The Kitchn: Pop the bubbly and get ready to bake

TheKitchn.com

Be prepared to fall hard for this cake. If not for its soft-pink hues, then for the moist, tender crumb lightly spiked with Champagne and wells of strawberry syrup. Or maybe it will be the buttercream that really does it for you. What I'm trying to say is that this cake is the whole package -- a dessert primed for celebration and yet surprising easy to pull together.

The fun twist on a classic cake

Inspired by its namesake drink of the era, pink Champagne cake has been popping up at weddings, graduation parties and festive celebrations since the 1960s. Our riff on this classic keeps the pink-tinted white cake (the hue can be as pale or vibrant as you like) and pale pink buttercream frosting slathered on top. The big update is turning this into a single-layer poke cake. After the cake is baked and cooled, narrow holes are poked all over the surface using a sturdy straw or wooden skewer, before being filled with sweet strawberry syrup. What goes better with Champagne than strawberries?

Get a head start for faster assembly

As you'd expect with any sheet cake, this one is easy to pull together, especially when you get a head start. Each component, from the cake to the strawberry filling to the buttercream, can be made up to a day in advance. If possible, I recommend at least making the cake ahead of time since it needs to cool before poking the holes and adding the strawberry syrup.

Pink Champagne Poke Cake

Makes 1 (9-by-13-inch) cake, 12 to 15 servings

For the cake:

Cooking spray or unsalted butter, for the baking dish

8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

4 large egg whites, at room temperature

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup pink Champagne or sparkling wine, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pink gel food coloring

For the syrup:

1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped strawberries

1/2 cup granulated sugar

For the frosting:

8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 3/4 to 2 cups powdered sugar, divided

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon pink Champagne or sparkling wine

Pink gel food coloring

Pearl sugar, for garnish (optional)

Make the cake: Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 325 F. Generously coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray or butter; set aside.

Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer and large bowl.) Beat on medium speed until fluffy and light, about 3 minutes. Add the egg whites and beat until fully incorporated and the mixture looks creamy.

Beat in the flour, baking powder, and salt on low speed. Beat in the Champagne and vanilla. The batter will look a little curdled -- this is OK. Beat everything together on low for 30 seconds, and then on high for 3 minutes, gradually adding the food coloring until it reaches the desired shade of pink. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan.

Bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the pan, and bake until the cake springs back slightly when pressed and the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan, about 20 minutes more. Remove the pan to a wire rack and cool completely, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, make the syrup.

Make the syrup: Place the strawberries and sugar in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Let sit for about 20 minutes. Transfer to a blender or food processor fitted with the blade attachment and blend until puréed. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a liquid measuring cup or spouted bowl and pour the purée through the strainer to remove the seeds. Set the strained puree aside.

When the cake is completely cooled, use a sturdy straw, chopstick or thin handle of a round wooden spoon to poke holes about 3/4 of the way into the cake all over the surface of the cake, spacing the holes about 1-inch apart.

Carefully pour the syrup into the holes without leaving excess syrup on the surface of the cake. Not all of the syrup may be absorbed initially -- after some of it is absorbed, top off the holes as necessary.

Make the frosting: Place the butter in a clean stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer and large bowl.) Beat on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Reduce the speed to low, slowly add in 1 1/2 cups of the sugar, and beat until combined. Add the vanilla and Champagne and mix until combined. Once everything is incorporated, mix on medium speed until smooth and creamy.

Decrease the speed of the mixer to low and beat in the remaining 1/4 to 1/2 cup of sugar until the buttercream is to your desired texture. Add the food coloring a little bit at a time and mix on medium speed until fluffy and it reaches the desired shade of pink, about 1 minute.

Spread the frosting in an even layer on the cake. Sprinkle with the pearl sugar if using.

Recipe notes: The cake, syrup, and buttercream can all be made up to one day in advance. Cover the cake with aluminum foil and store at room temperature. (Wait to poke holes until assembling.) Store the syrup and buttercream in covered containers in the refrigerator. Remix the buttercream before frosting the cake. Leftovers can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for up to three days.

(Kelli Foster is assistant food editor for TheKitchn.com, a nationally known blog for people who love food and home cooking. Submit any comments or questions to editorial@thekitchn.com.)

(c) 2017, APARTMENT THERAPY. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

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