The other day I was perusing the champagne selection at my local market, trying to decide not only which bottle to buy, but to figure out what dessert I should serve with it for New Year’s. I couldn’t decide on either count when it struck me: why not put champagne into the dessert? From that point, it didn’t take long for me to pick out a bottle of champagne and a few ingredients for a champagne cake.
Chiffon cake was my first (and only, really) choice for a champagne cake. Chiffon cakes are simple, moist sponge-type cakes that hold flavor very well and have an open, almost bubbly crumb to them that mimics the bubbles in champagne. To make the cake, I simply tweaked one of my other chiffon cake recipes to include the sparkling beverage and the substitution could not have gone better.
The cake had a beautiful, even texture and a clear flavor of champagne. Sponge cakes are not known as being particularly moist, but this cake was, and it stayed moist for several days, kept in an airtight cake container. It was neither heavy nor filling and, if you’re planning on bringing this out for a New Year’s party or other celebration, it is sturdy enough to be eaten with your fingers, rather than requiring a knife and fork. I like to dip it in coffee or in champagne, but putting out whipped cream and berries is a nice way to finish it off, as well.
In the recipe below, I note that you should whisk part of the beaten egg whites into the cake batter before folding in the rest of them. This is to lighten up the batter a bit and make it easier to fold in the remaining egg whites. With a lighter batter, you’ll be able to maintain more of the bubbles overall – or at least make it easier – than simply starting to fold the whites into a stiff mixture.
Since you’ll be able to taste the champagne in the finished cake, start with a champagne you like. The recipe doesn’t really require all that much and, while you might not want to spend too much on your bottle, there will be plenty left over to sip while you work. Prosecco is an acceptable substitute for champagne, and you can opt for sparkling cider or even 7-up if you really don’t want to add alcohol into your cake. The cider will, of course, give it a slightly appley flavor, so you might want to add a teaspoon of apple pie spices to the dry ingredients if you want to play that up. If you don’t want to emphasize the cider flavor, don’t worry because it won’t be that strong if substituted directly into the recipe unless you have a very strongly flavored sparkling cider to begin with.
Champagne Chiffon Cake
2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar (superfine is best, regular is fine), divided
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup champagne
5 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
7 large egg yolks
7 large egg whites, at room temperature
Preheat the oven to 325F. Get out a 10-inch tube pan, but do not grease it.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, the sugar (reserving 2 tbsp), baking powder and salt.
In a medium bowl, whisk together in the champagne, vegetable oil, vanilla and egg yolks, then pour into the dry ingredients and whisk until just smooth.
In another large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. Add in the remaining 2 tbsp of sugar gradually, starting when the whites begin to get foamy.
Once the egg whites have reached stiff peaks (better to be a bit soft than ovenbeaten), gently whisk 1/4 of the egg whites into the champagne batter to lighten it. Gently, working in two additions, fold the remaining beaten whites into the champagne batter until no streaks of egg white foam remain visible and the batter is a uniform color. Be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl well.
Pour into the ungreased tube pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, until the top of the cake springs back when gently touched and a toothpich inserted into the center comes out clean.
Invert cake over a bottle (or onto a wire rack if your pan has “feet” to hold it up) and let cool completely. Once cooled, run a knife around the edges and turn cake out onto a serving platter. Store in an airtight container.
Serve with champagne, if desired.
Makes one cake. Serves 12-14.