A traditional Champagne cake recipe includes Champagne in the cake batter in lieu of cream or water. The cake in this recipe isn’t made with Champagne, but the ganache is. Make this festive dessert shine for a New Year’s Eve or anniversary celebration by garnishing it with edible 23-karat gold décor. —Valerie Gordon
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Coat the bottoms and sides of three 9-by-3-inch round cake pans with nonstick baking spray or butter and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
Divide the cake batter among the prepared cake pans, spreading it evenly. Bake for 15 minutes. Rotate the cakes and bake for an additional 10 to 12 minutes, until they appear firm and have a matte finish and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool completely in the pans on cooling racks.
Run an offset spatula or a small knife around the sides of the cake pans. Invert the cakes onto cooling racks and peel off the parchment paper. Wrap the cakes in plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to assemble the cake.
Transfer one cake layer, top side down, to a serving plate. Using an offset spatula, spread about 3/4 cup of ganache over the top. Place the second cake layer on top, top side down, and spread another layer of ganache over it. Place the last inverted cake layer on top. Using your hands, press down gently to even the layers.
Using an offset spatula, smooth the “seams” of the cake. You want the ganache to completely fill the spaces between the layers; concave areas will be very noticeable under the glaze. Refrigerate the cake, uncovered, until very cold, about 2 hours.
Set the chilled cake on a cooling rack and set the rack on a baking sheet to catch the glaze drippings. Pour the glaze over the top of the cake, starting at the edges and then moving to the center. Pick up the rack and bang it against the baking sheet to even out the glaze. If you missed a spot or two, move the rack with the cake aside and, using a bench scraper, collect the glaze from the pan and pour it back into the measuring cup. Place the rack back on the baking sheet and pour the glaze over the bare spots.
Allow the glaze to set completely, 10 to 15 minutes, before moving the cake. The glaze should be firm to the touch. Or, if your kitchen is warm, move the rack into the refrigerator until the glaze becomes firm, just a few minutes.
Run a hot offset spatula under the bottom of the cake to release it from the rack and transfer to a serving plate.
If you’d like to gild the lily, using a very small brush, lift a section of gold leaf off the sheet and gently lay it on the firm glaze. The gold will immediately stick to the glaze. Repeat with more gold leaf.