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The Delicious Appreciations of Pick Yin

Not exactly predictable.
Has enough brains for codes
(but can be completely clueless on other more important matters).
Likes her Joe (and her man?) black, her chocolate dark and her food spicy.
“Quam bene vivas refert, non quam diu.” — Seneca

Total Posts   191      Last Updated   23 November 2015 12:00 PM (GMT +8)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

(A Better) Chocolate Chiffon Cake

Chocolate Chiffon Cake

Some things in life are just worth the trouble.

Things like chiffon cakes, for example. In reality, they are no trouble at all. There's no need to grease and flour the tin, no butter to soften and worry about over softening, no frosting to be fussed over after the cake is done. But the chiffon requires concentration nonetheless, for that business of separating nine eggs never fails to make me think "Why am I doing this?" or "Please egg yolk don't break on me." for five long minutes.

Two out of ten times, a rogue sun-shiny yolk breaks, and my dinner immediately involves egg drop soup. Then there's this thing about the perfect meringue, a little over soft peaks and not quite stiff yet. You'll know how right it is when you fold it into the flour mixture.

Chocolate Chiffon Cake

Chocolate Chiffon Cake

Chocolate Chiffon Cake

After baking two, not one pandan chiffon cakes for orders and not being able to eat even a slice of them, I made a third chiffon. A chocolate one, so Vijay and I would both love it and I wouldn't end up eating the entire cake alone (although, at the time of writing, I ate more than half the cake already). The recipe was given to me by Shirley a long time ago, but never forgotten.

Chocolate Chiffon Cake

This one depends entirely on the meringue, as there are no other leavening agents in the cake. I believe the source is Japanese, as they have perfected the chiffon method to be based entirely on technique, with various recipe proportions depending on the size of the cake. To understand the texture of a good meringue, I suggest practicing it by hand, taking your time as you go, and carefully observing the changes as more air is gradually incorporated into the fluffy egg whites.

Mimicking this similar process with a machine will require some practice, depending on the speed and strength of your beaters. Starting the meringue slow and giving it more time will yield better results, although, as every experienced baker knows, can never be on par with the hand-beaten meringue. Some things in life are just worth the trouble.

Chocolate Chiffon Cake

I finally picked up serious reading again, Lee Kuan Yew's memoir The Singapore Story currently riveting my out-of-kitchen moments. Reading memoirs, like baking and eating chiffon cakes, invokes reflections of my own childhood, some memories best forgotten, others breaking a smile.

As I reach for the knife and another dollop of freshly whipped cream, as the bittersweet chocolate melds with tart strawberry slices in my mouth, I find solace and thank God for the small pleasures of life, worth the trouble.

(A Better) Chocolate Chiffon Cake

Recipe adapted from a good friend, Shirley @Kokken.
Yield 1 20-cm chiffon cake.

Note: Changes made to the recipe - brewed coffee/espresso replacing brandy and dark chocolate in place of semi sweet. The result is surprising sweet enough despite the fact that I used Valrhona cocoa and chocolate, which can come across as too acidic for some.

  • 60 grams semi sweet chocolate
  • 100 milliliters salad oil
  • 80 grams top flour
  • 80 grams cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 80 grams egg yolk (from about 5 eggs)
  • 80 grams caster sugar (A)
  • 160 milliliters water
  • 2 tablespoons brewed espresso/coffee
  • 280 grams egg white (from about 9 eggs)
  • 60 grams caster sugar (B)
Preheat oven to 170°C, with a wire rack at the lower third and prepare a 20-21 cm chiffon cake tin.

Over a bain marie, melt the chocolate in salad oil until smooth and set aside to cool. Meanwhile sift together flour, cocoa powder and salt. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and 1/3 of sugar A until sugar is completely dissolved. Add the remaining sugar A in two additions, each time mixing the well until sugar completely dissolves. Add in the melted chocolate and mix until smooth. Add in water and coffee. Fold in the sifted dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl, beat egg whites with sugar B until soft peaks are formed, either by hand or an electric mixer. (Add sugar in three additions.) Fold in 1/3 of the meringue quickly with the chocolate and flour mixture. Fold in the rest of meringue lightly, taking care not to over-mix. Pour batter into chiffon tin and bake for 45-50 minutes or until tester inserted into the center of cake comes out clean.

