Moist, billowy, light as a feather is how Rose Beranbaum describes the Orange Glow Chiffon Cake in her book, The Cake Bible. Baked this delightful cake which is indeed is all of that, not to mention tasty, truly zesty and refreshing.
For those of us new to this cake, a chiffon cake is made with oil and more liquid as in juice or water, which ensures a moist cake, while a good number of egg whites whipped and folded in, gives it real light texture. Chiffon cakes belong to the category of foam cakes which characteristically have a high proportion of eggs to flour. Biscuit, roulade, angel food cake, sponge, genoise etc are other cakes in this group. These cakes rely more on the whipped eggs for volume and lightness than on leavening agents like baking powder /soda etc..
Chiffon cakes are baked in a tube pan, i.e; a pan with a long tube in the center which supports the light cake as it rises while baking. The pan is typically not greased or floured for two reasons - one, the cake can cling to the pan as it rises in order to allow it to achieve maximum height . Second is, the cake needs to stick firmly to the pan as it cools - upside down! ( I wonder why then non-stick tube pans are made?) On baking, cake in the pan is immediately inverted and cooled upside down suspended over a bottle or with the help of the 'feet' of the pan. If cooled right side up as in other cakes, the cake will collapse under its down weight, resulting in a dense, unappealing cake. Some tube pans have 'feet', which help the air circulate underneath when the pan is inverted, aiding complete cooling and perfect texture.
With oranges everywhere now, the citrus-lover that I am, I plan to make the most of the season. My brand new tube-pan is reason enough for me to start with an orange chiffon cake, something I have longed to try. I have technically baked a chiffon cake a few years ago, but not in a tube pan as I did not own one. This cake is quite easy to bake, as the dry ingredients, oil, juice and egg yolks are just beaten together and finally the whipped egg whites are folded in towards the end. The success of the cake depends hugely on whipping the egg whites to the right consistency and folding it into the batter, without any loss of air. This done, you will turn out one of the lightest textured cakes, which will delight you as a baker and leave others wondering as to how that texture could have been attained...And you take even more pleasure in gloating that this is not a butter laden, cholesterol laden cake, quite the other way, a cake with low cholesterol per serving!
Here is how it goes. Things you will need -
Special equipment : A 10'' tube pan, a hand mixer or a stand mixer for whipping the egg whites.( It would be strenous to attain the volume needed with a wire whisk ) A large balloon whisk, or a large silicon spatula or a slotted skimmer for folding in the egg whites. A sturdy and heavy, narrow necked glass bottle to invert the cake on. 2 large mixing bowls will be of great help in mixing in without overworking the batter. A good zester will make zesting the oranges a breeze.
Images from Amazon
Sifted Cake Flour - 2 1/4 cups / 8 oz / 225 grams
All Purpose Flour - 190 grams plus Cornflour - 34 grams (Read note)
with the rest of the ingredients below...
Superfine Sugar - 1 1/2 cups /10.5 oz/ 300 grams
Baking powder - 2 teaspoons / 10 grams
Salt - 1/2 teaspoon
Safflower /Canola/ Vegetable oil - 1/2 liquid cup / 3.75 oz / 108 grams (read note)
7 large eggs (at room temperature) separated, plus 3 additional egg whites
(Total egg whites - 1 1/4 cup / 10.5 oz/ 300 grams
Egg yolks - 1/2 cup / 4.5 oz / 130 grams)
Orange juice, freshly squeezed - 3/4 liquid cup / 6.25 oz / 182 grams (from approximately 2-3 large oranges)
Grated orange zest - 2 tablespoons / 12 grams
Pure vanilla extract - 1 teaspoon
Cream of tartar - 1 1/4 teaspoons - 4 grams( I used equal lemon juice, read note)
Procedure: Pre-heat oven to 160 degrees C / 325 F. Do not grease or flour the tube pan.
In a large, deep mixing bowl, combine the sifted cake flour ( OR APF plus cornflour) baking powder all but 2 tablespoons sugar and salt. You will be adding the whipped egg whites to this bowl so it has to be large enough to mix in. Set aside. Measure the rest of the ingredients and set aside. Have a squeaky clean large, dry bowl and really clean beaters ready to whip the whites. If there is any trace of grease in either the bowl or beaters, your whites will not whip well.
I have weighed the whites and yolks, I needed to use about 11 small eggs in all. Separate the eggs carefully without any bit of yolk in the whites. Your best bet is to break the egg in half carefully, the yolk intact, pour the white into the bowl from one half, pour the rest of the egg from the other half onto your cupped fingers, let the whites flow down into the bowl. Collect the yolks in another bowl. Save the egg shells, don't throw them yet. Repeat. Messy, but works well for me. If there is any yolk in the whites, use an egg shell to take it out, works really well. Weigh the egg whites and the yolks, whites to be weighed first. You don't want to wash the weighing bowl in between again, more importantly take any chance with grease after the careful exercise! Yes, we all know, yolks are grease...
