Pink Champagne Cake

March 18, 2022
8 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Serves 12
Author Notes

"Cakes have become an icon of American culture and a window to understanding ourselves. Be they vanilla, lemon, ginger, chocolate, cinnamon, boozy, Bundt, layered, marbled, even topped with meringue—they are etched in our psyche. Cakes relate to our lives, heritage, and hometowns.

"In 1960, women who frequented the nightclub scene sipped pink Champagne, or at least that’s what the gossip columnists said. In England, Princess Margaret was out sipping pink Champagne in the wee hours, and pink Champagne was the drink of choice of Hollywood starlets, too. Women’s clubs hosted pink Champagne luncheons on festive occasions. And when not poured into glasses, pink Champagne was a fashionable color of jewelry, even a shade of shag carpeting.

"Johnson’s Model Bakery in Medford, Oregon, that same year baked a Christmas Pink Champagne Cake, and later variations popped up in Oregon and California. From the Yosemite Bakery in Modesto, California, to the Modern Cake Shop in Eureka, Kansas, where the cake was 'filled with Bavarian champagne-flavored butter cream,' this cake was fun, fresh, and hip. It is still baked at McGavin’s Bakery in Bremerton, Washington, containing no Champagne, and at the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, California. The Los Angeles Times has said this cake is one of its most requested cake recipes of all time. It is just right for showers, bachelorette parties, weddings, and graduations."

This Champagne cake recipe is adapted from the one that was originally shared in the Los Angeles Times and republished in American CakeAnne Byrn

What You'll Need
  • Cake
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for the pan
  • 3 cups cake flour, plus more for the pan
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 5 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 cup pink Champagne, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 drop pink food coloring (or more for darker pink)
  • Pink Champagne Buttercream Frosting
  • 1 3/4 cups (3½) sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 cups (or more) powdered sugar, sifted, divided
  • 4 tablespoons pink Champagne
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 drop pink food coloring (or more for darker pink)
  1. Make the Cake: Place a rack in the center of the oven; heat to 350°F. Butter and flour 3 (8-inch) cake pans, shaking out any excess flour.
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites, Champagne, vanilla, and oil until well blended.
  3. In another large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the sugar and butter for 3 to 4 minutes, until creamy and light. Add the flour mixture and the egg white mixture alternately, beating to combine after each addition, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Stir in the food coloring.
  4. Divide the batter among the prepared pans. Bake for 23 to 27 minutes, until the cakes just pull back from the sides of the pans. Let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of each pan, give each cake a gentle shake, then invert it once and then again onto the rack to cool completely, domed side up, for 30 minutes.
  5. Prepare the Frosting: In a large bowl, using the electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter for about 1 minute, until creamy and smooth. Add 6 cups of the powdered sugar, the Champagne, and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until smooth. Add the remaining 2 cups of the powdered sugar, adding more if needed to make the frosting thick but spreadable. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high, add the food coloring, and continue to beat for about 30 seconds, until the frosting is fluffy.
  6. To assemble the cake, place 1 layer on a platter. Spread about 3⁄4 cup of the frosting to the edges. Place the second layer on top and repeat. Place the third layer on top. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. Garnish with white chocolate shavings, sliced strawberries, coconut, or edible rose petals, if desired, depending on the occasion.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

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Anne Byrn is the author of American Cake (Rodale, 2016), the history of cake in America, with recipes. She lives and bakes Nashville, TN.

