Cake 4: Orange Chiffon Cake

2005-10-16

Egg whites were the star of today's class. We began by mixing the dry ingredients for the chiffon cake: cake flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. After making a well in the centre, we stirred in a mixture of egg yolks, vegetable oil, water, vanilla and orange zest. The Hobart was used to whip up the egg whites, to which we added cream of tartar and a pinch of salt. Chef explained that the cream of tartar is an acid that helps break up the protein structure in the whites. She added salt for the same reason. When they reached the soft peak stage, we added granulated sugar and whipped them to stiff peaks. With the mixer running, we poured in the egg yolk mix in stages. Unfortunately, I think we overmixed it as our batter became runny, rather than clumpy. We scaled it into angel food cake pans and put it in the oven.

An angel food cake pan and the technique for using one is really quite clever. The best don't have nonstick interiors, as the cake should “climb” the walls to achieve maximum height. The centre allows heat to cook from all sides. When they're done baking, the pans should be cooled upside down to prevent deflation. Some pans have a centre tube that is higher than the sides, others have little feet attached to the perimeter.

Orange Chiffon CakeAfter cooling, the cake can be removed by just pressing gently on the top to loosen it from the pan. A sharp tap of the inverted pan wasn't enough for mine and I had to use a thin knife to help it out. It still stuck to the bottom a bit. Chef demonstrated a simple icing made with orange juice and icing sugar that she heated. This helps to make it easier to drizzle as well as causing it to set to a dry consistency. At home, I made the icing and garnished the cake with some additional orange pieces. It was quite delicious, albeit a bit plain: soft, moist and cool mouth-feel, fragrant orange aroma, very light.

In class, our instructor also demonstrated how to make an angel food cake. This was very similar to the chiffon cake except it uses no fat at all. However, in order to make it turn out like a cake, a lot of sugar needs to be added. Some interesting notes:

  • warm egg whites whip up to a greater volume (either immerse whole eggs or bowl in warm water)
  • overwhipping the whites causes irregular holes in the final product
  • cream of tartar whitens the batter
  • a higher baking temperature (375°F - 400°F) reduces moisture loss (but causes a crack fault)

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