As I steadily cook my way through grandpa’s recipe book, it becomes even more apparent just how great a kitchen genius he truly was.
This recipe for orange chiffon cake was one of his all-time favored and loved creations. You could always tell how proud he was — he beamed with such felicity.
We regularly ate this for lonche, which in Peru means late afternoon tea, but this could also be enjoyed for breakfast or dessert. It’s a very light cake, almost ethereal in it’s appearance and taste, with delicate traces of orange suspended throughout. This is the perfect accompaniment to book-reading on a tranquil eve.
Grandpa’s orange chiffon cake
Cake flour creates a light and fluffy crumb, ideal for instances like these when you want optimal lift. If you can’t find or simply can’t be bothered to fetch some, traditional all-purpose flour will work fine — it’s actually what my grandpa used — just make sure to sift several times to aerate properly.
Makes 1 spongy 10-inch chiffon cake
10 large eggs, at room temperature, then yolks and whites separated
1 cup white sugar + an additional 1/3 cup reserved for later
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice, no pulp
1 tablespoon orange zest + more for decoration later
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and put a grate in the middle of the oven. Assemble angel food/chiffon cake pan (make sure you have one with a removable bottom) and sit it nearby. No need to butter and flour — this anti-dusting approach helps the cake stick to the pan as it cools upside down later. Also, find a heavy bottle with a skinny neck that fits the cake pan tube so it’s ready to hold the cake when it’s time to cool.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the yolks and 1 cup sugar together until light and pale in color, just a couple minutes on medium-low speed. Turn off the mixer and add in the orange juice, orange zest, and oil. Combine again on medium-low speed.
In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt. While the mixer runs on medium-low speed, gradually add the flour into the yolk mixture, using a spatula to scrape off the sides when necessary. Once everything is combined nicely, pour this into the biggest bowl you’ve got. Set aside.
Wash the mixing bowl and dry. Grab your whisk attachment and secure. Dump in the egg whites and whip on high until frothy and begins to stiffen slightly. At this point, start adding the 1/3 cup sugar, little by little. Continue whipping until stiff peaks form and you can turn the bowl upside-down over your head without fear of it plopping all over you. This step is completely necessary and you must do it with someone watching. JK
Take your egg whites and gradually start incorporating it into the yolk mixture with a spatula, being really gentle not to deflate all the volume from the whites. This process takes a while but be patient; you’ll soon be rewarded with the fluffiest, spongiest chiffon cake in the neighborhood.
Pour this into the chiffon cake pan and smooth the top with the spatula. Put this into the oven and bake for about 45 min – 1 hour, depending on the strength of your oven, until the middle comes out clean when tested (I used a large skewer since a toothpick in this case wouldn’t even scrape the surface).
As soon as it comes out of the oven, invert the whole thing over the bottle you found to hold and secure while it cools upside down. Let the cake cool completely before attempting to unmold with a knife.
Sprinkle powdered sugar and fresh orange zest right over the top when you’re ready to serve.