So now that the semester has begun, and all of the scheduling whirlwinds have mostly settled down, it feels like my birthday (and summer break) were ages ago, even though it’s been less than a week! Crazy how time works.
Speaking of time, your regularly scheduled Tuesday night dessert fix has been moved to Wednesdays for the foreseeable future (aka the rest of this semester because my Tuesday evenings are now the literal worst). And to celebrate (because any reason to have cake is a great reason to have cake), here’s one idea (inspired by the great Katherine Sabbath) for what to do with the extra fancy gum paste roses from last week!
(Incidentally, it also makes a super fantastic birthday cake.)
And while 4 layers of rosewater cake, copious amounts of champagne buttercream, decadent white chocolate ganache drizzle, and swirly white chocolate bark aren’t exactly for the faint of heart
or the strict of diet, this champagne and roses cake does make for an extra special treat for an extra special occasion, whatever that occasion may be.
(But also, full disclosure – champagne buttercream is probably barely less alcoholic than most nonalcoholic beers after all of the boiling and reducing. And to be honest, it really tastes more like a slightly tarter grape flavor than anything recognizably champagne-y. It is, however, totally delicious.)
A few timeline tips: the cakes can be baked well in advance (like a week or 2) and wrapped tightly in 2 layers of saran wrap (plus an extra layer of aluminum foil around the stacked layers just to be safe!), then placed in the freezer. Just thaw on the counter for about an hour before you start frosting! I also froze the buttercream in a Ziploc bag with all of the air squeezed out in the freezer for a couple of days in advance. The chocolate bark was made the night before assembly and honestly took about 10 minutes – just leave time for thorough chilling in the freezer. Finally, the roses were made well in advance – storage tips here!
Also, while I am personally a huge fan of the various types of European buttercreams, which add everything from egg whites to egg yolks to whole eggs to cut the excessive heaviness and butteriness of what is basically fluffed up butter and sugar, I would not recommend substituting any other type of buttercream for the American buttercream that this recipe calls for. In order for the buttercream to stay a stable emulsion (aka not curdled or runny at room temperature), you need a certain proportion of fat in your frosting. By adding in egg yolks (or worse, egg whites), you tend to increase the proportion of aqueous (aka not-fat) components of your buttercream. Add in the champagne reduction, which is also mostly water-based, and you end up with a sad, curdled mixture that totally falls apart. So take my advice – the champagne flavor (or rather, the tart vaguely grapiness) will totally cut through any of your ordinary concerns about plain American buttercream.
(PS, this is also the science behind why you need a higher proportion of oil to acid in your favorite creamy salad dressing!)
So if you have an extra special, very important date coming up, and feel up to tackling something that takes a little more time and effort to show your love, roll up your sleeves and give this recipe a try! Hope you enjoy!
Champagne and Roses Cake
Makes one 4 layer 6″ cake
Cake recipe adapted from my cinnamon cupcake recipe
220 g (about 2 cups) all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, preferably room temperature
1 tbs vanilla extract
1/3 cup sour cream (or full fat Greek yogurt)
2/3 cup milk
2 tbs rose water (sounds like a lot, I know, but it isn’t!)
1/2 bottle of (relatively inexpensive) dry champagne
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cup (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
White Chocolate Bark:
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
Red food coloring (gel or liquid)
Gold shimmer powder (I got mine at the local craft store!)
White Chocolate Ganache:
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
3 tbs heavy cream
Red food coloring gel
2 tsp rose water
3 tbs water
1/2 cup sugar
White gum paste roses (directions here!)
Green leaves (gum paste or pluck from an unsuspecting hedge…shhh)
- Preheat the oven to 320 ºF. Butter and lightly flour either two 2″ deep, 6″ cake pans or 4 layers of a layer cake baking set. (I used Wilton’s 6″ Easy Layers set!)
Tip: Note the temperature! Since we’re stacking the layers, we want the tops to be as flat as possible, which tends to happen at lower baking temperatures than the standard 350 ºF.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda, then set aside.
- In a stand mixer or with an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy.
- Beat in the eggs, vanilla extract, sour cream, milk, and rose water until fully incorporated.
- Dump in the flour mixture all at once and whisk until just combined.
- Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cake pans and bake for 20-24 minutes (for the baking set) or longer (I haven’t tested for the normal cake pan, but I would check at 32-35 minutes, then keep checking back), or until the top of the cake gently springs back when you depress the center.
- Set aside to cool!
Tip: Wrap in saran wrap after cooling completely if you want to freeze the cakes in advance! If you baked 2 thick layers instead of using the baking set, I would freeze the cakes regardless of whether or not you bake well in advance, since it makes splitting the layers easier. Once the cakes thaw partway, neatly slice through the center using a bread knife, then allow to thaw fully before frosting.
- In a small saucepan, reduce the champagne and half of the sugar over medium heat until it is about 1/3 cup in volume. Allow to cool completely.
Tip: Seriously, allow to cool completely. Otherwise, your buttercream will be a sad, melted puddle of goop instead of fluffy, delicious, creamy frosting.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer or with an electric mixer, beat together the butter and remaining sugar until light and fluffy.
- Beat in the champagne reduction until fully incorporated. Set aside for decorating!
Tip: The buttercream may start to come apart and look curdled as you add in the champagne. If it doesn’t come back together after beating for a while (2 minutes or so), add in little chunks of softened unsalted butter, one at a time, until the mixture looks like frosting again.
