A guaranteed crowd-pleaser, this cake is just perfect for impressing your pals at this summer's gatherings and no one need know that it costs far less to make than a bakery buy... Oh yeah, it has an (optional) cheesecake frosting too. Let's get to it -->>
2 cups of champagne (or bubbles of your choice)
300g plain flour (can sub for self raising and omit the baking powder)
300g caster sugar
6 medium eggs
2 tsp baking power
450g cream cheese
300g icing sugar
3 drop vanilla extract OR 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla flavouring (it's cheaper!)
red food colouring
pinch of salt
Step 1 - Champagne!
Okay, so first thing's first, the important bit - the champagne! For a true champagne flavour you want to leave your strawberries soaking in the good stuff overnight so that they really absorb all that alcohol flavour. If you just can't wait however, do this step first and leave them to infuse while you prep the rest of your cake.
Blitz 300g of strawberries in a blender until they look something like this. Then add two cupfuls of bubbles of your choosing. You can go with the fancy if you want but I like to keep that for drinking so, I'm not going to lie, I used prosecco for this part and it worked just fine. It doesn't need to be pink either as once it's mixed you can't tell, I just like to be matchy for photos. Pop your champagne strawberries to the side or, if leaving overnight, cover them with cling film and put them in the fridge.
Step 2 - Cake Mix
Once you're ready to start baking, preheat your oven to 170c. Now, the champagne strawberries, buttercream filling and cream cheese frosting on this cake are so rich and flavoursome that all we need is a simple vanilla sponge to carry the flavours. If ya didn't now, a simple cake is just equal parts flour, egg, butter and sugar (thank you mum for that tip) so this part is pretty easy. First, soften your butter. I like to blast it in the microwave for a few seconds - but only a few as if it's too warm it will cook your eggs! Once it shows signs of softening, use a wooden spoon to cream it and then slowly whisk in your eggs, sugar and 2 tspns vanilla extract (or 1 tspn of flavouring). Then gently fold in your flour, salt and baking powder sifting in bit by bit from a height to avoid a dense, flat cake - this luxury cake should be as light as air.
Step 3 - Colour!
To get the pretty ombre effect here we're going to split our cake mixture in three to colour it, though you can of course do a two or single layer cake if you prefer. Now, I know I've used bowls in the image but I realised afterwards that this way is easier so, you know, do as I say and not as I do and all that. Grease your baking trays, then fill the first one with 1/3 of the uncoloured cake mixture. Then add a two drops of red food colouring to the remaining mixture and fill the next tray with half. Add two more drops the mixture that is left and fill the third tray. Finally get your champagne strawberries and add three tablespoons to each baking tray. Swirl the strawberries through the mix - it doesn't have to be thorough, strawberries lumps are good in this case - and then in the oven they go!
Step 4 - Filling
While your cakes bake it's time to make the champagne strawberries and whipped cream filling. First, take your cream (I like to whip double cream myself because I think it's fun but feel free to use extra thick double cream which has the work done for you) in a large bowl add the rest of your vanilla and three tablespoons of icing sugar. Whisk together until the mixture becomes thick, stiff peaks. If all that sounds like too much work, use canned whipped cream. It's okay. Then spoon in your remaining strawberries, again gently swirling with the cream so that there are chunks of champagne strawberry jam lacing the puffs of cream. Once your cakes are baked and cooled, spread the mix generously between the cake layers avoiding the very edges so that it has room to spread further when they're stacked. Layer any leftover champagne strawberries on top the cream mix.
Please remember when you're stacking your cakes that they are different colours and you want the lightest ones on top - it's easy to forget as they're all golden on the outside one they come out of the oven. I completely forgot this when doing mine!! It was only once I cut into the cake that I remembered and by the grace of god I happened to have stacked them in the right order!! If you need to check what order to stack them in, don't be afraid to use a toothpick to dig at an inconspicuous edge to see!
Step 5 - Frosting!
Okay so this was actually my first time ever frosting a cake (cupcakes I'm a pro at, cakes not so much) so if I can do it, so can you. First, just a side note that if you don't like cream cheese you can mix one part butter to two parts icing sugar to make a traditional buttercream icing which is sweeter. To make the cream cheese frosting/icing, soften 125g of butter and then to a large mixing bowl add 250g icing sugar and 450g cream cheese. Add red food colouring until you get the shade of your choosing, I used three drops. To ice, I used a butter knife and found it easiest to pile the frosting onto the top of the cake and then use the knife to pull it down over the sides. I didn't try to make this smooth as I quite like the messy, cloud-like texture. Be gentle, don't press too hard or you will disturb the cake underneath and drag cake crumbs into your icing. Remember, it will set once it goes back in the fridge, as the butter will harden, so it won't say this runny! Finally, I dragged a fork in a spiral motion to get the pattern on the top of the cake and then garnished with a few strawberries dusted with icing sugar - I'm no Mary Berry when it comes to decoration but it'll do!
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x Jade Mercedes Fraser x