Saturday, March 1

Monthly Challenge: Feb's Strawberry and Champagne Cake

For the February part of my Monthly Craft Challenge, I was tasked with creating a cake with only a red heart for inspiration. This meant I had to get thinking about all that lovey-dovey stuff, which isn't that easy for someone who has mixed feelings about Valentine's day, romance and all that other 'soppy stuff'. 
I wanted to bake something that represented the idea of romance in all it's extravagance, a cake that put a bunch of carnations & a cheap bottle of wine to shame...so I went for the popular flavour combination of champagne and strawberries.
I'm not going to lie, this month's challenge was not easy on my bank account. Strawberries and bottles of Bubbly don't come cheap and I'm not exactly rolling in it so the fact I pulled this off at all is a miracle- a definite dedication to my craft, although I have to confess I did cheat and use sparkling rose instead of actual champagne...
It doesn't look exactly how I'd hoped (I had a few disasters as I went along) but I can assure you that the taste makes up for it's 'rustic' appearance...it's definitely a fork and plate jobby though!
It's definitely one for a special occasion and sadly doesn't keep for long so it needs to be eaten fairly quickly.(Luckily, this wasn't a problem for my family and friends!)

Heres the recipe if you fancy trying it yourself...
(Makes 2 x 8" cakes)
For the cake:
384g flour
402g sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence 
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
16 fl. oz champagne 
6 egg whites
For the strawberry filling:
375g  sliced strawberries
3 tablespoons sugar
150ml water
210g mini marshmallows
300ml double cream
70g cream cheese
200g icing sugar
For the glaze:
1/2 flute champagne
Icing sugar
To decorate:
5 or 6 medium sized strawberries 
Pink (strawberry-flavoured) chocolate or pink candy melts

*(or sparkling wine- I used a lovely tasting sparkling rose and it worked out well)

(You will need to make filling a day before baking your cake) Put strawberries in a large pan with sugar and water and bring to the boil, before letting them simmer for a few minutes until the fruit is soft
Remove from the heat and stir in marshmallows until they've melted. Leave to cool
Beat cream until it holds it shape then fold it into cooled strawberry mixture
Place in the refrigerator to chill for a few hours
Remove from the fridge and add gradually to cream cheese that has been creamed. Slowly sieve in icing sugar and make sure it's fully combined. Pour into a tub and chill overnight

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease two round 8" cake tins*
Mix flour, baking powder and salt in a smal bowl and set aside
Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy, then add vanilla and mix again. Add egg whites one at a time
Add flour mix and the champagne (or sparkling wine) in 3 parts, alternating between each- start and finish with the flour mix
Pour mixture into cake tins- you'll want the cake to be fairly deep (about 3cm when baked as it will need to be halved) *alternatively you could use 4x 8" tins and have 4 thinner layers then don't need to be cut
Bake for 25 mins or until cake springs back when touched then leave to cool completely on a wire rack
When the cakes are cool, slice them into two layers. Remove the strawberry filling from fridge and begin layering up the cake, spreading filling between each piece of sponge
Wrap cake tightly in cling film and place in the fridge for the time being
Put pink chocolate/candy melts in a disposable piping bag and place in a pan of just boiled water until the contents melt. Remove from the water and leave to cool slightly
Cut tops of leftover strawberries and stab slits in the fruit then place in a bowl with half a flute of champagne- leave to soak for 5 mins
(Going back to the chocolate), pipe several triangles onto a piece of grease-proof paper and leave aside to set
Remove strawberries from champagne and pat dry with kitchen roll 
To make the glaze, use icing sugar mixed with some champagne (in the same way you would make an icing)
Unwrap cake and pour the glaze over the top allowing it to drop down the sides
Once glaze has set, arrange strawberries and chocolate triangles on the top of the cake.
It's a bit of a time consuming one but it's well worth it!


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