- Although I usually prefer baking with dark or bittersweet chocolate, in this case, it’s especially important to use milk chocolate for both the ganache frosting and the glaze. Dark chocolate will drown out the subtle, delicate flavors of champagne.
- The cake requires both a ganache and a glaze because on its own, the ganache will be dull, lackluster and not very pretty to look at since it contains gelatin. I know, I know, it’s weird that the ganache contains gelatin, but it’s there to give the frosting the structure it needs. If you’re looking for less work, feel free to omit the glaze, but don’t say that I didn’t warn you about its appearance.
- If you prefer to make a wider (as opposed to taller) cake, you can bake the cake in three 9-inch pans as opposed to the four 6-inch pans that I used for my cake. Just be sure to adjust the baking time and bake it for 25 to 35 minutes as opposed to the baking time I listed in the instructions below.
For the Champagne-Soaked Golden Butter Cake:
- 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup plus 6 tablespoons (3 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 6 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup sour cream
- 1 1/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup champagne
For the Chocolate Champagne Ganache:
(makes around 3 cups, enough for one 4-layer cake)
- 3 tablespoons cold water
- 1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
- 2 cups milk chocolate (at most, 38% cacao or less), finely chopped
- 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (at most, 62% cacao or less), finely chopped
- 1/4 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 2/3 cup champagne
- 2 tablespoons Cognac
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and at room temperature
For the Milk Chocolate Glaze and Marzipan Constellation Topping:
(enough for one 4-layer cake)
- 9.5 ounces milk chocolate (at most, 38% cacao or less), finely chopped
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons corn syrup
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and at room temperature
- 2 ounces marzipan
- 2 drops yellow food coloring
- Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 (F). Spray four 6-inch round cake pans with cooking spray, and line the bottom of each cake pan with a parchment paper circle. Spray the parchment circles. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 3/4 teaspoon baking powder and 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt until fully combined. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 1 cup plus 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, 2 cups granulated sugar and 2 tablespoons light corn syrup. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
- While the butter and sugar is beating, whisk together 6 large eggs, 1/3 cup sour cream and 1 1/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup. After the butter and sugar has finished beating for at least 5 minutes, lower the mixer to its lowest setting and add the egg/sour cream/vanilla mixture and beat until smooth. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl and mix for another additional 30 seconds, before turning the mixer back to its lowest speed and adding the dry ingredients (from the 2nd step) in two batches, mixing for 30 seconds after each addition. Scrape the bowl again and mix for another 15 seconds.
- Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cake pans, using an offset spatula to spread and level the batter around each pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the cakes appear firm and a skewer inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Transfer the cakes to wire racks and allow to cool completely in their pans.
- Once the cakes are cooled completely, use a serrated knife to level each cake. Use a skewer or a fork to poke the top of each cake with holes repeatedly. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of champagne over the top of each cake, using an offset spatula to spread any excess champagne over the cake and into its crevices. Wrap the cakes in plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to assemble the cake.
- Pour 3 tablespoons cold water into a small bowl, and sprinkle 1 tablespoon powdered gelatin over the surface of the water. Let sit for 10 minutes to allow the gelatin to "bloom" and soften.
- While the gelatin is blooming, combine 2 cups finely chopped milk chocolate and 2 ounces finely chopped bittersweet chocolate in a double boiler (or a heatproof bowl set over a pot of steaming water). Melt over medium heat, using a rubber spatula to stir the chocolate occasionally to help melt it faster.
- Once the chocolate has melted, whisk together 1/4 cup heavy cream, 3 tablespoons light corn syrup and bloomed gelatin (from the 1st step) in a liquid measuring cup and pour over the melted chocolate. Use a rubber spatula to stir the mixture in one direction, concentrating on the center, until the ganache is smooth and glistening.
- Once the ganache is smooth and glistening, whisk together 2/3 cup champagne, 2 tablespoons cognac, and 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup. Slowly pour the champagne mixture into the ganache, continuing to whisk the ganache constantly as you do so — be careful not to add the champagne mixture too quickly, or the ganache will separate! It's best to add just a couple tablespoons at a time. Once the champagne is completely incorporated into the ganache, add 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, a couple cubes at a time, and continue whisking until the butter is completely melted, about 1 minute.
- Once the butter is completely incorporate into the mixture, transfer the ganache to the coolest part of your kitchen and let set, stirring occasionally until warm but still spreadable, around 20 to 30 minutes. If you wait too long, the ganache will be too hard to spread! You want it to be warm but not hot, and it's better to use it while it's on the warmer side as opposed to the cooler side. Use an offset spatula to spread it between the cakes, layering each one on top of the other (I used about 1/4 cup of ganache between each layer). Cover the sides of the cake with the remaining ganache frosting and allow to cool completely before glazing and decorating with marzipan stars.
- Place 9.5 ounces finely chopped milk chocolate in a medium, heatproof bowl. Set aside.
- In a small saucepot over medium heat, whisk together 3/4 cup heavy cream and 2 teaspoons corn syrup. Heat until it just boils, before pouring it over the chocolate. Let sit for 1 minute.
- After 1 minute, use a rubber spatula and begin stirring the mixture in one direction, concentration on the center, until the mixture is smooth and glistening. Add 4 tablespoons butter, one cube at a time, and continue stirring until the butter is completely melted and fully integrated into the mixture, about 1 minute. Transfer the glaze to a liquid measuring cup and cool to between 90-95 (F), before pouring evenly over the ganache-covered cake. Immediately use an offset spatula to spread the glaze around the cake to create a smooth look.
- Once the glaze has set on the cake (about 1 to 2 hours), make the marzipan constellation topping. Use your hands to knead 2 drops yellow food coloring into 2 ounces marzipan. On a clean work surface lightly dusted with confectioners' sugar, roll out the marzipan. Use a mini cookie cutter to cut out little shapes, and press the cutouts gently on to the cake.