Happy Valentine’s Day, friends! I’m enjoying the wash of pink and red and hearts and sprinkles in my social media feeds all week. I love them, I really do. I also wanted to think of something slightly different to make, something festive that would depart a bit from the heart theme… I’ve had “champagne cupcakes” on my list of things to make for quite a while– years, maybe? A coworker made some for a holiday party back in December, and that brought the idea back to mind. They were moist and delicious, and I loved the kiss of champagne flavor. I asked her for the recipe… and mine turned out dry and spongy and weird, like a completely different cupcake. I tried to make them for New Year’s Eve, but that did not pan out. And what’s the next best champagne-worthy holiday? I happily suggest this recipe for Pink Champagne Cake & Cupcakes to impress your February sweetheart!
I knew I needed a different recipe than the first one I tried, which was from a random blogger with whom I was not acquainted. I decided to go with a more trusted source and found a promising recipe on SprinkleBakes. I’d originally had cupcakes in mind, but she made a beautiful cake version, which yielded enough batter to also make some cupcakes, so I was sold.
I was so pleased with the results! While none of the components taste particularly champagny on their own, all together the champagne flavor comes through beautifully. The cake is sweet, but not overbearing or boozy. When making the cake part, things seemed a little uncertain at first, because the batter looked somewhat curdled. I reduced the champagne from a full 2 cups to 1¼ cups, and I was glad I did so. Despite a less-than-smooth batter going in the oven, I thought it turned out just right– moist, soft, fluffy, yet sturdy enough for handling/stacking.
Also, my pastry cream turned out a little weird, but ended up being perfectly fine. I think I let it overcook while taking pictures– it really only needs a few minutes to thicken once you add the egg mixture into the pan. If this happens to you and you get bits of scrambled egg in your mixture, just push it through a fine-mesh strainer before adding the butter and food coloring. It will be muy delicioso. 🙂
Pink Champagne Cake & Cupcakes
Adapted from SprinkleBakes
Yields one 8″ triple-layer cake, or one 6″ triple-layer cake + 12 cupcakes, or approximately 4 dozen cupcakes
There is no need to use fancy champagne here– something cheap and sweet works just fine!
Note: The layer cake will require less pastry cream filling than the cupcakes. You can halve the recipe if making a layer cake only. Even with a small cake + cupcakes, I had a good amount left over.
For the pink champagne pastry cream:
- ¼ cup (30g) cornstarch
- 1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream, divided
- 1 cup (240 ml) sweet pink champagne
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (125g) granulated sugar
- 2 whole eggs
- 4 egg yolks
- ¼ cup (56g) unsalted butter
- 1 drop pink gel food color
For the pink champagne cake batter:
- 3 cups (360g) all-purpose flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks/16 tablespoons/8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
- 6 egg whites, at room temperature
- 1¼ cups sweet pink champagne (I used Barefoot Bubbly Pink Moscato Champagne)
For the pink champagne frosting:
- 2 cups unsalted butter (4 sticks/32 tablespoons/16 ounces), at room temperature
- 8 cups (2 pounds) confectioners’ sugar, sifted, plus extra for dusting
- 1-3 drops pink gel food color
- 4-6 tablespoons pink champagne
- White nonpareils, sprinkles, silver dragées, or fondant bubble cutouts (fondant instructions at the bottom)
To make the pink champagne pastry cream:
In a medium bowl (bigger than you think you’ll need), whisk the cornstarch into ½ cup of the heavy cream. Combine the rest of the heavy cream, the sugar, and the champagne in a small saucepan; bring the mixture to a boil and then remove the pan from the heat.
Whisk the whole eggs and egg yolks into the cornstarch/heavy cream mixture. Pour ⅓ of the boiling champagne mixture into the egg mixture in a steady stream, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from scrambling. Bring the remaining champagne/heavy cream mixture back to a boil.
Gradually stream in the hot egg mixture, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens, then remove it from the heat. This will only take a few minutes; avoid overcooking it, as you will end up with bits of egg in the custard. If there are eggy bits, press the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a heatproof bowl. Mix in the butter pieces until melted and incorporated, followed by the pink food coloring.