If you decide to freeze your buttercream at this point, transfer the mixture into a freezer-safe ziploc bag and squeeze all of the air out befor
White Chocolate Bark:
- Line a cookie sheet with a piece of parchment paper about 8.5″ x 11″.
- In a heat-safe bowl, melt the white chocolate chips in the microwave in 15 second intervals, stirring well between each interval.
- Transfer about 1/4 of the chocolate into another bowl and 1 tsp of the chocolate into a third bowl. Tint the 1/4 of melted chocolate light pink and the 1 tsp bright red using the red food coloring.
- Using a silicone spatula, transfer the melted untinted white chocolate onto the prepared cookie sheet and spread into a large rounded rectangular shape.
- Distribute globs of the pink chocolate across the top of the sheet of untinted chocolate. Repeat using small dots of the red chocolate.
- Using a toothpick, start swirling! Drag the toothpick in large spirals around the surface of the chocolate to mix just enough to create colorful swirls.
- Sprinkle on the pearl sprinkles, gold dust, and anything else you’d like.
- Chill well in the freezer until you’re ready to decorate!
White Chocolate Ganache:
- In a heat-safe bowl, melt together the white chocolate and heavy cream in the microwave in 15 second intervals, stirring well in between.
- Tint the mixture a pale pink color using the red food coloring.
- Allow to cool slightly, then set aside for drizzling!
Tip: Do this just before you’re ready to drizzle – the ganache should be just slightly warm for smooth dripping, but cool enough to avoid making a total mess while dripping.
- In a small saucepan, fully dissolve the sugar into the water over low heat.
- Remove the saucepan from heat, then stir in the rose water. Allow to cool completely before assembly!
- Frost your cake!
- Place a small amount of frosting on the center of your cake board, then place the cake board onto a rotating decorating tray with the frosting side up.
- Place your first layer of cake. Using a small brush, brush on the rosewater syrup on the entire top surface of the cake. Using a metal spatula, add a generous amount of frosting on top, then layer on your second layer. Repeat with remaining layers.
Tip: This process works best when the consistency of your frosting is just soft enough to spread without needing to work at it. If your frosting is closer to whipped cream than just-softened butter, pop everything (any frosted cake layers AND the bowl of frosting) back into the refrigerator for 15 minutes or so.
- After placing the top layer, make sure the top of your cake is level and that the sides are even, then refrigerate the entire cake for about 10 minutes.
- After removing your slightly chilled cake, use a metal spatula to add a generous amount of frosting on top, then gently smooth the top surface by holding the spatula at a 45º angle along a radius of the cake and slowly rotating the decorating tray.
- Using a bench scraper or a large metal spatula, smooth the sides of your cake by holding your tool at a 45º angle against the side of the cake and slowly rotating the decorating tray. For the naked cake finish, continue until the sides of the cake are exposed but the gaps in between are fully filled with frosting.
- Neaten up the top of your cake by smoothing out any rough edges with a small metal spatula, then refrigerate the entire cake for at least 30 minutes
Tip: If you’re worried about odors getting into your cake, tape kebab skewers to the corners of a disposable casserole tray so that they point straight upward, place your cake inside, then tent a large piece of saran wrap over the skewers to protect the cake from any leftovers in your fridge!
- Drip on the glaze!
- After chilling, place the cake back onto the decorating tray.
- If your ganache is thicker than the consistency of honey, warm it up slightly in 8 second intervals in the microwave, stirring thoroughly. Otherwise, continue.
- Using a small spoon, spoon small amounts of glaze onto the top of the cake near the edges, allowing the glaze to run downward off of the cake. Continue all the way around the edge, then fill in the top to form a smooth finish.
Tip: If the glaze seems to flow properly and flood the area between the edges (a good test is to drizzle a small amount of glaze back into the bowl and see if the top surface smooths out), heat it up for about 8 seconds in the microwave before filling the center.
- Refrigerate for 15 minutes to fully set the glaze.
Tip: Don’t worry if your white chocolate chips were extra soft, or it’s too warm outside, and the glaze doesn’t ever set properly. As long as you’re careful with the cake, it shouldn’t matter!
- Add the decorations!
These are just instructions for making the particular cake that I did, but this is the step to be creative and have fun with your cake! You’ve set the foundation with the naked frosting and the drip glaze – now let your imagination run wild and create something wonderful!
- Allow the chocolate bark to soften slightly at room temperature, then use a sharp knife to cut the bark into wedges of various sizes.
- Refrigerate the cut pieces for about 10 minutes for easier handling, then arrange as desired. Get creative!
Tip: If you’re not sure how to start, work your way forward from the back, starting with taller pieces and ending with shorter ones, and just see where each piece fits! The extra chilling step buys you a little extra time to play around with your chocolate before it gets melty, particularly in the summer.
- Arrange your leaves on the surface of the cake where you plan to place your roses, then add the gum paste roses on top.
Tip: DO THIS STEP JUST BEFORE SERVING. It is very important for your gum paste to stay dry for as long as possible and to ALWAYS avoid the refrigerator, so if you plan to do some of the decorating in advance, hold off on adding the gum paste roses until you’re positive that the cake will never go back into the fridge.
- Dust with extra glitter, and add pearl sprinkles for accents.