Cool the cake upright on a wire rack for 5 minutes before inverting it over to cool completely. Remove from tin using a thin knife, serve with strawberries and whipped cream if desired.

14 Comments on (A Better) Chocolate Chiffon Cake

Hi! What do I replace top/cake flour with? Keep up the good work. I love your photos and your blog! :D

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous, at Jun 12, 2013, 8:31:00 PM  

Hi Anon, normally I don't replace top/cake flour for chiffon cakes, they do require a delicate and fine textured flour for best results.

You can make your own cake flour:
Add two tablespoons of corn starch to each cup of regular flour and sift this mixture together twice. Measure your cups of flour from this mixture.

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Jun 13, 2013, 10:00:00 AM  

Hi, by how much should I upscale the recipe for a 23 cm (at the base) chiffon cake tin? Can't wait to try this. It looks great. Keep up the good work.

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous, at Jun 13, 2013, 9:14:00 PM  

Hi Anon, for a bigger tin I advice you to use a recipe for that tin. Chiffon cake recipes are not advisable to be scaled. Most Japanese chiffon cake books comes with quantities for different tin sizes.

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Jun 17, 2013, 10:08:00 AM  

Hi! love all your recipes. well anyways, salad oil do u mean any vegetable oil will do or?? - Dee

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous, at Jul 16, 2013, 12:06:00 PM  

thank's for your information !

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous, at Jul 22, 2013, 5:08:00 PM  

Hi anon, salad oil is vegetable oil, but not olive oil. You may use grapeseed, corn or sunflower.

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Jul 24, 2013, 4:15:00 PM  

I can't imagine making a chiffon cake. Man I'm so rustic and bake on spin kind baker. I want to live around you. So you can send me your beauties which by the way are fabulous!

Posted by Anonymous Kulsum, at Aug 1, 2013, 6:58:00 PM  

This is amazing post! Thanks a lot for sharing this with us :)

Posted by Anonymous Termografering, at Aug 4, 2013, 2:39:00 PM  

Hi there,

I think you left out the baking powder and cream of tartar for the egg whites in your ingredients? Just made this and the batter was totally flat and watery. I doubt the cake will rise at all. And my chiffon cakes are usually ok (but I used recipes including those above missing ingredients). I thought perhaps this is a newer, healthier method?

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous, at Feb 15, 2014, 12:42:00 PM  

Hi Anon, this recipe is the Japanese method, which doesn't include any leavening or stabilizing agent, including cream of tartar in the meringue.

If your batter is watery then your meringue is too wet. This is not a 'healthier' method, just a purist's more technical approach. You can find many such recipes online, including one here, made with blood orange.

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 17, 2014, 3:45:00 PM  

Hi Pick Yin,

My bad - I missed out the part in your text where you mentioned it's the Japanese method earlier. I guess my wet meringue means I over-whipped it? I also missed the part where you said to start out whipping it slow! (I started on speed 6 on an electric mixer). That said - my cake turned out to be a non-chiffon but moist, dense and rather pleasant, bitter chocolate cake in the end, ha ha. I also used Valrhona cocoa and 60% Valrhona choc but think it can be a tad sweeter. Still quite pleasant, overall. Do you think I could try this same recipe again and perhaps add 1 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp cream of tartar in the egg whites to prevent any mishaps? And perhaps up the sugar content to combat the choc's bitterness? (I have loads of 66% Valrhona to plough through). Thanks!

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous, at Feb 17, 2014, 6:24:00 PM  

Further to my previous comment - can I also omit the coffee? I used espresso (instead of regular coffee) and I'm not sure if that contributed to the bitterness of the cake? If so, should I replace it with some other liquid like water or milk? Thanks!

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous, at Feb 17, 2014, 6:27:00 PM  

Hi Anon,

Sorry for the late reply.
1. In general it's not advisable to change the sugar content in chiffon recipes as they are more sensitive and strict in proportions. You can do so in other cakes, but not chiffon.
2. Regarding bitterness, the espresso should not be the factor. In baking the coffee's job is to bring out the best flavor of chocolate. I suspect Valrhona's 66% is too acidic for you. Valrhona chocolate are known for that. You can try using instant coffee.
3. Omitting cream of tartar lets one practice making a good meringue, so this is up to you. :)

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 20, 2014, 10:43:00 AM  

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