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Orange Chiffon Cake Recipe & Video

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At first glance you could mistakenly think this Orange Chiffon Cake is an Angel Food Cake. Both cakes have a tall circular shape and that characteristic hole in the center which comes from baking the cake in a tube pan. And both cakes have a light and spongy texture. However, they are 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. While you can simply dust the top of the cake with powdered sugar, I often like to frost it with a delicious Orange Glaze. Serve alone or 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 it's 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 (do not use a non stick 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 as it cools. 

A few notes on ingredients. The eggs need to be at room temperature, so about 30 to 60 minutes before making the batter, separate the eggs while they are still cold. Place the egg yolks in one bowl and the egg whites 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 also helps with this and also prevents over whipping, although you can leave it out or substitute with an equal amount of lemon juice. (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. Take 2 cups of all purpose flour, remove 4 tablespoons, and replace it with 4 tablespoons cornstarch. You can use any flavorless oil; vegetable, canola, safflower, or corn. 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. 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.

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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 to 60 minutes).

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) and have ready a 10 inch (25 cm) two piece ungreased tube pan. (Don't use a non stick pan).

In the bowl of your electric stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, (or with a hand mixer) place the flour, 1 cup (200 grams) sugar (Sugar 1), 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 on medium speed until smooth (about one minute). Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.

In another clean bowl of your electric stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment (or with a hand mixer), beat the egg whites and cream of tartar, on medium low speed, until soft peaks form. Increase your mixer speed to high and gradually beat in the remaining 1/2 cup (100 grams) of sugar (Sugar 2) and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. With a large rubber spatula or wire whisk, gently fold the egg whites (in three additions) into the egg yolk batter just until blended (being careful not to deflate the batter). 

Pour the batter into the 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 1/2 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.

Glaze: Place the sifted powdered sugar in a bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until you have a thick and smooth glaze of pouring consistency. Add more orange juice or powdered sugar, as needed. Pour the frosting over the top of the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides. Let the frosting dry before covering and storing. Serve with softly whipped cream and fresh fruit.

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.

Serves about 12 people.

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Orange Chiffon Cake:

2 cups (240 grams) cake flour

1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar (Sugar 1)

2 teaspoons (8 grams) baking powder

1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) salt

2 tablespoons orange zest (from about 2 large oranges)

7 large egg yolks (120 grams), at room temperature

1/2 cup (120 ml/grams) vegetable, corn, canola, or safflower oil

1/2 cup (120 ml/grams)freshly squeezed orange juice (2 - 3 large oranges)

1 teaspoon (4 grams) pure vanilla extract

8 large egg whites (240 grams), at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) cream of tartar

1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated white sugar (Sugar 2)

Orange Glaze: (optional)

2 cups (240 grams) confectioners sugar (powdered or icing), sifted

1 tablespoon orange zest

4-5 tablespoons orange juice

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon (13 grams) melted butter

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