Champagne Cake with Strawberry and Champagne Italian Meringue Buttercream
This delicate, moist Champagne Cake is packed with flavor, filled with strawberries, & iced with Champagne Italian Meringue Buttercream. It’s the perfect celebration cake.
Last weekend I receive an email with the following request…
“Good morning. I am looking for a recipe that is as good as your Best Vanilla Cake recipe but for a wedding. The bride would like a (NOT PINK) champagne cake. Your vanilla cake is perfection. How could I modify it to be a champagne cake? Thank you! PS – I have tried the Martha Stewart champagne cake, but it was not nearly as good as your vanilla cake. So, searching the internet is not overly helpful. Thank you for any time and attention you may have to give this matter.”
Suddenly, I had the perfect excuse to bake Champagne Cake
I shut myself in the kitchen all Sunday afternoon baking champagne cake after champagne cake until I had achieved a supremely moist, tender cake laced with the delicate flavor of champagne. My family couldn’t stop eating it. Always a good sign.
To frost and fill the cake, I made one and a half recipes of Italian Meringue Buttercream, flavoring the buttercream with a champagne reduction. Then, I removed about 1/3 of the buttercream and added 1/2 cup of pureed strawberries.
I LOVE the flavor combination of strawberry and champagne. However, the strawberry does mute the champagne flavor in the cake a bit. So, if you’re wanting a stronger champagne flavor, I’d suggest sticking with Champagne Buttercream for both the filling and frosting.
Champagne Cake Recipe Notes
I tested this champagne cake recipe with both sweet and dry champagne. Both are delicious, however the sweeter champagne did contribute a bit more champagne flavor to the cake.
I also played around with how much champagne to add to the recipe. One of the things that makes this Vanilla Cake so yummy is the inclusion of buttermilk, which adds both flavor and moisture to the cake. I wanted to include those qualities in this recipe, while also adding enough champagne so you could actually taste it.
I baked two cakes side by side, one with all champagne, and one with half champagne and half buttermilk. Just like with the vanilla cake, the buttermilk made a huge difference in the consistency of the cake, creating a super moist, tender crumb.
The crumb of the all champagne cake was also moist and tender, but not as much. And honestly, there wasn’t much of a difference in flavor between the two versions. So, half buttermilk and half champagne is the way to go.
If you’ve never made Italian Meringue Buttercream, this cake is the perfect excuse
I receive comments and emails almost every week that go something like this…
“I’m not sure I’ll ever make another frosting type after this! The salted caramel version is delicious, but I am so impressed with the results of the Italian meringue! Fluffy yet stable, with a super creamy texture and amazing flavor.”
This is EXACTLY how I felt the first time I made a batch of Italian Meringue Buttercream almost 20 years ago, and I’ve rarely iced a cake with anything else since. Even those of you (myself included) who typically don’t like frosting, will love this buttercream. It’s the bomb diggity.
Having said that, there’s nothing wrong with good, old fashioned American Buttercream, which only takes about 5 minutes to make and is silky smooth and flavorful thanks to the additions of butter and heavy cream.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: Are the layers of this cake firm enough to be stacked into a 3 tier cake?
A: Absolutely! This crumb of this cake is soft but also sturdy and will hold up well – IF the tiers are properly supported with dowel rods.
Q: I see the you live at a higher altitude than me. Do I need to make any adjustments for baking at low altitude?
A: No adjustment necessary. I’ve heard from readers from all over the world who have baked this cake in all different climates and had success.
Q: What is the proper way to store this cake since it has Buttercream frosting?
A: If the cake is frosted, store it in the refrigerator – no need to cover it. If the cake layers are unfrosted, wrap them in plastic wrap and store them at room temperature, or freeze for up to 3 months.
Q: Does it matter if I use salted or unsalted butter to make this cake?
A: Contrary to most recipes (and bakers), I almost always use salted butter in baked goods. The reason most recipes call for unsalted butter is to limit the amount of salt in a recipe. However, I believe that most sweet treats benefit from the additional salt, and the salted butter adds such a minimal amount, it’s rarely detected anyway. But, ultimately, this is a matter of taste. Therefore, most of my recipes just say “butter”, leaving it up to the baker to decide. There are a few place where I specify unsalted butter – such as in Italian Meringue Buttercream – because it really does make the buttercream too salty. So – to answer your question: Use whatever butter you have on hand for the cake, salted or unsalted. 🙂 For the buttercream, definitely use unsalted.
Q: Can I use this recipe for cupcakes? What temp and how long? How many cupcakes will the recipe make?
A: Yes! Bake the cupcakes at 350 degrees for 15 – 18 minutes. This recipe will make 24 cupcakes.
Q: How strong is the champagne taste?
A: The champagne flavor is subtle – you can absolutely taste it, but it’s not very strong. To intensify the flavor, I suggest following the option in the recipe for boiling 2 or 3 cups of champagne in a saucepan until reduced by at least half. Brush the tops of the cooled cake layers with the champagne reduction.
Q: Can I use frozen strawberries or should I stick with fresh?
A: Frozen will work just fine, however, I would suggest pureeing a few extra frozen strawberries and then straining the puree slightly before adding it to the buttercream. Frozen strawberries tend to produce a runnier puree than fresh. Straining them a bit will ensure you get a good strawberry flavor in the buttercream without making the buttercream too soft.
Q: What is a good champagne to use?
A: I like to use Korbel – their blanc de noirs is great because it’s on the sweet side with good flavor and generally pretty affordable. Sweeter is better with this cake because the champagne flavor is more pronounced than when using a dryer champagne.
