One of my enduring obsessions is decorating cakes with edible gold leaf. It’s just so pretty and I’m drawn to the organic nature of its application. What I mean is, you can sort of tell gold leaf where to go but you can’t really tell it what to do. The whisper thin sheets float and waver with the slightest motion, so when you apply it to cake it clings to the surface on the whim of whatever air currents are present (an exhale, a hand movement, your HVAC). I read somewhere that it’s only about 0.1 micrometer or 4 millionths of an inch, thick (thin)!
To me, gold leaf’s unplanned shapes and sparkles is what makes it special. I especially love the effect it creates on pink buttercream. It looks like something Marie Antoinette would have on her gilded dessert buffet. I found some gold angel wing Dresden trims that I’d been saving for something special and they seemed like a good fit for this bubbly-inspired cake.
Whenever I post layer cake recipes on this blog, the question I get asked most often is “Can this cake be made into cupcakes?” followed by “How many cupcakes will this make?” and of course “How long should I bake them?” I’m so happy to preemptively tell you that – yes! This cake can absolutely be made into cupcakes, about 4 dozen of them, and there are cupcake baking instructions included with the recipe.
The cake would be a suitable centerpiece for all kinds of celebrations, but I think the cupcakes were my favorite of the two. You probably know by now, I love a filled cupcake! I made some pink champagne pastry cream and used it to bring even more champagne flavor to the cakes.
My bestie gifted me some pink champagne truffles for Christmas, and they were perfect on top of the layer cake. You can find them here for purchase, though they are a bit pricey. I actually have a recipe for pink champagne truffles that you can make at home! (Click here for the recipe.) My version is a little more fruity-tasting and pink than the original, but they are delicious and would be beautiful on top of the layer cake.
Gold leaf can be kind of pricey, too. You can find it for purchase here or with my Gold Leaf Cake Kit from Brit and Co. The good news is that you can get a lot of use out of just one sheet if you place it strategically. I decorated just the front top edge of the cake with part of a sheet, and then I used the remainder of the sheet to randomly speckle the entire cake. The cupcakes received just a tiny touch of gold flake at their summit.
As for the champagne in this cake, there’s no need to go broke buying top shelf. I used Korbel Rosé, which is a sparkling wine, even though the label boasts ‘California Champagne’. Now, I’m no wine connoisseur, but I recall reading that the only bubbly deemed fit for the ‘champagne’ moniker comes from the Champagne region of France. But never mind that. Korbel Rosé tips to the sweet side, which makes it an excellent addition to sweet baked goods. It’s about $12 a bottle – cheers to that!
I think these cakes would make a good Valentine (or Galentine!), but I’d rather not limit them to any particular holiday. They’re good for all celebrations – large and small! The cakes get a big dose of bubbly in the batter, and the pastry cream holds obvious fruity champagne flavor. If you’re not inclined to purchase champagne, then cream soda may be used in its place, and champagne flavoring oil (LorAnn brand) may be added for a non-alcoholic version.
Pink Champagne and Gold leaf Layer Cake and Cupcakes
Pink champagne cake
- 3 cups 360g all-purpose flour
- 3 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 cup 226g unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups 400g granulated sugar
- 6 egg whites
- 2 cups 15.4 oz. pink champagne (I like Korbel)
Pink champagne pastry cream
- 1/4 cup 30g cornstarch
- 1 cup 240 ml heavy cream, divided
- 1 cup 240 ml champagne or prosecco
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. /125 g granulated sugar
- 2 whole eggs
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/4 cup 56g unsalted butter
- 1 drop pink gel food color
Pink champagne frosting
- 1 lb. unsalted butter at room temperature
- 2 lbs. confectioners’ sugar sifted, plus extra for dusting
- 1 to 3 drops pink food color
- 6 tablespoons pink champagne
- White nonpareils for cupcakes
- Clear vanilla extract
- 1 sheet gold leaf optional
- Pink Champagne truffles optional
Pink champagne cake
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans (or four 5-inch pans as I have) or line two or more cupcake tins with paper liners; set aside.
- Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. In a separate mixing bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer, beat together the unsalted butter and sugar. Add egg whites one at a time and beat well after each addition.
- Beat in flour mixture and champagne alternately in three additions, beginning and ending with flour. Scrape down bowl edges with a rubber spatula and mix again briefly. Divide batter between prepared pans or cupcake tins (fill cupcake tins 2/3 full). For cake layers, bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick tester comes out clean. For cupcakes, bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cakes are set in the centers and lightly browned on top. Let cakes cool for a few minutes before placing them on a wire rack. Let cool completely before frosting.
Pink champagne pastry cream
- In a medium bowl, whisk cornstarch in 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Combine the remaining heavy cream, sugar and champagne in a saucepan; bring to a boil and then remove from heat.
- Beat the whole eggs and egg yolks into the cornstarch/heavy cream mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling champagne mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so the eggs do not scramble. Return the remaining champagne/heavy cream mixture to a boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a thin stream, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and food color. Let cool slightly and place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the pastry cream. Refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.
- Cut out the centers of each cupcake and spoon in pastry cream.
Pink champagne frosting
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, cream butter and powdered sugar together. Once the ingredients are incorporated, add the food color one drop at a time until a baby pink color is achieved. With the mixer running on medium speed, add the pink champagne one tablespoon at a time. Beat until light and fluffy.
For the cake
- Pipe a line of frosting around the edges of two cakes and spoon in pastry cream. Stack the cakes and top with the unfilled layer. Crumb coat the cake in a thin layer of frosting; refrigerate until firm. Cover the cake with a second smooth layer of buttercream. Refrigerate until firm. If using gold leaf, use a small artists’ brush to apply clear vanilla extract to the top edge of the cake. Using tweezers, place the gold leaf around the front top edge of the cake. Place dots of gold leaf randomly around the edges of the cake in the same manner. Transfer some of the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip. Pipe 6 rosettes around the top edge of the cake, and top the rosettes with pink champagne truffles, if using. Lightly dust the top of the cake with powdered sugar.
For the cupcakes
- Generously pipe frosting onto the cupcakes using a piping bag fitted with a plain 1/2-inch decorator tip. Immediately sprinkle with the white nonpareils. Using kitchen-dedicated tweezers, place a tiny piece of gold leaf on top of each cupcake.
- Cakes will need to be refrigerated because of the pastry cream filling. Be sure to bring the cakes to room temperature before serving.