Saturday, July 5, 2014

An Eggy Chiffon Cake



Ever since I started making Chinese Chiffon Cake several years ago, my dad has been reminiscing about the chiffon cakes he used to have that had an even stronger fragrance of fresh eggs. There are many things that just don't taste the same as they used to according to my dad. I think this could be due to the fact that our food system and our food resources aren't the same as they used to be, at least where we live. Despite that, I've made many attempts to come as close as I can to that flavor by changing up my original Chinese Style Chiffon Cake recipe. Unlike the process in which I come up with new variations and flavors by adding things, I eliminate any flavors that might compete with the eggs' natural fragrance and try to use the best eggs that I can get. I came the closest to that elusive memorable flavor by taking out the vanilla, using water, and using eggs that I found at my local farmers' market. However, it still wasn't quite good enough.

About a month ago, I decided to try my luck again. This time, I thought I would just forget trying to go any further with my other recipe and instead look for a super basic traditional recipe without any additional liquid or leavening agent to maximize the egg flavor. I couldn't find one I liked, so I improvised from a few different recipes. I'm happy to say that I think this is the very best I've done and will be able to do since there is basically nothing but eggs, sugar, a bit of flour, and oil in this cake. The cake is super fragrant, leavening agent free, yet still perfectly fluffy.

Since there is no leavening agent in this cake, it could be a bit more temperamental. In order to whip egg whites best, you want them at room temp rather than straight from the fridge. Eggs however, separate best when they're cold. So, I separate the eggs first, let them sit for 15 minutes if I can, and then whip them. The recipe here uses almost the same amount of sugar as my other recipe, but there is less than half the amount of cake flour and no additional liquid. On paper, it seems like it wouldn't work, but it does.

Traditional Chinese Chiffon Cake
Makes One 10-inch cake

8 large egg yolks
8 large egg whites
145 g granulated sugar
90 g cake flour
100 g(a bit less than 1/2 cup) vegetable oil
large pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F and have a 10 inch not nonstick tube pan(angel food cake pan) ready, ungreased.

Sift the flour 3 times, set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks, salt, and 50g of the sugar (reserve the rest for later). Whisk for several minutes, until it turns pale yellow and thick ribbons fall from the whisk. Mix in the oil and whisk well.

In another large bowl with a clean whisk or in a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until they start to foam. Add the remaining sugar and beat until stiff.

Whisk a third of the beaten egg whites into the egg yolks and mix until blended. Fold in the rest of the egg whites gently but not timidly with a spatula until just blended. Be sure there are no large clumps of egg whites left as this will leave wet spots in the finished cake.

Fold in the sifted flour a bit at a time trying not to lose any volume until well incorporated. Pour the batter into the pan. Pour the batter slowly along the edge of the mixing bowl to break up any large air bubbles if you'd like. Tap the pan to pop any remaining bubbles. Bake until set and golden brown, about 30-35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

As soon as it comes out of the oven, invert the pan onto a cooling rack so the cake won't collapse, let cool completely. To unmold, run a knife around the edge and remove the cake, run knife under the cake to remove the bottom. It's easier to remove if you slice through the cake but you can also just slip the center out or serve it on the pan. Cake will last several days covered at room temp.


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