Tomorrow is my turn to bring dessert to our book group. I love it when it's my turn because it's always a good excuse to try something new and decadent. I really enjoy lemon flavored desserts, but my family isn't so keen on them....a great excuse to bring something lemony tomorrow! So, I went searching through my Cook's Illustrated recipes (their recipes are always winners!!) to find something new.
Upon reading this recipe I was a little intimidated. CI goes into such detail about why you should do things a certain way that can make you second guess yourself...wondering if your cooking skills are up to the task. But...rather than be intimidated by such detail, I think you should be thankful to have it! So many other recipes would tell you to whip your egg whites until you have stiff peaks...but CI takes it a step further telling you it's better to over-whip than under-whip. When it doubt, information like that is really helpful!
I also enjoyed reading the history of this recipe. They explained that so many modern chiffon cakes simply weren't the right texture. So they went back to the late 40s and looked at an old (but very popular) Betty Crocker recipe. Using that recipe, they applied knowledge gained from Great Cakes by Carole Walter and determined that how you separate and add your eggs can make a big difference. This may be more than the average cook wants to know, but I really love to read little tid-bits like this. I guess it gives me more confidence.
The one thing I didn't have was an angel-food pan. Instead I used my Pampered Chef bundt pan. The directions call for you to immediately turn the pan upside down suspended from a bottle. Well, my pan is 1) too heavy for that, and 2) doesn't actually have a hole inside the pan. So I simply turned my pan upside down on a plate and left it there for two hours. I used a dinner knife to go around the edges of the pan, loosely lifting at the cake each time the knife went in.
The cake came out easily enough. But on top were some custard-gel like blobs instead of feathery cake. CI had warned me if my egg whites weren't stiff enough, that this would happen. From my pictures you should get an idea of peaks that weren't stiff enough. The blobs easily came off, leaving a lumpy-bumpy top of the cake. So I took a serrated knife and evened it out, which is why my bundt shaped cake is flat on top!
Taste test: Since this is for book group, I didn't cut into the cake yet. But I did have my scraps and some icing left in the bowl. The cake has a light lemon taste to it, but the real flavor comes from the glaze. I'm looking forward to a slice of it!
Lemon Chiffon Cake
If the egg whites to be whipped are not at room temperature, set them in a pan placed in hot tap water and stir them until they are tepid. Coconut is very nice as a variation for this cake. Add 2/3 to 1 cup lightly packed sweetened flaked coconut, lightly chopped, to the batter before folding in the egg whites.
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/3 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
7 large eggs , 2 left whole, 5 separated
2/3 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 large lemons , zested, then juiced to yield 2 tablespoons strained juice
1. Adjust rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Whisk sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt together in large bowl (at least 4-quart size). Whisk in two whole eggs, five egg yolks (reserve whites), water, oil, lemon juice and zest and vanilla extract until batter is just smooth.
2. Pour reserved egg whites into large bowl; beat at medium speed with electric mixer until foamy, about 1 minute. Add cream of tartar, increase speed to medium-high, then beat whites until very thick and stiff, just short of dry, 9 to 10 minutes with hand-held mixer and 5 to 7 minutes in KitchenAid or other standing mixer. With large rubber spatula, fold whites into batter, smearing in any blobs of white that resist blending with flat side of spatula.
3. Pour batter into large tube pan (9-inch diameter, 16-cup capacity). Rap pan against countertop five times to rupture any large air pockets. If using two-piece pan, grasp on both sides with your hands while firmly pressing down on the tube with thumbs to keep batter from seeping underneath pan during this rapping process. Wipe off any batter that may have dripped or splashed onto inside walls of pan with paper towel.
4. Bake cake until wire cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, 55 to 65 minutes. Immediately turn cake upside down to cool. If pan does not have prongs around rim for elevating cake, invert pan over bottle or funnel, inserted through tube. Let cake hang until completely cold, about 2 hours.
5. To unmold, turn pan upright. Run frosting spatula or thin knife around pan's circumference between cake and pan wall, always pressing against the pan. Use cake tester to loosen cake from tube. For one-piece pan, bang it on counter several times, then invert over serving plate. For two-piece pan, grasp tube and lift cake out of pan. If glazing the cake, use a fork or a paring knife to gently scrape all the crust off the cake. Loosen cake from pan bottom with spatula or knife, then invert cake onto plate. (Can be wrapped in plastic and stored at room temperature 2 days or refrigerated 4 days.)
Glaze for Chiffon Cake
Since lumps in the confectioners' sugar don't dissolve completely in the liquid, they really show up once the cake is glazed. Unless you are certain that your sugar is lump-free, better to sift it. Before you glaze the cake, the crumbs must be scraped.* With a fork or paring knife, gently scrape all the crust off the cake. To keep the serving plate from being smudged with glaze, slip small pieces of waxed paper beneath the cake edge all along the bottom. If making the milk variation, stir in one-half teaspoon of lemon juice to cut the intense sweetness.
Makes enough for 1 chiffon cake
4 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted
4 - 5 tablespoons orange juice , lemon juice, milk, or coffee**
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
Beat butter, 4 tablespoons of the liquid, and sugar in medium bowl until smooth. Let glaze stand 1 minute, then try spreading a little on cake. If cake threatens to tear, thin glaze with up to 1 tablespoon more liquid. A little at a time, spread glaze over cake top, letting excess dribble down sides. Let cake stand until glaze dries, about 30 minutes. If you like, spread dribbles to make a thin, smooth coat.
*Obviously I missed a few crumbs!!
**I used 4 TB lemon juice.
Added on 5/4/09: Oh, my goodness, this was gooood! So light and moist. While the cake as a whole is a little sad-looking, the slice on the plate looked just fine. I also need to admit that I did butter & flour my stoneware pan. It's not as seasoned as my other stoneware pieces (which get frequent use) and until it gets more seasoned (darker in color/more non-stick) it needs a bit of help. After making this recipe I read that you should not grease your pan (which is probably why that step is not mentioned in the recipe). Many sources said that by greasing your pan, the cake will fall. Somehow I escaped this problem!