38 Reviews

Catherine February 24, 2024
Oh my goodness this cake is light, fluffy & incredibly delicious. If this recipe doesn't turn out for you, it's because you missed a step. I wonder if the light texture is from the carbonation in the champagne. I used a Swiss buttercream with freeze dried strawberries & soaked the layers with a simple syrup mixed with vanilla bean paste & the champagne. Delicious.
Pumprupper March 6, 2023
I made half-a-recipe and baked it in two 6-inch pans, as a test before making a birthday cake for a friend. Although I’d made this cake before, some of the reviews were making me nervous.
Regardless, the cake turned out fabulous! A delicate crumb, delicious taste and delightful coating of just the right frosting.
I used Korbel, an inexpensive pink California champagne labeled, “sweet,” boiled it down and cooled it before using for the recipe, the frosting and as a brushed-on addition to each layer. This enhanced the flavor, which was lacking previously, when I’d used a dry champagne the first time I baked it.
In the half-recipe of frosting, I used slightly more butter than called for, and it was a perfectly delicious accompaniment to the cake, definitely not overpowering; rather, a joyous addition to every bite.
This as an absolutely stunning cake, sure to top your list of favorites.
cosmiccook March 21, 2021
The article describes the cake as a Bavarian cream--I didn't see it included in the recipe. I'd like to have the recipe as described in the article--which says the bakery's cake doesn't contain any pink champagne.
Erin M. September 9, 2020
This cake was the consistency of cookie dough When I spooned it into the cake pans. Took a little longer to bake but came out of the pans nicely with a bit of coxing after the 10 min. cool down on the rack. It unfortunately taste like cookie dough as well. Frosting taste good. You will need more powder sugar if you want to pipe with it but for spreading it was perfect.
JJGood December 28, 2019
Does anyone have thoughts on making this a day or two ahead? I’m a bit afraid the cake will dry out and the icing will stiffen.
Nina M. January 2, 2020
You can try making a simple syrup to keep the cake fresh. Let water and sugar come to a boil then turn it off. Add some champagne for flavor. Then take a brush and brush some of the liquid on top of each cake so it soaks in a bit.
I would wrap each cake in plastic wrap until the day of serving. Make the frosting that day and assemble. 🍓🍾
Lauren M. August 7, 2018
This recipe makes such a tender, delicate cake and I love it because the champagne flavor does not get lost. The buttercream (American) is very heavy and very sweet in contrast the beautiful cake itself. I may try again with a Swiss meringue buttercream.
Anna October 11, 2018
I am a little worried about making this buttercream recipe with the cake, because I also find it too heavy and sweet in most cases. I always prefer Swiss meringue, so I'd LOVE to know if you tried it again, and how it turned out! Otherwise, I'll be reporting back myself!
Brigid L. June 19, 2018
I want to make this as cupcakes for a picnic. Any recommendations on cooking times?
Lauren M. February 1, 2018
Since the cake will be colored pink, would you recommend clear imitation or pure vanilla extract?
jude1 February 2, 2018
I used pure vanilla and it does not change the color.
Adrienne February 2, 2018
Ditto. Definitely worth using the pure vanilla. And be careful with that food coloring. It is really really potent. TINY is key haha.
jude1 December 31, 2017
I just made this for my granddaughters’ 14th birthday on 12/31. It is quite tasty. Only needed half the buttercream for a three layer cake.
Maïa B. October 1, 2017
Wow.... this recipe did NOT work for me... I’m not sure what happened, but the cake came out dense, gummy with a very tight crumb. I’m guessing a better way would be to whip the egg whites with the sugar to make a meringue and fold in the batter? I was expecting a angel food-like texture and a significant champagne taste and got neither. Is there anyone here who’s made this before and has tips? PS : I followed the recipe to the T.
Hannah E. January 2, 2018
Based on your description of the cake my guess is there wasn't enough flour. Cake batter can go south easily based on how moist your climate is or on how you measure your flour. I measured my flour by scooping with the measuring cup and scraping the top instead of spooning the flour into the cup and I cooked the cake for a longer period of time than recommended. That worked really well for the cold, wet climate I live in. I also added two egg whites for yolks and that made a smoother texture for me.
Carly D. May 18, 2017
Do you actually whip the egg whites until stiff or just incorporate into the champagne and oil?
Adrienne May 19, 2017
What I did was whisk until they were well incorporated but not stiff. They will become stiff as you incorporate them with the flour mixture into the sugar+butter.
robinanne June 22, 2020
I have done some research online and the original recipe via the L.A. Times did instruct you to "whip the egg whites until stiff and then fold into the batter". I am going to try this the next time I bake this lovely cake.
Adrienne May 8, 2017
Made this cake for my birthday yesterday. It was a huge hit and gorgeous. The cake was a pit pinker than I would have coloring is far more potent than I remember as a kid (or perhaps as a kid I would have preferred a hot pink cake). I used four thin 8" layers and it turned out beautifully and I used all the frosting. Looked gorgeous topped with small white carnations.
judy March 31, 2017
There is a little bakery down on 6th street in my Town of Bremerton WA that claims to be the originator of this cake. There is a very old Neon sign with al lady holding one of these cakes and a wooden spoon used on their markee. They bakery is at least 75 years old. The ladies in their have been baking forever it seems. Delicious goodies. All traditionally made. The way they were BEFORE things like margarine, and shortening, and high fructose syrup. One day i asked them how they sourced their ingredients,. They said it was a challenge for some of the years because the fake stuff was so prevalent. Pure, natural, clean and delicious.....
lgoldenhar January 3, 2017
This cake is so yummy! I made it in two 9" pans so it was a double layer cake instead of triple. For the bubbly, I used Trader Joe's Blason de Bourgogne Brut Rose France for $11.99 (in Cambridge, MA) and it tasted good to me. Finally, I halved the recipe for the pink champagne butter cream frosting, which I thought was a wise move. I still had a little frosting left over even halving the recipe. I made the cake on Friday, 12/30 and it is still good on Tuesday, 1/3 (4 days later).
JManno October 25, 2016
I do not need a cake this large. Could I half the recipe and make smaller cake perhaps using 6 in cake pans or even with 8 in pans
Thank you
judy October 24, 2016
Can I make this a day before event? Frosting too?
Anne B. October 12, 2016
Champagne technically comes from the Champagne region of France, and it tends to be expensive - $40 and up per bottle. But if this is a special cake, and you would like to sip some of the good stuff while you bake, open Moet Chandon Brut Rose. Not so pricey? Use a pink French sparkling rose called Cremant from other French regions. It has a deep rose color and rich flavor and is half the price. Cremant Rose from Alsace would work beautifully in this cake.
NBK March 28, 2021
Leave out the word "technically", and you're good!
Carol October 12, 2016
I can't wait to make this cake. Can you share what brand and type of champagne you use?
BJ B. October 11, 2016
Extra frosting is NEVER a problem, yum and thank you!!
Anne B. October 11, 2016
Yes, this cake would be fabulous as cupcakes. But you may have extra frosting as you are not spreading between layers. Just FYI.