Sunday, January 22, 2012

Celebrate with Champagne Cake!

A very warm welcome today to Paige Shelton, whose latest book, IF FRIED CHICKEN COULD FLY, was just released!  That's more than enough reason to celebrate with a cake this beautiful!

Thank you to the wonderful authors of Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen for the guest post opportunity. It’s great to be here!

When I started the first book of my new series, there were a couple recipes I just knew I had to include. The title of the book is If Fried Chicken Could Fly, so, of course, I included a fried chicken recipe. But there was another recipe, one that I’d been trying to duplicate for years that I really, really wanted to add.

A couple blocks from my high-school-and-college years’ home in Des Moines, Iowa, was a place called Barbara’s Bakery. It was only a short time after we moved to Des Moines that I found Barbara’s and their amazing “Champagne Cake.” I fell in cake-love at first bite. I left Des Moines after college, and I have craved that cake ever since. As I finished If Fried Chicken Could Fly I put some extra effort into trying to duplicate Barbara’s recipe, but it was to no avail. I did come up with a yummy champagne cookie that I included in the book, but, sadly, the cake just didn’t come together.

However, even after the book was turned in, I wasn’t able to give up the quest.

And surprising even myself, I think I finally got it! Okay, well, not “it” exactly. Once I quit trying to duplicate Barbara’s amazing recipe and just focused on creating something that tasted so delicious that it stood on its own, a recipe came together. And the craziest part of it all was that it turned out to be incredibly simple. I mean, really simple. Box cake mix simple, in fact. I’m thrilled to share it today on Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen.

Here’s Paige’s (Not-Barbara’s)
Shockingly Simple Champagne Cake recipe:

1 package white cake mix

(You need a “three egg” mix. I just use Betty’s, and it has pudding in the mix.)

1 (3 1/2 oz.) package white chocolate pudding mix
(Adding this ingredient is what I think magnifies all the delicious flavors. It’s subtle, but I can tell it’s there.)

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sour cream 

3 eggs

1 cup chilled champagne 

(I don’t even like the taste of champagne, but I LOVE what it does to a cake. And, I like my champagne-cake champagne like I like my bubblegum: cheap, pink and sweet.)
Red food coloring

1 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
6 tablespoons champagne
Silver dragees (edible/decorative balls – some people like silver edible glitter, but I’m team-dragee all the way.) 

Red food coloring

That’s it! Those are the only ingredients you need. 



Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease and flour the bottom and sides of two 9 inch pans.

Except for the food coloring, put all the cake ingredients into a bowl. Stir to combine, beat until blended, and then beat for 4 minutes at low speed. While you’re beating at low speed, add some drops of red food coloring until you achieve a nice pink. I use gel food coloring and it takes me a good four drops to get to pink. 

Bake in the two greased and floured pans at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Cool about 5 minutes and then turn out to cool on rack.

After cake is completely cooled, place all frosting ingredients except for the food coloring into a bowl. Beat to combine and then start adding drops of food coloring until you again have a nice pink – for me this is also about 4 good-sized drops. Beat until stiff peaks form. 

Spread the frosting in between the layers:

Then frost the entire cake, and sprinkle the dragees on top:

So simple! And pretty! 

The recipe also makes about 30 cupcakes. I cut the frosting in half for cupcakes which leaves me scraping the bowl for the last few, but I find it’s wise not to have extra frosting hanging around. I can’t resist the stuff.

If you don’t want to include champagne in the frosting, you can substitute 1 teaspoon vanilla per every three tablespoons of champagne.

Since the frosting is of the whipped cream variety, I keep the final cakes or cupcakes chilled. 

This is a great cake for pretty much any occasion. In fact, I’ll probably make one in a heart shape for Valentine’s Day. I might even try a green shamrock in March. 

Thanks, everyone, for letting me stop by today. I’m sending you all happy cooking, baking, eating and reading wishes!   

And, of course - Cheers!



  1. That looks delicious! Going to file this away for Hubby's birthday in April. I remember when I was little my mother had a bottle of silver dragees in the cabinet, and I found them fascinating--especially that they were edible!

  2. What a pretty cake and cupcakes. Will place this in my book.

  3. Echoing Peg and Shawn (BusyMom) - gorgeous cake and cupcakes. Perfect for a bubbly birthday dessert. Thank you for sharing it today and big congrats on the launch of your new series with If Fried Chickens Could Fly. Great title - wish they really could fly, right onto my dinner table, no work, lol)!

    ~ Cleo

  4. Looks lovely. Sounds divine. And those little pearl balls make it so lovely and dressy. Are they pricey?

  5. Thank you, everyone!

    Yes, no work fried chicken would be great.

    Juju - the 4 oz. container of dragees cost $5.99. 4 ounces is enough to last me a long, long time.


  6. I love this ... so pretty! I'm absolutely making this for work this week. Just because it's too pretty to wait!

  7. Thanks so much for joining us today, Paige. Like Peg, I remember seeing the dragees when I was little and being so impressed. They're like putting a tiara on a cake. I still love them! What a pretty birthday cake for a little princess.

    ~ Krista

  8. This is so beautiful and sounds so yummy that I'd love a nice piece of this cake with a glass of champagne right now.

  9. What a gorgeous cake Paige! and so glad to have you visiting. And best of luck and many sales on the new book!

  10. What a GREAT sounding cake. So easy and yet seems so delicious!!!!

  11. I'm thrilled it's sounding yummy!

    And, same to you, Lucy. What a great new series you have!


  12. I think I just drooled all over my keyboard! Paige, I'd trade you a real bottle of champagne for a piece of that cake! Thanks for sharing such a divine recipe and best of luck with the new release!

  13. I'd take you up on that, Ellery!

    Thank you - you too!

    I'm excited for so many of "The Kitchen's" authors' upcoming books. You all are a prolific bunch.


  14. My favorite childhood cake memory is of the petit fours from Barbaras Bakeshop. Any suggestions for replication? Thanks for this recipe.

    1. Hi, Anonymous - LOVED Barbara's Petit Fours too. In fact, I was in Des Moines last month (haven't really be back for years), and I visited The Bake Shop on University. It's in the Windsor Heights area. They have Barbara's recipes and I indulged some goodies. Yum!

      Regarding the Petit Fours - the best I can figure is that they are just a simple white cake with a powdered sugar frosting. However, the secret is in getting the frosting just right - flavor and consistency. I don't have it yet, but I think it's just a matter of some more experimentation. I'll keep working on it.

      Thanks for commenting. We must have grown up in the same general area. It sure has changed.

      Best -

  15. I have one every year for my birthday any idea what the filling was? I remember it was white, and "densely fluffy"

  16. By and large champagne sustenance ought to be sweet, for example, chocolates and other fun pastries. wine clubs

  17. Adding this comment in case others are still searching for the recipe. I also grew up in Des Moines and got the champagne cake every year for my birthday (and every few years I get one from The Bake Shoppe in Windsor Heights when I'm back in DSM). The filling is custard (not frosting) and based on an article from the Des Moines Register a few years back no champagne is used in the cake but instead both rum and sherry are used (unfortunately I don't know how much).