Friday, April 18, 2014

Citrus Chiffon Cake

Recently I was watching an episode of MasterChef New Zealand online--I have never even been there, but I enjoy cooking shows from all over the world. Anyways, they had a sponge cake challenge, a tricky combination of whipped egg whites folded into an egg yolk batter, cooked up high and fluffy. This is not a super common cake in the United States, where I tend to see more butter cakes with whole eggs used. My sister invited me to a family dinner and I decided I would try my hand at a version of this sponge cake. I found a lovely recipe for a chiffon cake--with lemon and orange zest for only about 215 calories a piece.  The chiffon cake is a sponge cake with huge whipped egg whites, usually made in a tube pan like n angel food cake. I do not have such a pan--but I do have a silicone bundt mold.

2 1/4 c cake flour
1 1/2 c sugar
1 tbs baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 c lemon juice
1/4 c orange juice
1/4 c cold water
1/2 c vegetable oil
5 large eggs and 2 extra egg whites
1 tbs orange zest
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
First step is to separate the eggs--doing this when the eggs are cold is best, but the eggs need to be room temperature to mix up the batter. So do this well in advance of cooking. I saved the two extra yolks for another application. While those came to room temperature, I zested the lemon and orange--I used Meyer lemons because I really like the sweeter taste, and WalMart has bags of them for 2$. Then I juiced them--it actually took 1 1/2 of each to get the amount of juice I needed.

Once the eggs were room temperature I whisked together the dry ingredients, including most of the sugar. I didn't read that clearly and had to take some out. 1 cup of sugar added at this point, with a half cup reserved for the egg whites. The juice, egg yolks, zest and oil are supposed to be added at this point. Originally I had forgotten the oil and not put the extra water in (the recipe says to sub the 1/2 cup juice for the 3/4 c water) and it had looked super dry. So I added 1/4 c cold water, and then finally the oil when I remembered--glad I remembered before it was too late! I whipped it until it was nice and smooth.

The next step is the trickiest. I actually borrowed a bowl for it--my one glass bowl was in the fridge with bread dough in it. I made sure the beaters and bowl were clean and residue free. The room temperature egg whites and the cream of tartar went into the metal bowl and were beat until soft peaks form. I really thought I'd over beaten them, but added the sugar and kept beating until stiff peaks formed and it was glossy with the sugar dissolved.  A third of the egg whites are added to the yolk batter and folded ever so gently to combine. Then the rest is slowly folded in with a rubber spatula, being careful not to deflate the eggs.

The batter is poured into a bundt pan that was carefully cleaned of residue. It was a lot of batter for the pan, so I put some in cupcake molds as well. The pans bake in a preheated 325 degree oven. The cupcakes baked for 30 minutes, and the cake for about an hour and 15. I did put a tent of tinfoil over the top in the last half hour as it had started to get dark. I had baked them on a sheet pan as I wasn't sure of the stability of the silicone bundt on the rack, which I think resulted in a lighter cook on one side and darker on the other.

The cupcakes came out and cooled upside down. The silicone pan made it very tricky to balance the cake upside down. While the cake stuck nicely to the pan, the silicone tried to slip down the bottle and listed to one side or the other. I did rig up some cookbooks to hold it upright so I didn't have to stand and hold it.

A bit of the cake didn't come out of the mold right, but it was mostly in one piece. I made some raspberry-lemon and blueberry-lemon sauce to serve with it and some lemon or mango sorbet.

The Verdict: This is a delicious light and fluffy cake that isn't too sweet, with a hint of the tart lemon and orange. The texture was so airy, moist, but not too fragile. The sauce really helps the cake, adding that contrast of flavors and textures. Next time I try a chiffon cake I will use a different cake pan, but I do think I will try this again. My family said it was yummy and moist and cleared their plates.

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