Let the pastry cream cool slightly, stirring occasionally, and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface. Refrigerate the bowl until chilled, about 1 hour. I found that the pink color darkened while the pastry cream sat in the fridge.
To make the cake:
Preheat an oven to 350°F and position a rack in the center. Grease three 6″ round cake pans, place a parchment circle on the bottom of each, and then grease and flour the paper and the sides of the pans; knock out the excess flour. Line the wells of a cupcake pan with cupcake papers. Set all the pans aside.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg whites one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the mixer bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
Add the flour mixture in 3 batches on the lowest mixer speed, alternating with the champagne, beginning and ending with flour. Mix after each addition just until incorporated. Scrape down the bowl and give it a final mix for about 5-10 seconds. Your mixture may look a little curdled, and this is okay. Fill each of the prepared cake pans about halfway (I weigh them to make sure they are even) and smooth the tops. Use the rest of the batter to fill the cupcake papers about ⅔ full.
Bake the 6″ cake layers first for 27-32 minutes, or until a toothpick tester comes out clean, rotating the pans halfway through. Set the cake pans on a metal cooling rack for about 15-20 minutes, then invert the cakes directly onto the rack to finish cooling. Meanwhile, bake the cupcakes for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick tester comes out clean. Cool them in the same way as the cakes. Let all the cakes cool completely before frosting.
To make the pink champagne frosting:
Place the butter and confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Cream them together, starting on low speed to incorporate all the loose powdered sugar, then increasing the speed to medium-high until the frosting is smooth and fluffy. Add the food coloring one drop at a time until a baby pink color is achieved (or the shade of your choice). Set the mixer to medium speed, and add the pink champagne one tablespoon at a time– I only used 4 tablespoons. Beat the frosting until it is light and fluffy.
To assemble the cake:
If you have a cake decorating turntable, this is the easiest way to decorate the cake. Remove the parchment paper from one cake layer, trim the top to level the cake if needed, and place the cake upside-down on a cardboard cake circle. Set it on the center of the turntable, or directly on a platter if not using one.
Transfer about 2 cups of frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a medium or large plain round decorating tip. Pipe a border all the way around the edge of the cake. Fill the middle with pastry cream and smooth the top with a small offset spatula.
Peel the parchment from another cake layer, trim if needed, and place it right-side up on top of the first layer. Repeat the process of piping frosting and filling with pastry cream. Take the parchment off of the last cake layer, trim if needed, and place it upside-down onto the cake stack.
Cover the entire cake with a thin layer of frosting (crumb coat) and place it in the fridge for about 20-30 minutes to firm up. (I found the cake to be a touch wobbly because the pastry cream filling doesn’t “grab” the cakes as well as thick layers of frosting between them.)
Add a thicker layer of frosting all over the cake with an offset spatula, smoothing the sides and top as much as possible. To create the look of this cake, pipe “kisses” from the piping bag all over the top– I started with a border around the edge and filled in the center. If using any sort of sprinkles or nonpareils that need to stick to the frosting, add those onto the cake now. If using fondant decorations, do not put them on at this point because they will soften. Place the frosted cake in the fridge to chill until firm, several hours or overnight.
When you’re ready to serve the cake, retrieve it from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature. Place any fondant decorations on top now.
To assemble the cupcakes:
Using a small, sharp knife, cut a “cone” out of the center of each cupcake and spoon in about 2 teaspoons of pastry cream. (Make sure not to cut all the way down to the bottom of the cupcake.) Fit a piping bag with a medium star or plain tip and pipe a swirl of frosting on top, covering all of the pastry cream. Decorate as desired.
Store the cake and cupcakes in the fridge because of the pastry cream. They are best on the first day, but will keep for up to 3 days.
To make the fondant “bubbles”:
Knead 3 small pieces of white fondant until they are smooth and pliable. Color 1 piece with pink gel food coloring and another with a drop of black, and leave the third piece white.
Roll the fondant out thinly and cut various circle sizes, then cut out an inner ring from each one using a slightly smaller cutter. Transfer the shapes to a sheet of parchment or wax paper to dry.
Once the bubbles have hardened, brush them with luster dust if desired.
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2017.