Thursday, April 28, 2011
It's been four years since I've relocated to Singapore and I've come to miss my friends back in Malaysia very much. I would often
However, lately I realized, to my chagrin, that I can't always be in the country when they come to the island on their own schedule. So I'd bake them something before I leave. Thankfully, up till now, the results of my affection turned out pretty well. The requests were always for something chocolate and I'd know exactly which cake I'd end up making. For the last one though, I was getting rather tired, literally, of making the same best ever chocolate cake over and over again. After a long business trip and only having a couple of days to hang before I had to pack up for Hong Kong again, I wasn't sure if my level of enthusiasm was sufficient to fuss over a layered cake with homemade berry compote filling and frosting of chocolate ganache.
The last thing I wanted was to feel like it's a chore in the kitchen, so I had to change my plan. How many types of chocolate cake can we bake before we call it a day? It'll be awhile before I run out of great recipes to try but next in line on the list of awesome-chocolate-cakes-to-bake was one which Vijay declared he would have no issues with. While he wasn't so excited about the last leafy green chiffon, when I came home one day with two pieces of chocolate ones from Bengawan Solo, he gladly finished them in less than two minutes. Great, I thought, this would be a breeze.
Except, it didn't turn out to be so easy. For starters, I didn't have a working recipe. Good Shirley, with quite a few chiffon cakes already under her baking belt, without fail helped me out with one version despite her busy days. However, missing from my ever growing stack of bakeware is the required 17-inch tube pan so I decided to go with this rather more substantial 'light sponge' from All Recipes instead. With that sorted out, I quickly proceeded to worry myself silly about getting a respectable height from the cake, as chocolate chiffons are not quite like other chiffons. The cocoa powder's volatile reaction (or non-reaction) with rising agents - depending on whether or not you're going Dutch - bothered me to no end. The recipe doesn't mention if the cocoa powder should be Dutch or natural so I gambled on my favorite Valrhona and hoped for the best.
So while I did the dishes after putting the cake into the oven, I was like a woman possessed. Every five to ten minutes I would rinse off my soap laden hands and steal a peep at the oven, praying for the cake to rise properly. For the first 20 minutes when the batter was still setting and didn't move northwards much I thought I was pretty much doomed. I was going back and forth in front of the oven for the entire hour it took for the cake to be done. If the oven could speak it would've disowned me. Thank God the cake did puff very much upwards in the end, although it wasn't as tall as its pandan cousin.
To test the doneness of the cake, instead of pressing it for a spring back action, I used the cake tester approach. All went well after it came out of the oven, cooled for a few hours and later removed from the pan - although to be honest I really only relaxed after the cake stayed the way it came out half an hour after it was released. While it was very moist, fluffy and light, it wasn't like eating a piece of cloud so if you'll have to decide if this is the kind of chocolate chiffon you're looking for. As for me, I'll try out Shirley's recipe once I get my hands on a smaller pan.
If you're by now slightly worried that Life if Great is turning into a largely chocolate cakes-slash-desserts center, well, I really can't promise anything. Prior to making this cake, I was thinking of chocolate pudding. Immediately after baking this cake I wanted to make a batch of cocoa brownies to bring with me to Hong Kong. As of right now, after an hour-long conference call in my hotel room, I'm thinking of having a piece of that chocolate Swiss roll stashed away in the minibar icebox. So you get the picture - I'm helpless in the power of chocolate but if you're like me, enjoy this cake and the long Labor Day weekend!
Chocolate Chiffon Cake
Adapted barely from Erma Fox at All Recipes
Note: I mostly followed the recipe except I skipped the (heavy-looking) icing, added some coffee to enhance the chocolate, split the sugar to beat the meringue and folded in the meringue using the traditional chiffon cake method (oh you know, the 1/3 to lighten then fold in the rest thing) but feel free to do as per the original recipe and see how things unfold, hopefully with much less drama in your head.
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder (I used Valrhona)
- 2 tablespoons instant coffee
- 3/4 cup boiling water
- 1 3/4 cups cake flour
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 7 eggs, separated
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Preheat the oven to 325°F (I set my convection on at 150°C) and place the wire rack at the lowest slot. In a bowl, combine cocoa powder, instant coffee and boiling water until smooth; cool for a minimum of 20 minutes (I left mine for a couple of hours till the mixture thickens at room temperature).
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, half the sugar, baking soda and salt. Add in the oil, egg yolks and vanilla. Mix well and then add the cocoa mixture; whisk until smooth. In another mixing bowl or a stand mixer, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar. Add in the other half of the sugar gradually and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold in 1/3 of the meringue into the egg yolk mixture and mix well. Gently fold in the rest of the meringue without overmixing.
Pour batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan. Bake for 60-65 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean. Invert pan to cool completely before removing it from the pan. Top with icing sugar prior to serving. If you're feeling fancy, garnish with some chopped pistachios and fresh raspberries.
Life Is Great explores the incredible world of food and cooking. We hope to share with you our most delicious moments and inspirations.
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Julia Child (Mastering the Art of French Cooking)
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