At first glance you could mistakenly think this Orange Chiffon Cake is
an Angel Food Cake. Both cakes are beautiful with their tall circular shape
hole in the center which comes from baking the cake in a tube pan. An Orange Chiffon
also has that wonderful light and spongy texture. However, they are also different
in that chiffon cakes contain
both egg yolks and egg whites, along with baking powder, orange
juice, and a liquid fat
(in the form of oil). It is the oil that gives this
cake its wonderful moist and tender crumb and keeps the cake soft even when refrigerated. I like to dust the top of the cake with powdered sugar
and it is lovely when served with fresh fruit (or fruit sauces) and
softly whipped cream.
I found this recipe while browsing through my mother's old cookbooks (The Woman's Association of St. Paul's United
Church's (Spryfield, Nova Scotia) "Book One Favorite Recipes" dated 1956).
The chiffon cake was invented in the 1920s by a Californian named
Henry Baker who sold his recipe to General Mills in the 1940s. Chiffon cakes
were very popular in the 1950s and then seemed to fade away. Luckily, they are now being rediscovered, maybe because they are hailed
as having less cholesterol than other cakes or maybe it is because, while
similar to an angel food cake, they are not as sweet. As I mentioned above, the batter is baked in an ungreased
tube pan which allows the batter to cling to the sides of the pan as it
bakes. The tube in the center of the pan lets the hot air circulate so the
heat can reach the center of the cake. The cake needs to be turned upside
down immediately upon removing it from the oven as this keeps the cake from
shrinking and losing its volume.
notes on ingredients.
The eggs need to be
separated and at room temperature, so about 30 minutes before making the
batter, separate the eggs. Place the egg yolks in one bowl and the egg
whites, along with one additional white, in another. Cover both with plastic
wrap and bring to room temperature. The egg whites need to
be at room temperature so they will reach their full volume when beaten.
Adding a little cream of tartar helps with us, although you can leave it
(Cream of tartar is tartaric acid and is a fine white crystalline acid salt.)
Cake flour is made from a soft wheat flour and gives this cake it's tender
and delicate texture. If you cannot find it you can make your own. So
2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour (225 grams) can be substituted with 1
1/2 cups plus 3 tablespoons (180 grams) sifted all-purpose (plain) flour plus
5 tablespoons (45 grams) cornstarch
(corn flour). The recipe also calls for superfine white sugar (or caster
sugar) as it dissolves easily into the batter. You can make your own by processing 1 1/2 cups (300
grams) of granulated white sugar in your food processor for about 30-60
seconds or until finely ground.
You can use any flavorless oil; vegetable, canola, safflower, corn or
even a sunflower oil. The one disadvantage of oil is that it does not have
a lot of flavor, so chiffon cakes must get their flavor from other
ingredients, in this case from both grated orange zest and freshly squeezed
orange juice. You can use any variety of orange. I often use Navel Oranges
as they are widely available year round. This sweet tasting orange is quite
large in size, and has a thick pebbly skin that is fairly easy to peel and
contains no seeds. As a side note, its name comes from the fact that the
fruit has a navel like protuberance at one end which contains a 'baby'
fruit. It is sometimes nicknamed the 'belly button orange'. Make sure to
wash your oranges thoroughly before grating and remove only the orange
outer rind (skin), not the white pith underneath, as it is quite bitter.
Once you squeeze the oranges, pour the juice through a fine mesh strainer
to remove any seeds or pulp.
Orange Chiffon Cake: Separate the eggs
while they are still cold. Place
the egg yolks in one bowl and the whites (along with the extra egg white) in another. Cover with plastic wrap
and bring to room temperature (about 30 minutes).
Preheat the oven to 325
degrees F (170 degrees C) and have ready a 10 inch (25 cm) two piece
ungreased tube pan.
In the bowl of your
electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, (or use a hand mixer) place the flour, sugar (minus
1/4 cup (50 grams)), baking powder, salt, and orange zest. Beat until combined.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the egg yolks, oil,
orange juice, and vanilla extract. Beat
until smooth (about one minute). Scrape down the sides of the bowl as
In a separate bowl, with
the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of
tartar and continue to beat until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the
remaining 1/4 cup (50 grams) of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
With a large rubber spatula or wire whisk, gently fold the egg whites (in three
additions) into the
batter just until blended (being careful not to deflate the batter).
Pour the batter into the
ungreased tube pan and bake for about 55 to 60 minutes, or until a wooden
skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. (When lightly
pressed, the cake will spring back). Immediately upon removing the cake
from the oven invert (turn upside down) the pan and place on a bottle or flat surface so it is
suspended over the counter. Let the cake cool completely before removing
from pan (about 1 - 1 1/2 hours).
To remove the cake from
the pan, run a long metal spatula around the inside of the tube pan and center
core. Invert onto a greased wire rack. Dust the top with confectioners
sugar (powdered or icing). Serve with softly whipped cream (or ice cream) and
Store in an airtight container
for a few days at room temperature or for about a week in the refrigerator. This
cake can also be frozen for a couple of months.
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