Champagne, White Chocolate & Strawberry Cake

Can I start by saying how much I love my mum? A mother of five, qualified architect, marathon runner, domestic goddess, party animal and all round wonder woman – there’s plenty to admire here, but I think you could sum it all up in her life motto – “Champagne fixes everything.” How could you possibly disagree?

I don’t mean to imply that this cake is in some way defective without the addition of some cheeky bubbles – but the champagne gives it that extra oomph and sparkle. This cake was made to celebrate the birthday of one of my mum’s closest friends; and how better to celebrate than with champagne, strawberries, cream & white chocolate?  Full recipe and instructions after the jump.

Strawberry Puree

  • 3 punnets fresh strawberries, halved & hulled
  • 420ml champagne or sparkling wine

In a small, non-reactive bowl (glass or plastic), combine the strawberries and the sugar and toss to combine. Pour in the champagne, covering the strawberries (this is why you should use a small bowl – you won’t waste as much champagne this way!). Cover with gladwrap and leave in the fridge overnight.

In a colander/sieve, drain the strawberries but reserve the champagne. In a blender or food processor (or even with a stick mixer), puree the strawberries together with 2 tbsp of the reserved champagne.  Strain the puree through a fine sieve to remove the seeds.

Strawberry Truffles

  • 1/3 batch strawberry champagne puree
  • 1/2 tbsp cream
  • 1/2 tsp light corn syrup
  • 1 drop pink/red food colouring (optional depending on how pink your strawberries are)
  • 35000g good quality white chocolate, chopped
  • Icing sugar for dusting
  • Edible gold glitter or non-toxic luster dust

Place 200g of the white chocolate in a heat-proof bowl and microwave in 20 second bursts until smooth and melted.

In a small saucepan, combine strawberry puree, corn syrup and cream in a saucepan. Over medium heat and stirring constantly, bring to a boil. Pour this mixture over the melted chocolate and whisk to combine. Stir in food colouring if needed. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, until mixture is firm enough to scoop and roll.

Dust your hands with icing sugar and roll the mixture into small bowls, reapplying icing sugar if it starts to stick. Place balls on a plate or tray lined with baking paper once rolled.

Melt the remaining chocolate in the microwave in 20 second bursts until smooth. Dip the balls, one at a time, into the white chocolate and roll until covered. Leave to set at room temperature to prevent your chocolate from ‘sweating’.

Brush the tops of the truffles with your glitter or luster dust. You should get about 15 balls from this recipe.

Pink Lady Cake (adapted measures and quantities from this smitten kitchen recipe)

  • 400g plain flour
  • 50g cornflour
  • 540g sugar
  • 4 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 275g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 batch of strawberry champagne puree
  • 6 large egg whites
  • 125ml milk
  • 1 to 2 drops pink food dye

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees celcius. Grease & line three 8-inch cake pans.

Put all dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Add the butter and strawberry puree. Beat with mixer until fluffy (it will look a little like icecream at this point).

In a separate bowl, whisk milk, food dye, and eggwhites to combine. Fold the eggwhite mixture into the batter a third at a time, being careful not to over-mix.

Divide the batter among the pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Cool cakes in tins for 10 minutes, then turn onto wire racks and cool completely.  If not assembling the cake on the same day, wrap well in gladwrap and store in the freezer.

Champagne buttercream

  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 315g butter, cubed & room temperature
  • 2/3 cup champagne
  • 1-2 drops pink food colouring

In a clean, dry, large mixing bowl (I used the bowl of a stand mixer to save on washing-up), whisk to combine the eggwhites and the sugar. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (but don’t let the bottom of the mixing bowl touch the water) and whisk constantly until the mixture reaches 60 degrees celcius, or until the sugar has totally dissolved. You’ll be able to tell if it has dissolved by testing the mixture between thumb and finger – if you can still feel sugar grains, keep going.

Transfer the bowl back to your mixer and with the whisk attachment, whip on low and then medium speed until the meringue is thick and glossy, and the bowl is no longer warm to the touch.

Switch from your whisk attachment to the paddle attachment and mix on slow speed. Add your butter one cube at a time and continue mixing until smooth and combined. Towards the end of this process, the mixture may look hideously soupy and curdled, but this just means it is all coming together as it should. Keep mixing! It may take longer than you expect, but it will come together. Once it’s totally smooth, add your champagne and keep mixing until combined. When you initially add the champagne, it will look as you have added too much and you may fear that it will never come back together – but never fear! This is a sturdy buttercream and if you just keep mixing it will coalesce beautifully. Don’t add any food colouring at this point – wait until you are assembling the cake.  If you aren’t using it straightaway, put it in an airtight container and keep in the fridge for 3-5 days, or in the freezer for up to three months.

White chocolate ganache

  • 100g white chocolate, chopped
  • 75ml cream (plus a little extra, just in case)

Heat cream and chocolate together in a small saucepan over very low heat, whisking until smooth and glossy. Don’t overwhisk or it will split.  If the ganache appears to split, add a little more cream and whisk carefully to bring it back together. Pour ganache into a jug and allow to cool very slightly – it should still be a pouring consistency. You may wish to wait to prepare the ganache until you are ready to pour it.

Assembly:

If necessary, use a long serrated knife to level your cake layers. Place a tablespoon of buttercream on your cake board/serving plate. Place one cake layer, crumb side down (bottom side up) on the board/plate and tuck strips of baking paper around to protect the board.

Cover cake layer with a layer of buttercream, then add another cake layer and repeat. When all layers are stacked, cover the top and sides with a thin layer of buttercream to seal in crumbs, then refrigerate or freeze for half an hour/fifteen minutes until firm.

Meanwhile, put a few tablespoons of remaining buttercream in a teacup and mix it with a very small amount of pink food colouring, then mix the pink frosting with the remaining larger batch of frosting until you have a pretty pastel pink. If you need to add more colour, do it by tinting a separate amount then mixing in to the rest of the batch- this way if you accidentally add too much colour, you haven’t ruined the whole batch.

Frost the top and sides of the cake with the pink buttercream. Pipe a decorative border around the bottom edge of the cake with an open star tip. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Pour your white chocolate ganache over the top of the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides. Don’t use anything to smooth it out – if you want to create a drip, pour a little ganache close to the edge, very slowly and carefully.

While the ganache is still soft, arrange truffles around the top outer edge of the cake.  If not eating immediately, store in a cardboard cake box in the refrigerator, but allow to come to room temperature before serving. Enjoy!

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