Soft, light, moist, orangey -my favourite chiffon cake. This recipe is an evolution of one passed down to me. Growing up, we ate very few cakes and cookies. It seems odd that I now bake and cook often. I know of people who shudder at the thought of baking chiffon cakes. The fear is often of the cake not rising high enough and if it did, it would then be the fear that the cake will dislodge itself whilst cooling in the upturned cake pan. Or perhaps that the outer layer of the cake might stick to the insides of the pan resulting in a bald cake. It ought not be intimidating. I have weighed out the ingredients, including the egg whites and yolks. Weighing the eggs is important as my ‘large size’ egg could differ considerably from yours. Pictures are helpful when baking chiffon cakes and I have included them to guide you along. For a successful bake, keep these pointers in mind:

  • weigh all ingredients (‘Cup’ measurements differ from country to country as 1 cup could mean either 250ml, 220ml…. I advise you move away from cups here and use precise measurements on kitchen scales)
  • whip eggs to stiff peak (don’t over or under beat)
  • fold in gently and quickly
  • bake a little longer than what you would expect
  • get an oven thermometer to ensure you are baking at my recommended oven temperatures

Orange Chiffon Cake

Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 65 minutes
Inactive:
Level: Moderate
Serves: At least 8
Oven Temperature: 380F (190C), lowered to 340F(170C)
Can recipe be doubled?
Make ahead? Taste best freshly baked but it can keep 3 days tightly covered. Thereafter, refrigerate.

Ingredients

9.17oz (260g) self raising flour
OR
3 teaspoons baking powder + 3/4 teaspoons salt, top up with all-purpose/plain flour until scale registers 9.17oz(260g).
7.05 oz (200g) caster sugar
3/4 cup (6.25 US fl oz)(185ml)(~3 oranges*) orange juice
3 teaspoons (~3 oranges) orange zest
1/2 cup (4.22 US fl oz)(125ml) neutral tasting oil
1/2 cup (4.22 US fl oz)(125ml)(4.76oz)(135g)(~8) egg yolks
1 and 1/4 cup (10.58US fl oz)(313ml)(11.04oz)(313g)(~9) egg whites
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
3.52 oz (100g) icing/confectioner’s sugar
* As this cake contains no artificial orange flavours, use only fragrant and the sweetest oranges you can find. I have replaced oranges with grapefruit before and they work beautifully too. 

Method

Use a chiffon/angel food cake/tube pan. Mine is made of aluminium. The bottom diameter should be 9″(23cm) and the height 4.3″(11cm). Do not use non stick or silicon. I have tried it with dismal results. It never bakes as high and the outer layer of the cake inevitably sticks to the pan.

Turn the oven on to 380F(190C). Oven rack adjusted to the lowest rung. I do recommend you invest in an oven thermometer as the internal temperature of ovens differ widely.

Dry ingredients
1. If you are making your own self-raising flour, remember to sift flour, salt and baking powder first. Mix in the self-raising flour with the caster sugar. Break up any lumps in the process. Set aside.
2. Sift the icing sugar and set it aside ready for the egg whites.

Wet ingredients
1. Wipe the mixer bowl you will be using to whip the egg whites and the whisk attachment(s) with a little vinegar or lemon juice. This gets rid of any traces of oil which will prevent the egg whites from whipping into stiff peaks. Add the egg whites into bowl and have the machine set up ready for whisking. Set aside.
2. In a larger mixing bowl, mix the orange juice, zest, oil and egg yolks in that order. Do not add zest directly onto the egg yolks as it might coagulate the yolks.

Putting the cake batter together
1. Add the dry ingredients to the orange juice/oil/egg yolks mix.
2. Use a whisk to stir (not whisk) to incorporate and break up any lumps.  Do not over mix as you do not want to overwork the gluten in the flour- you might end up with a doughy and heavy as opposed to a light cake. Set aside

3. Add the cream of tartar into the egg whites. Start the mixer on medium speed. When the egg whites are frothy, gradually add the sifted icing sugar a teaspoon at a time. With my KitchenAid, this process takes less than 2 minutes.

4. Once all the icing sugar has been added, if there is any visible icing sugar that has not been incorporated, stop the machine and scrape down the bowl with a clean spatula.
5. Turn the machine back on medium speed and let it run for ~5 minutes or until the whites reaches ‘stiff peak’ stage.

6. When you lift up the whisk attachment(s), the whites will hold its peak and not flop to the side. Do not over beat. You would know you have over beaten the whites, when the whites do hold its ‘peak’ but instead of billowy egg whites, you have clumpy egg whites that look like foam balls when you try to fold whites into orange/egg/flour mix. You can still use the whites, but it will be a little difficult to fold in and as a result you will lose some air pockets from the over folding.
7. Add a dollop of egg whites into the orange flour mixture to loosen the mixture. Work fast but do not over work it. It takes less than 15 seconds. The whites do not have to be fully incorporated at this stage. Refer to the photograph below.

8. Fold in the remaining egg whites in 2 intervals. Again, be gentle but work fast.

First half of egg whites are folded in. I am just about to add the next half of whites at this stage. Notice it is still  not evenly mixed which is fine.
Second half of egg whites folded in. Batter is now evenly mixed.

9. Pour the batter into the chiffon cake (tube) pan (no need to butter, flour or grease pan) and level out the batter.

10. Before putting it on the bottom rack of the heated oven, drop the cake pan 3X on the work counter from a 1″(2.5cm) height to get rid of excess bubbles.
11. Once cake is in the oven, reduce the temperature immediately to 340F(170C).
12. Bake for 25 -30 minutes, then cover the top with aluminium foil to prevent cake from over browning and then continue to bake (total bake time is ~65 minutes).

When is the cake baked through?
Unlike other cakes you do not use a cake skewer. Instead, use your fingers to press half an inch down the top of the cake. The cake is ready when the cake springs back quickly. Just a whee bit slower than when you press down on a dry kitchen sponge. This cake has to be baked a bit drier than you would a normal cake. Why? The cake has to be cooled completely in its overturned cake pan that should be propped up on a can of bake beans.

If the cake is too moist, it will be heavy and fall out of the overturned cake pan as it cools. Therefore, remove the cake from the oven only when the cake gives a quick bounce back when pressed.

Removing cake from tin
1. To dislodge cake, work a narrow palette knife (works better than a kitchen knife) around the inside circumference of the cake ring (refer to picture below). Press the knife firmly against the aluminium as you slide the knife, in a gentle sawing motion around the circumference of the cake tin. You want to scrape every lovely cake crumb off the inside of the cake tin.

2. Do the same for the inner tube of the cake ring (refer to the picture below).

3. Pull on the inner tube to lift the cake out from the cake ring. Set down on a level surface.
4. Press the palette knife against the bottom inside of the cake tin (refer to picture below). Using a wide sawing motion, work palette knife around the base of the cake.

The outer golden brown layers has pretty much stayed on the cake. Pretty.

5. Invert the cake directly on to your cake stand. If you have done a good job, the entire cake will be a lovely golden brown with no missing or peeling cake crumb.
6. Slice with a serrated knife and serve with a cup of tea.

Tips

Tips for a successful bake? I pretty much outlined it all in ‘Method’ and in my introduction.

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