05 October 2011

adventures in champagne cake

I have a quest. It might even turn into a lifelong quest, but I'm hoping it doesn't.  See, my husband and I had an amazing wedding cake.  And not just amazing in its decoration, but amazing in its taste.  Speaking of husband, he just looked over my shoulder and saw what I wrote and called it "a little dramatic."  It's the best cake I've ever had, so I'm allowed to be dramatic.

The cake even kept so well in my parents' freezer that after a year, I was still in love with it. Yeah, most people HATE their year-old wedding cake, but I was begging for more.  Obviously, I need to figure out how to make it.

The cake: champagne cake with strawberry mousse filling (and buttercream icing).  Here's a picture of it after a year of freezing and then thawing.

It was actually even better the next day--it somehow got fluffier.
I decided that I'd try to make it for our anniversary this year.  I asked around on a few message boards and got a whopping ZERO responses.  So much for that.  I found a recipe that sounded decent and committed to it.  It included both the cake recipe and the strawberry mousse recipe.

The night before our anniversary, I made the frosting from my Wilton books, so that was easy.  Then I decided to tackle the mousse.  The mousse recipe had a few jobs in it that I'd never done before.  The first was whipping heavy cream.  I have a handheld electric mixer (no room in this tiny kitchen for a fancy stand one), and whipped the cream like a pro.  I was feeling pretty confident at this point.

Then I had to separate eggs and whip the whites.  I didn't do any research on this, and the recipe was just very bare-bones about it.  I've never separated eggs before, but I do have a tool for that.  It fit nicely over a cup, so I just kept adding them to the cup.  The yolk broke on the fourth one (out of six), so I now learned why this method is a bad idea.  (Pro tip: dump each egg white into the bowl right after you separate it.)  I couldn't get all of the yolk out, so I just moved on.  Once I got my 6, I tried to use my whisk attachment for the mixer to whip them.  Twenty minutes later, I still didn't have stiff peaks.  I've sorta watched my mom make meringue before, so I knew something was wrong.  But it was past bedtime at this point, so I said screw it.  And so I mixed my soft-peaked egg whites into the rest of it.

The result?
That's a 5-quart bowl, about 4/5 full of runny mousse.
The next day, when I tried to put it between my cake layers.  Major FAIL.
Even if I'd gotten it all right, I'm pretty sure this recipe would have still made at least eight times the amount of mousse needed.  There was a frosting recipe included too, and I'm glad I stuck with the one I already knew.

The good news is that the next day, when I actually made the cake layers, the recipe called for another six egg whites whipped to stiff peaks again.  I was definitely not gonna screw this up a second time!  I turned to YouTube and found an informative video about doing it by hand.  I decided that was the way to go.  Of course, I had already done a full workout that morning, including dumbbell activities, but I didn't let that stop me.  Boy, was it another workout!  I had to take a few breaks.  But in less than 5 minutes, I had my stiff peaks!

Then I had to open a champagne bottle for the first time by myself.  There were directions on the bottle that made me think this thing just might go everywhere, even though it was a screw-top Wal-Mart variety champagne.  The sink was full of cake stuff, plus I'd rather not have to clean the floor if it came to it.  After giving it a bit of thought, I decided to do it outside on the patio.  That was a good call, since it ran all down the bottle.  We'll call that a success.

All in all, the cake did NOT turn out anything like our wedding cake (which is also why I refuse to link to the recipe here).  The cake was way more dense--almost like a pound cake.  And the mousse obviously didn't pan out, but the taste wasn't even that great.  I shouldn't be eating raw egg whites anyway, so maybe that's a good thing?

At least those Wilton classes I took last year paid off!
The decorating was the best part.
We're still eating it, but I'm definitely on the hunt for a better recipe to try next year!

The list of firsts I experienced with this cake:
  • First time whipping cream to stiff peaks (success!)
  • First (and second) time separating eggs
  • First and second time whipping egg whites (failure and success)
  • First time opening a bottle of champagne (it was a screw top, but still)
  • First time baking a cake without using a box of cake mix
Have you had any mousse mishaps?  Or are you on a quest for the perfect recipe for something?


  1. Love this post!! My husband and I had the BEST cake in the world and since we had a wedding out of the state we lived we had my parents take the cake home.. They were SUPPOSED to store it for us, but they threw it out :( I was pissed.. Do I even DARE to re-create the amazing red velvet cake with cream cheese icing.... maybe I'll try to perfect it during deployment and do it for our 3 year since hubby is missing our 2 year by like days...

    As for a champagne bottle, I'm the person that would probably break a window or send someone to the ER... So MORE POWER TO YOU!

  2. Happy Anniversary! Your cake looks so cute! Now I'm going to be looking for this cake recipe, I want to try it!

  3. Your cake looks adorable! :) I'm in love with our wedding cake too and so sad that now we live so far away that we can't just pop over to the bakery and order a smaller version. Oh well, maybe someday we'll get the chance to eat it again! :)

  4. The cake sounds so good, and I love the cake decorating!

  5. Happy Anniversary!

    Chocolate cream pie is my bane. I can never get it right, which is too bad, since it's Hubby's favorite dessert. I've tried several recipes, but they were either too rich, too stiff, too runny, too bland, etc. None of them have passed the Husband Test, so that is what I'm working on!