I get very nostalgic when I remember my mom working in her kitchen. She took so much pride in the beautiful meals she prepared and always spent a lot of time planning menus that would appeal to whomever was coming for dinner. She loved desserts but didn’t really have what I would call a “sweet tooth”…I inherited that from her…and used to make desserts like this chiffon cake…and angel food cakes too…that were light in texture and not heavy on the sugar. It’s easy to dress up a slice of chiffon cake with a scoop of whipped cream and a little fresh fruit or a custard sauce and a few chocolate curls for those who like a bit more substance when it comes to dessert. Chiffon cake was a VERY popular dessert in the 1960’s through the ’80’s but seem to have fallen out of favor in the last few decades. That’s strange because they are so light and aren’t made with any fats, and I would think that would appeal to today’s health conscious families. They are easy to make, but just a little fussy when it comes to beating the egg whites and carefully folding them into the egg mixture. Other than that they go together in a snap.
The recipe in my old BETTER HOMES AND GARDENS NEW COOKBOOK (1963 edition) suggests frosting this Burnt Sugar Chiffon Cake with a boiled icing that uses up the leftover burnt sugar syrup. That just didn’t sound good to me…too sweet…so I decided on a simple powdered sugar glaze instead. I thought I was so clever and substituted the sugar syrup for the water called for in the glaze recipe and…sadly…it didn’t work. It never occurred to me that there would be a problem but, in thinking about it later, I realized that the sugar in the syrup was melted and watered down so it would never make a glaze that dried on the cake. Duh.. It still tasted fine, but didn’t look so great after an hour or so. These little glitches and solutions are what make baking a challenge and a reward. I remember a most delicious orange glaze on an orange chiffon cake and will make and post that version soon.
There are several basic steps for a perfect chiffon cake. First, sift the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and add the oil, egg yolks and vanilla in the order given, and beat till smooth. Next, beat the egg whites until very stiff and carefully fold…not stir… into the egg mixture. Pour into an ungreased tube pan that has a removable tube. I was so intent on what I was doing that I forgot to take a picture of the cake batter in the tube pan…sorry…it fills the pan about 2/3 of the way up. When I want egg whites with lots of volume I make sure they are at room temperature and I wash the bowl and beater in hot soapy water to remove any tiny bits of grease that might be on them. It’s a little step that can make a big difference in the volume of the whites.
Now, here is the fun part. I can see in my mind’s eye a cake pan inverted on a bottle on my mom’s kitchen counter. She loved chiffon cake and it was a common sight in her kitchen. When the cake is done immediately turn it upside down and place on a bottle with a long, narrow neck. Plan ahead…find the right bottle before the cake goes into the oven. Otherwise you will have one very thin, flat cake to deal with…and you won’t be happy. A wine bottle is an easy answer.
This recipe for Burnt Sugar Chiffon Cake is from the 1963 edition of the BETTER HOMES AND GARDENS NEW COOKBOOK. Chiffon cakes were so popular back then that a whole section was devoted to them is this enormously popular cookbook. I received an updated version a few years ago and wasn’t surprised that many of the recipes that were so popular in the 60’s and 70’s had been purged from the book. Too bad…they were the best ones.
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 cup boiling water
- 2-1/4 cups sifted cake flour
- 1-1/4 cups sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 5 egg yolks
- 6 tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup egg whites (about 6-7 large eggs)
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
- In a heavy saucepan melt ¾ cup sugar over low hear, stirring constantly till medium brown and smooth. Remove from heat. Slowly add boiling water; stir over low heat till lumps dissolve; cool.
- Sift dry ingredients into mixing bowl, make a well in the center. In this order add vegetable oil, egg yolks, 6 tablespoons water, vanilla, and 6 tablespoons of the burnt sugar syrup. Beat till batter is satin smooth.
- Combine egg whites and cream of tartar. Beat till very stiff peaks form. Pour egg yolk batter over the entire surface of the egg whites, gently cutting and folding just till blended. Bake in ungreased 10-inch tube pan WITH A REMOVABLE BOTTOM AND TUBE in a slow oven (325 degrees)for 55 minutes, then in moderate oven (350 degrees) for 10 minutes. Invert pan and cool thoroughly. With a spatula or knife loosen the cake on the bottom and around the sides, bottom and the tube. Turn upside down and remove pan. Carefully place the cake on a cake plate bottom side up.