Q: I’d like to make an almond flavored version of this cake. Do you think I can substitute the champagne for Disaronno or almond extract in both the cake and the icing?
A: I think using Disaronno and almond extract in this cake would be delicious. Here’s what I’d suggest: swap out the champagne for the disoranno and the vanilla for the almond extract, using the same amounts of each. Then, taste the cake (after it’s cooled) to decide if you’d like a stronger almond flavor. If you do, simply brush more disoranno over the top of the cake, letting it soak in. To add disoranno to the icing, you won’t need to reduce it on the stovetop, like I suggest for the champagne. Simply beat it in, bit by bit, tasting and paying attention to the icing consistency until you get the flavor to the level of almond that you want. The goal is to get a strong enough almond flavor without adding so much that the icing gets too runny. Adding it a little at a time will allow you that level of control. You could also add a teaspoon or two of almond extract to the icing if you wanted to boost the almond flavor even more.
Q: I sometimes have issues with with the middle of cakes sinking after removing them from the oven. Any tips for me as to how to avoid this?
A: Here are a couple of trouble shooting ideas: 1.) Baking powder loses its leavening power if it’s more than 6 months old. 2.) Over beating once you add the flour. 3.) An inaccurate oven temperature (most oven temperatures are off slightly, so it can be helpful to use an oven thermometer to check it.) 4.) If the cake batter sits out too long before you bake it, that can cause the leavening to loose its power, causing the cake to sink after you remove it from the oven.
Q: If using four 8-inch pans, how much batter should I add to each pan?
A: To use four 8-inch pans, just distribute the batter equally amongst each pan, which will probably mean that each pan is about 1/4 to 1/3 full, depending on how high the sides of your cake pans are.
- 4 whole eggs, separated, PLUS 4 additional egg whites, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups (12oz; 340g) butter, at room temperature
- 2 1/2 cups (550g) sugar
- 3 cups (390g) cake flour (*See note for a cake flour substitution)
- 2 tsp (8g) baking powder
- ¼ tsp (1.2g) baking soda
- 1 tsp (6g) table salt OR - 1 1/2 tsp (9g) kosher salt
- ½ cup (120ml) champagne, at room temperature
- ½ cup buttermilk (120ml), at room temperature
- 1 tsp (4.9) pure vanilla extract
FOR THE STRAWBERRY AND CHAMPAGNE ITALIAN MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM:
- 1 or 1 1/2 batches Italian Meringue Buttercream (if you don't add the pink buttercream swirls on the top of the cake, 1 recipe will suffice)
- 1 cup (240ml) champagne
- 1/2 cup fresh strawberries, stems removed, pureed in a blender to measure about 1/3 cup (80g)
- Heat oven to 350 degrees F (176 degrees C). Grease and flour three or four 8 or 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with a round of parchment paper that is also slathered with a bit of butter or shortening.
- Separate the 4 whole eggs, placing the yolks in a small bowl and the whites in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, along with the 4 additional egg whites. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form when you lift the whisk from the beaten egg whites. Scrape the egg whites into another bowl. Rinse and dry the standing mixer bowl.
- Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment and cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 6 minutes. Stop the mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl a time or two.
- Add two of the egg yolks and beat until incorporated, about 20 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the remaining two egg yolks, beat until incorporated, about 20 seconds, and scrape down the sides of the bowl again.
- Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to a bowl and mix with a wire whisk just to combine.
- In a large measuring cup, stir together the champagne, buttermilk, and vanilla.
- Beating on low speed, add the dry ingredients, alternating with the liquid, in 4 additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat on low to medium speed, just long enough to incorporate each new addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
- With a rubber spatula, gently fold the beaten egg whites into the batter just until incorporated.
- Pour the batter into your prepared pans. If baking 3 layers, bake for 30-40 min. If baking four layers, bake for 25-30 minutes. The cakes will be golden brown, be pulling away from the sides of the pan, and will not jiggle in the center when you shake the pan slightly. To check for doneness, stick a toothpick into the center of one of the layers. Remove the toothpick and look for signs of raw batter. If only cake crumbs stick to the toothpick, the cake is done. You can also scoop a tiny amount of cake from the center of one of the layers to check for doneness. (You’ll be covering the cake with frosting anyway.)
- Let the cakes cool on wire racks for 5 minutes in the pan, then gently turn them out of the pans onto the wire racks to cool completely. If you don't plan on frosting the layers immediately, wrap each tightly with plastic wrap. The layers can be stored at room temperature for 1 day, or frozen for up to 2 months.
NOTE: For a stronger champagne flavor, pour 1 cup (240ml) champagne into a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Simmer until the champagne is reduced to 1/3 cup (80ml). Brush the tops of the cooled cake layers with the champagne reduction.
FOR THE STRAWBERRY AND CHAMPAGNE ITALIAN MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM:
- Pour 1 cup (240ml) champagne into a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Simmer until the champagne is reduced to ½ cup (120ml). Allow to cool completely and then slowly beat into a prepared batch of Italian Meringue Buttercream.
- Remove about 2/3 of the buttercream from the mixing bowl. Add the pureed strawberries to the remaining buttercream and beat until completely incorporated.
Cake Flour Substitution:
Add 3 cups (360g) all-purpose flour to a bowl and remove 6 tablespoons (45g). Add 6 tablespoons (45g) of cornstarch and stir with a wire whisk to combine.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 18 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 615Total Fat: 30gSaturated Fat: 18gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 136mgSodium: 365mgCarbohydrates: 82gFiber: 0gSugar: 63gProtein: 5g