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Celebrate Valentine's Day with an Elegant Champagne Cake

This cake is light and fluffy and infused with a rich champagne flavor.

This elegant white cake has both an excellent flavor a light, fluffy texture—a perfect dessert to make for your Valentine. Though much champagne doesn't go into making the cake, without any other flavors present it retains a lovely champagne flavor. The flavor is greatly effected by the kind of champagne selected. I recommend a sweet Moscato sparkling wine.

On the scale of cake textures, heavy cakes such as pound cake being on one end and super light, fluffy cakes such as angel food cake being on the opposite end, this cake falls towards the lighter end of the texture spectrum. This cake falls into the category of chiffon cakes, which are not quite as light as angel food cakes, but still very light in texture. What qualifies this cake as a chiffon cake is that the last step for making this cake is folding the batter into beaten egg whites.

The key to success with this cake is retaining as much air as possible during the mixing process. After adding the champagne to the batter, do not over mix; mix until all ingredients are just combined. This recipe also calls for sifting the dry ingredients onto a sheet of wax paper. This way, when it's time to add the dry ingredients they can be added by simply picking up the piece of wax paper and pouring it into the bowl, rather than compressing the ingredients into a measuring cup.

The last step to this cake, which creates a light, fluffy texture, is gently folding whipped-up egg whites into the batter. When separating the eggs, be careful not to get any of the yolk into the whites. If there is any yolk present, the whites will not whip up because they will not whip up with the presence of any fat. Also, be sure to beat the egg whites in a metal mixing bowl, and when combining the egg whites with the batter, be sure to use a spatula to fold them in, rather than stirring them in with a spoon or whisk.

If you are feeling particularly caught up in the spirit of Valentine's day add a few drops of red food coloring to the cake batter to create a soft pink hue to the cake.

Champagne Cake

Ingredients:

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cups white sugar

3/4 cup champagne (or sparkling wine of your choice)

6 egg whites

Preheat the oven to 350 and generously grease an angel food cake pan or a bunt cake pan. Next, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt onto a sheet of wax paper and set aside. Using a stand or hand mixer, beat together the butter on medium speed until the butter lightens in color and becomes slightly fluffy. With the mixer running, slowly add the sugar and continue to beat until combined and the mixture has increased in volume by one third.

Lifting up the sheet of wax paper, pour one third of the dry ingredients into the butter and sugar mixture and combine on a low speed with the mixer. Next, pour in half of the champagne. Continue to alternate between the dry ingredients on the wax paper and the champagne until combined. Be careful not to over-mix. Set the mixture aside.

In a separate metal mixing bowl, beat the egg whites with a hand or stand mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently fold one third of the stiff egg whites into the cake batter. Once combined, continue to fold in the egg whites in one third at a time. Be careful to use a folding technique so that the cake retains a light and fluffy texture when baked, do not stir in with a spoon or whisk.

Pour the batter into the greased cake pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. The top of the cake will be golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake will come out clean when the cake is finished. After the cake has finished baking, invert the pan on a sturdy glass. If you do not invert the cake during the cooling process the cake with "fall" or become condensed, rather than airy and fluffy. 

One Step Italian Meringue Frosting

Ingredients

3 egg whites, at room temperature 

1 cup, plus 2 Tbsp sugar 

3 Tbsp cold water 

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

In a medium sized saucepan, bring 3 inches of water to a gentle simmer. Combine all the ingredients in a large metal bowl. Place the bowl over the saucepan and using a hand mixer, beat together the ingredients on a low speed for 5 minutes.

Increase the speed to high and beat for 4 more minutes, or until the mixture has become very thick and shiny. Remove the bowl from the heat and beat for an additional 4 minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy.

Once the champagne cake has cooled completely, remove from the cake pan and frost with the meringue. Serve immediately.

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