Monday, July 15, 2013

Lemon Chiffon cake for a celebration

I started baking recently, may be a couple of years back and have stuck to recipes that I get from reliable sources, recipes that are not very labor or time intensive, more savory than sweet recipes, and recipes that are devoid of eggs generally. Well, that is my comfort zone. I joined this group of baking enthusiasts called Baking Partners a few months back, this is infact my 3rd recipe with this group. I wanted to learn new techniques and try new recipes and the challenges from the group have made me get up and out of my comfort zone, not only get exposed to things I wouldn't myself have dared to go after but also made me a little more adventurous trying new tastes :-). For that, I am thankful. Swathi who started this group, reminded all of us that with this month's challenge, the group celebrates its 1st birthday, although I am 9 months late coming in, it most definitely is an ocassion to celebrate with sweets. So here is our July month challenge  from the Baking partners group - a delicious Lemon Chiffon cake.
When Swathi sent the details with 2 recipes, I immediately knew which one I would be making. Although the layered Honey cake looked most inviting, my heart was set on the chiffon cake. When we were in India a few years back and DD went to elementary school, we lived in a Bengaluru home and there was a bakery around the street corner from that house. I had a long commute to work and crazy hours and would vanish early in the morning and return late at night. The little girl had to get used to a new life from what she had seen so far and she was not a very happy camper, BH's travelling didn't help the situation either, it was basically overwhelming at her age. Having grand parents at home was a great blessing as she had company when she came back from school. Afternoons were a cherished siesta time for my inlaws and after the little one finished her after school snacks, they would go back to sleep for another hour or so. On one of our weekend strolls, we discovered this bakery just a block away from home and the aromas coming from the store were intoxicating. We stopped and picked up a slice of fresh sponge cake among other goodies and for my little girl it was a bite of lemony, pillowy heaven and she was hooked on immediately. From then on, for the next few months we lived in that house, she would walk up to the store in the afternoon all by herself holding some cash firmly in her little fist, get a slice of the cake atleast 2 times a week and come home. For her, it was an act of learning to associate herself with her new surroundings, making an independent exploration of her new life, making friends and enjoying good food, infact the spongy, lemony cake remains her favorite cake of all times. When I saw Swathi's challenge recipe, I knew this could bring back memories for my little girl as well as for us.
A chiffon cake is similar to angel food cake in some respects but differs from it significantly. If you are not a cake expert (I mean cake eating expert), someone can pass this slice on to you calling it either a sponge cake or angel food cake or chiffon cake because for a newbie the texture might taste similar (though not same). Chiffon cake uses oil instead of butter and also incorporates both egg whites and yolks in the recipe. The well beaten egg whites lend the airy texture to the chiffon cake but the tricky part you should know when to stop beating the egg :-).
Although I am not a vegan, I stay away from eggs and with so many like minded people out there, there is no dearth of eggless recipes if you only look in the right spot. I think my egg aversion is from childhood, my father used to insist that my sister take eggs daily as part of her 'make the girl healthier' diet. Now, I am sure my father had his reasons to trust the authenticity of this diet but a budding medico, my sister was in no way going to believe that she needed the eggs in her daily diet nor did she consider herself unhealthy by any means. Since, nammamma didn't cook, bake or scramble an egg in her saatvik kitchen, my poor father found an alternative to get the protein filled egg into my sister's system, crack it open, pour it into a glass of milk and beat it homogeneous. And that most definitely made the egg an enemy for life for my sister :-). Even after all these years, she runs miles from eggs and garlic, her two nemesis in the kitchen realm. Why is this relevant to my dislike of the eggs? When you dote on your big sister and consider her the role model for everything good and bad in life, you tend to pick up these idiosyncrasies too, so I stay away from eggs as a general rule and don't miss anything protein wise in my diet. So making a chiffon cake that called for 3 egg yolks and 7 egg whites (well, half of each in my case since I halved the recipe) was a little too much for my 'egg free' kitchen. But I braved on, got home a half dozen eggs and went on to make the recipe.
With the beautiful weather we have been having for the past few days, I am busy elsewhere and also my cooking has taken a back seat naturally and I kept postponing my chiffon cake making until the last minute. Just as you would expect, I had my questions with the recipe at the last minute and fervently hoped my group members would check the posts and respond to my queries. Thanks Chitra and Pam for your help. The cake turned out very nicely, I made some slight changes (to the proportion) of ingredients to avoid what seemed like a disaster in the making and was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. It was soft and pillowy not unlike the angel food cake and tasted deliriously delicious with a scoop of ice cream and some berries on the side. If anyone has an eggless chiffon cake recipe tried and tested, let me know, I would love to bake it.

