkling wines.

Martini & Rossi Asti Spumante is inexpensive and sweet. Really, any Asti is going to be sweet.

Mondoro Asti Spumanti is slightly more expensive than M&R, but I think it tastes better.

Banfi Rosa Regale is a darker pink/rose wine, sweet, not quite as carbonated as some other sparklings.....but you're going to let it go flat, so that really doesn't matter.....and very inexpensive.


FromScratchSF Posted 15 Sep 2011 , 2:23am

Hello! Ironically, I just got a new book, Booze Cakes? Very informative as far as how much booze remains after baking and when doing reductions and such, and has lots of great ideas for working in booze. Anyway they have a pink champagne cake recipe, it says traditionally a pink champagne cake is a white cake soaked in rum with a Bavarian or cream filling and pink buttercream. It's changed over the years to be made with champagne, and looking at this recipe it's a basic all-egg white cake with no milk, it has champagne instead and a few drops of red food coloring. The buttercream is a basic crusting with champagne in it. But really, all champagne or sparkling wine is wine with bubbles in it, so save yourself some guesswork and go with a sweet port or ice wine.

Personally I am super interested in the rum version icon_biggrin.gif

tigachu Posted 15 Sep 2011 , 2:37am

To only make things more complicated, I found some other pink champagne recipes! Please don't hate me for this icon_redface.gif Here goes:

I will obsess over this until I figure out which recipes to try. We will conquer this!!

tigachu Posted 15 Sep 2011 , 2:41am
Originally Posted by scp1127

Johnnycakes, thanks for the info. The client said that she was sure that the cake was lightly tinted and the frosting was white. OK, so ask for what you said... I'll take a copy of your post with me. Are you sure you don't know a few brands? Help! This champagne or sparkling wine is probably going to be the key to a good part of the success. I think the liquor store is going to think I'm nuts as usual. I don't think we have any wine specialty stores in our area. This may be a job for the Annapolis store. Their staff is very knowledgeable.

I hope nobody ever asks me for a vodka cake.

If you have a Wegman's close by, I know the store by my house has wine experts on staff.

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