I’ve always had a lot of requests for champagne cakes. So, I made them, but I was never completely satisfied with the resulting product. To me, the cake contained a lot of unnecessary flavors from the champagne, including a beer-like taste, presumably from the alcohol. At the end of 2015, I read Dave Arnold’s excellent book Liquid Intelligence: The Art and Science of the Perfect Cocktail. In this book, master chef Arnold describes developing beverages using acids isolated from champagne. This approach has proven very popular in his Manhattan bar Booker and Dax. This made me wonder if these culinary acids could also be used in cakes. So I ran some labs on it and what follows is a successful recipe from those labs.
This cake offers a strawberry flavor augmented by the champagne acids. It has a moist crumb with a silky, vanilla and almond ermine (roux) icing.
- 1 pound strawberries
- 2.25 cups (432 grams) white sugar, divided
- 1 cup water
- 1 teaspoon plus a pinch kosher salt, divided
- 4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
- .5 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 3 cups (336 grams) cake flour, sifted
- 1.5 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup canola oil
- 1 teaspoon tartaric acid (I use New England Cheesemaking Company.)
- 1 teaspoon lactic acid (I use Milliard.)
- 1 teaspoon rose water
Wash the strawberries, remove their tops and cut each into quarters. Place in a non-reactive bowl, toss with .25 cup (48 grams) of the sugar, cover and store in the refrigerator overnight.
The next day, pour the strawberries and all juice into a sturdy saucepan. Add the water and a pinch of salt. Put over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
When finished simmering, carefully pour the liquid through a fine-mesh seive into a heat-proof measuring cup. Use the back of a spoon to drain all liquid out of the berries and into the cup. If your berries produced less that a cup of juice, add water to make one cup. If your berries produced more than a cup, clean your saucepan, pour the juice into the saucepan and simmer it down to one cup. Set the juice aside to cool.
Heat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease or spray two 9”x3” round baking pans and set them aside.
Put the four egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a metal whip. Whip the egg whites on medium-high speed until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and whip on medium-high to high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add .25 cup (48 grams) of the white sugar and whip on medium-high to high speed until firm, glossy peaks form. Do not allow the egg whites to become dry. Place the egg whites in a bowl large enough for folding. Rinse and dry your mixer’s bowl.
Fit your mixer with the paddle attachment. Combine the sifted cake flour and baking soda in the mixer’s bowl. Turn the mixer on at its lowest setting and allow the ingredients to mix for 3 minutes.
Add the canola oil and allow it to combine with the flour on the mixer’s lowest setting. Continue until all of the flour is coated with the oil.
Add the egg yolks and stir until combined with the flour and canola oil.
In a small bowl, combine the strawberry juice, salt, tartaric acid, lactic acid and rose water. Stir until the acids are completely dissolved. (This may take over a minute of stirring.)
On low speed, alternate mixing the strawberry juice mixture and the remaining 1.75 cups (336 grams) of sugar into the batter.
When all of the liquid and sugar is incorporated, turn off the mixer and scrape the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl to make sure everything is mixed. Turn the mixer up to medium speed and allow it to beat for three minutes.
Stir .25 cup of the egg whites into the mixer bowl to lighten the batter. Fold the batter, in thirds, into the egg whites. Be careful to deflate the egg whites as little as possible.
Divide the batter evenly between your pans and bake for 28-33 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack in the baking pans for 10 minutes, then remove the cake layers from the pans and cool on a wire rack until room temperature.
- 5 Tablespoons bleached all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole milk
- .5 teaspoon vanilla extract
- .5 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup (192 grams) white sugar
Put the flour and milk in a sturdy saucepan. Using a fork or hand whisk, whisk over medium heat until it thickens to a pudding-like consistency. It should be pulling away from the sides and bottom of the saucepan when it is cooked. Remove from heat, place it in a heat-proof container and allow it to cool to room temperature (you can use the refrigerator to speed this up). When cool, stir in the vanilla and almond extract.
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar for 8 minutes. It must be light, fluffy and not grainy.
Add the cooled flour mixture, a little at a time, beating well after each addition. Continue to beat until the frosting has a consistency between whipped cream and mashed potatoes.
Reduce the mixer to lowest speed and beat for 5 minutes. This will deflate the frosting to make it easier to spread.
- 8 ounces (by weight) of your favorite seedless strawberry preserves