What do you need to make Lemon Chiffon cake?
Original recipe suggested by Saraswathi, adapted from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum
Makes one 9 inch round cake pan (with a ramekin placed in the center to imitate a tube pan)
Dry Ingredients:
1+1/8 cup - 2 Tblsp AP flour or 1+1/8 cup store bought cake flour- see instructions below to make your own cake flour at home
2 Tblsp corn starch
3/4 cup + 1 Tblsp caster sugar/baker's sugar - see notes for alternative
1/4 Tsp salt
1/4 Tsp baking soda
1.5 Tblsp lemon zest (I upped this by 1/2 Tblsp as we love citrusy flavored cakes at home, stick to 1 Tblsp otherwise)
Wet ingredients: 
1/4 cup oil (canola or vegetable oil)
1 egg yolk (standard large egg)
1/3 cup water
1 Tblsp lemon juice
1/2 Tsp vanilla essence
2 Tblsp sugar
3.5 egg whites (standard large egg)
3/4 Tsp cream of tartar (I didn't use this) or 1 Tsp lemon juice

How to make Lemon Chiffon cake? 
  • Cake flour preparation: Measure 2 Tblsp corn starch in a cup, add AP to fill the rest of the cup, take it out into a plate and measure out another 1/8 cup of AP flour. Now sift this mixtures atleast 4-5 times for the corn starch to become one with AP flour. 
  • Preheat oven to 325F, keep a 9 inch round pan with a ramekin placed in the center. If you have the regular sponge cake tube pan, go ahead and use it instead :-).
  • Combine sugar & lemon zest in a large mixing bowl and mix them with your fingers until the sugar is completely coated with the zest and the flavor is infused.
  • Add the flour, soda & salt to the bowl, whisk it with a hand mixer or whisk a few times until well incorporated. 
  • Make a well in the center of the flour, add the wet ingredients and mix them using a hand mixer (or whisk) until the mixture is smooth (no lumps) and homogeneous. Keep aside.
  • Take a clean bowl, add the egg whites in it and start your hand mixer to beat them. They turn foamy and then start to come together. Add the sugar and cream of tartar (if using) at this stage and continue to beat the eggs. 
  • Cream of tartar is an egg stabilizer and brings out the best in egg whites and helps you reach that elusive stiff peak consistency. I didn't have this on hand and when the egg whites seemed to not solidify, I added an extra Tsp of sugar and and a Tsp of lemon juice to give it a body. I liked the resulting cake texture. 
  • Once the eggs start to form the stiff peaks (when you life the whisk up, the egg whites should form a spiky peak that holds up shape, take part of it, add it into the flour mixture bowl and mix it in by gently folding it in. 
  • Add the remaining egg whites and fold them in together. Do not beat or mix vigorously at this point, the airy egg needs to stay like that. Your goal is to gently incorporate all of egg white in to the flour. 
  • Pour the batter into the pan, run a knife around to remove any captured air bubbles or gently knock the pan on the counter a few times and bake it for 50-55 minutes (mine took 50 minutes) until the cake bounces when touched on the top. 
  • Once the cake comes out of the oven, immediately place it upside down giving it a support to raise the pan above the counter and letting air circulate underneath. 
  • The cake has to cool down completely like this before you take it out (about 50 min to an hour)
  • Run a sharp knife around the outer edge and around the ramekin and gently force the cake out of the pan. 
  • Top it with any sauces of choice or enjoy it with just a dusting of sugar on top, berries and ice cream on the side like we did.
  • The original recipe called for cream of tartar which is an egg stabilizer. My reading on this topic was dubious and there were all kinds of suggestions implying that omitting the cream of tartar was perfectly acceptable. My two cents on this topic is if you can get of hold of the cream of tartar easily, go ahead and use it. I didn't and so I ended up adding 2 additional Tblsp of sugar to get the consistency. 
  • I followed tips from a fellow baking partner and made my own cake flour by replacing 2 Tblsp of flour in a cup of AP flour with corn starch. this worked very well though I cannot make a comparison of how an actual cake flour cake would have turned out (I didn't make it :-))
  • Use corn starch and not corn meal as the corn starch is fine ground, remember to sift the two together atleast 4-5 times for them to get friendly with each other.
  • The cake is not very tall like the ones you see in the bakeries since my pan lacks height. If you use a tube pan, you will end up with a tall, majestic cake. 
  • Caster sugar is a finer ground variety of regular white sugar, it is also labeled as Baker's sugar. If you do not have this in pantry, go ahead and powder the regular white sugar in your spice grinder. Do not use confectioner sugar or powdered sugar as that has additional corn starch in it which this recipe does not need.
  • It is important to invert the cake pan and set it high above the surface allowing air circulation, else the chiffon cake apparently has a tendency to fall flat. See my pictures that look like a space shuttle landing on Earth, that is how I made this work. 


Sandhya Ramakrishnan said...

Looks delicious with those berries! Lovely clicks :)

kitchen queen said...

super moist and spongy cake with an awesome presentation.

Gheza e shiriin said...

Beautifully written post Nagashree.& the cake looks spot on. I also would like to try eggless version for my sister.
My elder sister too had egg with milk in her childhood. She has become so allergic to eggs know that it gives her stomach aches.

Kaveri Venkatesh said...

that's an awesome bake...looks delicious

Wer SAHM said...

looks super soft and moist cake

NamsVeni Pothas said...

egg less cake with lemon flavour i love it dear!!

Tina (PinayInTexas) said...

Wow! It looks so soft and moist! I just can't stop looking at it and imagining how delicious it is!

Chitz said...

Looks yum.. Perfectly done dear.. Soft & moist..

Suja Manoj said...

Spongy and yummy cake,great texture.

Swathi iyer said...

Delicious chiffon cake Nagashree, I love, it, did you able to link it to linky tool, if not let me know I will link it for you.

Amrita Vishal said...

Loved how you paired them with berries. Awesome