If you will be using the same beaters for beating the rest of the cake batter, its better to first beat the egg whites and set aside. Hmm.. we have to live with this way of working till we get our stand mixers with different bowls and beaters ..:)). Now to beat the egg whites, start with your hand mixer on low speed. When it starts foaming well, add the cream of tartar. If you add it beforehand, the whites will not foam. Once you add the cream of tartar or lemon juice, continue to beat gradually increasing the speed to medium high. When the beater marks show distinctly and soft peaks form, add the 2 tablespoons of sugar you have reserved. You could add the sugar beforehand, but whites whip faster to soft peaks without the sugar. Continue beating for a minute more till the whites form stiff peaks. To check, stop your mixer, slowly lift the beaters from the whites, you should be able to see peaks which stand straight. If they droop right away and fall back, you have to beat a little more. Be careful here, stop and check after a minute or so, as you do not want to beat the egg whites till they dry out. If they dry out, it will not easy to incorporate into the batter and your cake will not be light. Once the whites are whipped to the right consistency, keep the bowl aside. Wash and dry the beaters.
Back to the large bowl with the dry ingredients. Beat these for 1 minute to mix and aerate the mixture. Make a well in the center, add the orange juice, yolks, oil, orange zest and vanilla. Beat for 1 minute or till smooth. Do not over beat. Now using a balloon whisk or slotted skimmer or large spatula, fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the flour mixture. Mix to lighten the batter. Then tip in the rest. Fold in quickly, gently, but thoroughly. I used a large slotted skimmer for this. If using a balloon whisk, shake out the batter periodically. The batter is neither thick nor thin. Remember, you must add the whipped whites to the batter and not add the batter to the egg whites, the whipped whites will then deflate.
Pour the batter into the pan. The batter will come to 1 inch from the top. Run a sharp knife or metal spatula through the batter to prevent air pockets. Wipe away any batter from the tube or the sides of the pan. If you do not, this little bit of batter will burn. I don't know about you, but I prefer my cake smelling zesty rather than burnt! Bake for 55 minutes or till a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake springs back lightly when pressed in the center. Mine took around 63 minutes. It was domed in the oven, I could not longer see the tube, was worried the top may touch the inner top of the microwave. Frowning me. Did I do something wrong? But it deflated slightly once out of the oven. The tube was showing now, the height akin to what I remember seeing in the videos! Relieved me!
While your cake is baking, have your bottle ready. I did not find a suitable one, so I had to some engineering to 'build' a make-do high rack for the pan with feet! Even if using a pan with feet, according to Rose, the height it provides off the counter is not enough for the cake to cool sufficiently. The point is to suspend the cake well over the counter to allow the cake to cool completely. Don't laugh, but this is what I did...want to show you just in case you don't find a suitable bottle either. If you have multiple suitable bottles, save one for me please, more chiffon cakes baking in my kitchen!
Once baked, stick the neck of the bottle into the tube of the pan and then invert. I did not do it, but imagine it must be tricky with a hot pan. Even otherwise, you absolutely need thick towels or mittens to handle the large hot pan. The cake will take 1 1/2 hours to cool. You bet, this is one test of patience !!
After 1 1/2 hours, keep your serving platter nearby, loosen the sides of the cake with a long metal spatula or a knife. Run it along the sides of the core tube as well. For the sides to remain attractive, press the spatula or knife against the sides of the pan and avoid any up and down motion. Place the serving plate on top of the pan, put the plate on the table and invert the cake. I placed it slightly off-center, but did not want to risk breaking the cake, so let it be. The sides did not release real clean, but was happy to have the cake in one piece. I used a knife to gently separate the plate with the tube from the cake.
Hold the cake gently with one hand and cut with a serrated knife. This cake can be stored at room temperature for 3 days, 10 days in the refrigerator, 2 months in the freezer. Rose says, there is no way you can dry this cake out, its great even eaten straight out of the freezer ! Serve at room temperature or lightly chilled.
While you are here, don't miss this video of Rose Beranbaum baking the Orange Glow Chiffon cake, which was filmed in 1988!! I found the video very helpful, pay special attention to whipping of the whites and the way she folds in the whipped whites into the batter and the size of the skimmer suitable. Am glad I watched this, even more glad I got the cake right!!
Notes: To repeat, whipping the egg whites to the right stage and folding it into batter without any loss of air is critical to the lightest texture.
Sugar: Use best superfine sugar. Since I did not have super-fine sugar, I have measured the sugar first, then processed it in the mixer till almost fine. Fine sugar helps get better texture.
Flour: 1 cup of sifted cake flour equals 84 grams of APF plus 15 grams of cornflour. Source Joy Of Baking. So I have used a total of 190 grams of APF plus 34 grams of cornflour in all to make 2 1/4 cup of sifted cake flour.
Cream of tartar: This is very helpful to help avoiding over whipping egg whites. According to Rose, its virtually impossible to over beat whites when you add cream of tartar. But use it in the right quantity as specified. More can cause the whites to not whip well. I have used lemon juice in equal quantity as cream of tartar was out of stock at my grocers.
Slotted Skimmer : This is the most easily available one for us to use for folding in the whites. An almost industrial sized one, the kind normally used for deep frying. I got myself a new one, but found it quite heavy and difficult to use because of the weight. Get a lighter one if you can find for more ease.
Orange Zest : If you do not have a zester, scrape the bitter pith from the orange peel and process the peel with sugar till fine as Rose does in the video.
This is a very large, just about sweet, really spongy and light cake, quite unlike any cake I have baked. Serves 16, so share some (just some;-) if you can and save the rest, in the fridge or freezer. I am now tempted to try more variations of the wonderfully light textured cake...In my humble opinion, a must try - even if you have to buy, beg or borrow a tube-pan!