Chiffon cake brings back a lot of childhood memories, with visits to the UCC cafe with my parents. Their chiffon cake hasn't change at all since then! Still a lot of cream and still fluffy... I wouldn't have ever imagine then that I would be working as a chef and making one of these!
Many people have feared making them, mostly because of the meringue and/or the possibility of the cake being deflated after it is out of the oven. However, once you understand the basics and the problems behind it, you will be able to tackle this cake without any worries (well, maybe less worries!!!)
Let's first take a look at the recipe:
The recipe is separated into two major components: the "Custard" part and the meringue part.
I named it the "Custard" because the process involved in that component is similar to that of a pastry cream. This component plays a major role in keeping the cake moist and flavoursome, with the oil and liquid(s). The key here is to have the ingredients well combined without over mixing it.
- Use flours that are low in protein, or soft flours (e.g. Japanese cake flour 薄力粉). This prevents the can having too much gluten which will result in a dense and heavy cake.
- The "water" can be substitute to another liquid of your choice and it should be a direct substitute in quantity - I have tried using coffee, alcohol and juices, which seems to work out fine so far.
- The ("water" + oil) needs to be warm before pouring into the yolks, which helps the sugar dissolves. *** However, need to check the temperature of the mixture before adding in the flour, because if it is too warm, the baking powder will start to activate and loses its function during baking! (Below 40C at least should be a safe bet) ***
- The sugar used with the egg yolk can also be substituted to other types of sugar, using the same quantity - I tried coconut sugar, Okinawa black sugar and a combo of a few others.
- Besides flavouring with different liquids, dried/powdered form of flavouring ingredients can be adding here as well.
The meringue is what gives the cake its airy-fluffy texture that makes the cake feel as light as cloud. What to look out for here is how stiff the meringue is should be. It should just be stiff enough so that it forms a nice firm smurf hat when the whisk pulls away - Yes... a Smurf hat! (That was how my friends described it and it just stuck with me ever since.. Thanks! Lol). That is to say that the peak of the meringue bents only slightly and the mass itself stays in the bowl when it is tilled upside-down. Then fold this into the "Custard" gently making sure not to over do it because the batter will turn runny and most of the air from the meringue would have escaped.
When you have understood the reasons behind the procedures, making the cake will not be as big of a challenge anymore.
Mastering the basic recipe allows for playing around with different combination of ingredients and result in different flavours. A few that I have tried are listed below, and feel free to change the recipe to your own taste!