Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Sparkly Champagne Celebration

I have made some pretty amazing cakes in my three years of blogging.  I have made a blue cake, Sangria Cake, a Mexican Hot Chocolate Cake, a rainbow frog pond cake, and even a cake that looks like a salad.  But none of those even come close to what I made this week.  I have made the cake to top all cakes.

It came about because one of my first and best friends in Boston turned 30 yesterday.  My friend JoJo does nothing small scale or casual.  Everything has to be sparkly, rainbow, and covered in feathers and more glitter.  However, she does this all with the greatest amount of refinement, tact, and class.  She is one fancy lady, and I love her.  She is always spontaneous and is one of the most creative people I have eve met in my life.  For all of these reasons and many more, she has become my big sister here in Boston.  

Such an important birthday for such an important person deserves a very epic cake.  I was drawing a blank, so I emailed JoJo's wife for some ideas.  This is what Suzie wrote back:
"She wants something surprising... Here is how she defines surprising: lavender, spicy, layer of jelly beans or red hots, on fire, with sparklers, covered in googly eyes, looks like a monster, strange colors inside but looks normal outside, goes pop when you cut it (?), curry flavored ... You get the picture! "

"SERIOUSLY?"  I thought, "Who does she think I am?  Hannah Houdini?!"  None of those things could possibly go well together, and there is no way I am not going to allow a curry flavored cake with jelly beans to come out of my kitchen.  Nope, I had to start from scratch.  

I thought, OK, let's start with color, let's make it a cool color.  Marbled cake immediately came to my mind.  JoJo likes a lot of pink, so I decided on a pink marbled cake.  Logically, the pink would be strawberry cake.  But what flavor can I marble with strawberry that would taste good?  There was no way on earth I was going to make JoJo a boring vanilla cake.  So I started thinking about things I know JoJo likes.  My mind immediately went to booze.  BINGO- I had it!  CHAMPAGNE CAKE!  JoJo is a classy broad and loves champagne, and champagne and strawberries go so well together.  I knew it would be a winner.  

But a good flavor combination was not going to be enough for JoJo's cake.  It need to look as awesome as it tasted.  When I don't have a specific plan in mind, I like to wander around the baking section of Michael's and let inspiration come to me.  I found pink sugar crystals and metallic silver frosting spray paint, and I knew what I would do.  Now I just needed a little extra sparkle, and found that in the crafting section.  I also decided that it needed to be three layers: one for each decade of her life.  This is what I ended up with:

3-Tiered Strawberry and Champagne Marbled Cake w/ Champagne Buttercream
Recipe loosely adapted from Simply Decorated
Yield: 1 amazingly awesome giant cake
Because I was marbling the cake and making three tiers, I ended up making two different cake batters so I would have enough.  I made one strawberry and one champagne.  I tried to make them simultaneously so that neither would be sitting to long and becoming too dense. 

Strawberry Cake Ingredients
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 Tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup pureed fresh strawberries
1/4 cup milk (I used 2% regular cow milk)
1 tsp vanilla
Red food coloring 
6 egg whites

Assemble Ingredients
Pulse the strawberries in a food processor until you have one cup of smooth puree
Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Set aside. 
In a separate mixing bowl, beat the butter until it is fluffy and light
Add in the sugar and cream together.
In a separate bowl, stir together strawberries, milk, and vanilla 
Alternate adding the strawberries and the flour mixture to the butter and sugar, just until combined.
In a separate bowl, whisk egg whites until soft peaks form
Gradually add egg whites and food coloring in thirds until combined and the batter is your desired color
Now repeat this process with the champagne cake batter.  Follow all the steps exactly the same, except substitute a cup of sparkling wine* for the strawberry puree and omit the food coloring.
*I chose to use the small individual bottles of Cook's brut sparkling wine for this, because if there was leftover champagne I would have ended up having my very own version of My Drunk Kitchen.

Now preheat the oven to 350°F and prepare your pans.  I used three different sized pans, but you can feel free to use whatever ones you want.  I found these at a thrift shop for $1 each, and they were just too awesome to pass up (read- I should never be allowed near baking supplies for purchase with full access to my wallet).
Grease and flour cake pans very well
Pour the champagne batter into each pan and spread it around.
Then place large spoonfuls of the strawberry batter on top of the champagne batter haphazardly around the pan.  Now take the tip of a thin rubber spatula (or a toothpick) and crazily creatively swirl the strawberry batter into the champagne batter and make cool designs.

Bake the cakes for 350°F for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool in pans on wire racks for ten minutes.
When the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan, slide a knife around the edges and then invert the cakes onto wire racks to finish cooling completely.

Cake Assembly:
Shave the tops of the cakes so they are even
Look at the pretty marbling!!! 
Brush the tops of each layer with additional champagne
Stack the cakes and cover each layer with a generous amount of buttercream* until the cake is covered
*I wish I had a recipe for the buttercream, but I pretty much just used my regular recipe and added champagne and then more sugar and then some salt until it tasted ok and was a frosting-like consistency.  I did have to refrigerate the buttercream before frosting the cake because it was too soft.

I also ended up refrigerating the frosted cake for about 30 minutes so that I could properly smooth the frosting when it was firmer.

Next came the fun/messy/scary part: spray painting a cake!  I used Wilton's silver color mist.  That stuff is awesome!

After that was done I added the rhinestone ribbons and then topped off the rest with the pink sugar crystals.  Be very careful with the cake after you have applied the color mist!  If you bump into it or move the ribbon, it takes off the color with it, and you can't exactly smooth it back into place like you could with a regularly colored frosting.

This cake was neat, but it needed just one more sparkly thing.  I seriously considered sparklers for a moment, but thought better of it given the danger factor.  I went for their less dangerous (yet later we found out, equally flammable) cousin, pipe cleaners!

The pipe cleaners even caught fire for extra effect and sparkle!
Since JoJo's birthday fell on Shabbat, I could not take any pictures of her with the cake, but let me tell you that her face was very smiley and excited.  And so were everyone else's faces, because come on, just look at it!

Happy Birthday, JoJo!! I am sorry that I could not be there for your party tonight, but I hope this cake made up for it.  I hope your birthday is every bit as special and surprising and sparkly and fabulous as you had hoped, because you deserve it!

Love and cookies (and champagne),

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