Chocolate Champagne Layer Cake / by Chelsea Zwieg

My very last post of 2016! Can you even believe it? I know that everyone is obligated to say "wow this year has gone so fast. I can't believe it's *insert shocking year here* already" every single time New Year's rolls around, but for real I can't believe that this year is over. I feel like when I was in school and the end of the year meant final, papers and all other things stress-dream related I had no problem believing it was time for a new year. What, it's 2013?....well it's ABOUT TIME. But being a real world adult means there are no semesters or breaks to measure time by which apparently just makes time go by really really fast. But as far as this super sneaky disappearing year goes, I am pretty darn happy with it. 

Spoiler alert: New Year's makes me all reflective/emotional/thankful and I can't even help it. So either skip to the end of this post to get yourself some boozy cake or buckle up because it's about to get real sappy up in here. This year was my first full year living back in Wisconsin and, like I said in my last post, I am so enormously grateful to be living near the people that I love. I am so thankful for the gigantic amounts of love, laughter and just plain ridiculous goofiness that I am surrounded by. On top of that, this was also my first full year working at the bakery and don't even get me started on how much happiness that place brings me. I can't think of anything better than waking up every morning and decorating cupcakes and baking cookies for 8 hours and that is exactly what I get to do all day every day. I don't think it will ever get old. And then of course, there's the blog. And all of you guys. People who don't even know me (or do know me! hi!) that take the time to read about all of my weird kitchen experiments and listen to me rant about foods I hate or ramble endlessly about foods I love. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK. YOU. Ok, I'm done now. Feelings time over....let's talk about cake. 

If there ever was a time to put champagne in everything it's New Year's Eve, am i right? A few weeks ago when I was in Chicago we stopped at this chocolate shop and had the most ridiculously amazing chocolate champagne truffles. After standing right outside of the store eating them we went back in for round two (thank goodness!) and they have been on my mind ever since. At first I was thinking about just making champagne truffles but it really isn't a party without some cake. So the truffles became a cake and boy am I ever glad they did. I took my favorite chocolate cake recipe and subbed part of the water for champagne which gives it a subtle champagne flavor that I love. Enough to taste but no too much to take away from the chocolate. The filling is a vanilla champagne buttercream and the outside is a super silky chocolate buttercream (which you could also add champagne to, if you're feeling extra boozy). I can't think of anything more festive to eat while waving goodbye to 2016. 

I hope you all have a fantastic New Year's Eve/Day! I will be eating tons of fantastic food, playing games and watching movies with my best friend and her fiancé (third wheelin' like it's my job) and, of course, we will be eating this cake. Have a great weekend! See you next week :) 


Chocolate Champagne Cake 

Note: I thought this cake had plenty of champagne flavor as is. However, if you want a little extra kick, brush each leveled layer with 1-2 tablepsoons of champagne and let it soak into the layers before assembling the cake. This will also keep the cake extra moist. 

Makes a 3 layer 6" cake

| Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  •  1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 eggs 
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla 
  • 1/2 cup champagne
  • 1/4 cup hot water

For the frosting: 

  • 1/2 cup egg whites
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tbsp. champagne
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 4 oz. dark or bittersweet chocolate

| Instructions

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour 3 6" cake pans. 

Sift the dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer. Let the mixer run on low to combine the ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk the milk, oil, eggs and vanilla. Add to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Scrape the bowl and paddle and add the champagne and hot water. Mix on low, scraping as needed, until combined and smooth. 

Divide the batter evenly among the three cake pans. Bake 20-25 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in pans for 15 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, place egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Make sure the bowl is completely clean and dry before adding the egg whites. Whisk the eggs and sugar to combine and place the bowl over a pot of simmering water. Cook the mixture, whisking often, until it reaches 155 F on a candy thermometer. Return the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on high speed for 8-10 minutes. The whites should hold medium-stiff, glossy peaks and be cooled to room temperature.  Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl in 20 second intervals, stirring well between each. Let cool.

Swap out the whisk for the paddle attachment. With the mixer running on low, add the the butter a few tablespoons at a time letting it incorporate after each addition. The butter needs to be room temperature to incorporate properly. Once the butter is mixed in, and the vanilla and increase the speed to medium. Continue to mix until the frosting is smooth, fluffy and free of air bubbles, about 2-3 minutes.

Transfer the frosting to a separate bowl, leaving a generous 1/2 cup behind in the mixer. Add the powdered sugar and champagne to the frosting left in the mixer and beat until smooth. This will be the filling between the layers. Add the melted chocolate to the frosting that you removed from the mixer and gently fold it in until combined. 

To assemble the cake, level the layers using a serrated knife. Fill and stack the layers with the white champagne buttercream (about 1/4 cup between each layer). Frost the outside as desired with the chocolate buttercream.