Sunburst Orange Chiffon Cake with Lemon Curd

The thing about being a pastry professional is whenever there is a birthday around you are called into action. You don't even have to be a professional to appreciate that if you can bake a cake, your family considers you the resident baker. Even if it is your own birthday; especially if you have kids. This year was no exception. They wanted a decorated birthday cake so they could help blow out the candles and I wanted something 'different'. So, I combined the ideas and made a chiffon cake. For those that don't know what a chiffon cake is, think of it as angel food cake but completely different. I'll explain.

Chiffon cakes are made via the chiffon cake mixing method, where the dry ingredients are stirred together and beaten with yolks, any liquid, flavoring, and if using a fat: melted butter or more typically, a vegetable oil. If a vegetable oil is called for in the recipe, use a neutral flavored one. Beaten egg whites are whipped until stiff peaks form then the whites are folded together with the yolk mixture. While egg whites do leaven the cake, they are not solely relied up for leavening; baking powder is generally used in most chiffon cakes. So, while angel food cakes and chiffon cakes are similar in some ways, in others they are entirely different.

For this recipe I used lemon curd as the filling. You can either make your own or use your favorite prepared lemon curd. It's my birthday so I cheated and used a commercial brand that was in my pantry. If you are doing the same, whisk the prepared curd in a small mixing bowl first until it is smooth. The kids wanted Italian buttercream so I compromised and simply made a Swiss meringue. The egg whites and the sugar are stirred together until the sugar dissolves and the whites are very hot.

According to the USDA's Kitchen Companion, the only way to make raw eggs safe to eat is to cook them to 160 degrees F. Most people know I'm a safety girl so I placed the whites with sugar, a little water and a bit of cream of tartar into a bowl set over a bain marie. Using a thermometer I stirred the mixture until the temperature reached 160 degrees F and then I whipped it. The has a basic ratio for Swiss meringue: For every egg white, use at least 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon water, and 1/16 teaspoon cream of tartar.

I frosted the cake and used a hand held blow torch on low to color the outside and give it a toasty flavor before serving. The kids went gaga - and I ate more than a couple slices. It was my birthday after all.

Sunburst Orange Chiffon Cake with Lemon Curd

For the Cake:
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 large orange, squeezed, and enough water to measure 3/4 cup total liquid
  • Grated rind of 1 large orange (do this first, then squeeze the orange for juice)
  • 6 egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar

For the Lemon Curd:

For the Simple Syrup:
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the Swiss Meringue:
  • 4 egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 teaspoons water
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. You will need a deep angel food cake pan with removable bottom (makes the cake much easier to remove from the pan). Do not grease the pan.

Place all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Add the egg yolks, the canola oil, the grated rind, and the 3/4 cup liquid mixture of fresh squeezed orange juice and water. Using a hand held mixer blend on low speed until all the ingredients are mixed. Bring the speed up to high and continue beating until the mixture is light, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Beat the egg whites until frothy in a stand up mixer. Add the cream of tartar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Sacrifice 1/4 of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture until mixed well, then fold the whites with the lightened batter gently with a spatula.

Spoon the cake batter into an ungreased angel food or tube pan and smooth the top of the batter. Bake for about 40 to 50 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Immediately remove from oven and turn the cake upside down to cool completely. You can do this by placing the center of the pan over a heavy bottle, or by placing the center ring on a ramekin.

Stir the sugar, water, and lemon extract in a liquid measure until the sugar dissolves. This simple syrup will be used to moisten the cake.

Remove the cooled cake from the pan by loosening the sides and lifting up on the center bottom to remove the cake form the pan. Loosen the cake from the center and the bottom. Using a sharp serrated cake knife, remove the top of the cake to make it flat if necessary: this will be the new bottom. Split the cake into thirds. Place the trimmed end on a cake plate and brush liberally with simple syrup. Spread with lemon curd, then repeat with the other layers, moistening each layer and spreading lemon between each layer.

Prepare the Swiss meringue by heating a large saucepan with simmering water. Combine the egg whites, sugar, water, and cream of tartar together and whisk lightly in a large stainless steel mixing bowl until the sugar is dissolved and the temperature reaches at least 160 degrees F with a cooking thermometer.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand up mixer and beat until stiff peaks form and the meringue is glossy. Spread over the cake. Turn on a hand held blow torch and lightly brown the outside to color. Serve.


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