Baked Sunday Mornings: Lady Praline Chiffon Cake

Before making this week's Baked Sunday Mornings assignment, I had never even tasted a chiffon cake before, much less made one. Now that I've finally tasted it, I feel like a total idiot that I've waited this long to make one. Especially because last year, the Los Angeles Times Food Section ran an article on chiffon cake. While I made a mental note to get to the recipes accompanying the article some day, I wasn't in any particular rush. Making my first chiffon cake has been nothing short of a revelation, and I'm kicking myself for not trying one sooner.

The description in the aforementioned Los Angeles Times article is apt: a chiffon cake is "seemingly weightless as angel food but with a moist tenderness almost like a rich butter cake." As a bonus, chiffon cake is not difficult to make. The "Lady Praline Chiffon Cake" from Baked Explorations can be assembled in only a few minutes. You rub dark brown sugar together with white sugar to eliminate the lumps, add them to a sifted mixture of flour, baking powder, and salt, and then incorporate the wet ingredients (egg yolks and an egg, oil, water, orange zest and liqueur -- you are supposed to use pecan liqueur but I used Amaretto). Finally, you fold in egg whites that have been whipped with cream of tartar until they are stiff. You pour the batter in an ungreased tube pan with a removable bottom and bake.

When I went to check the cake at the minimum prescribed bake time (50 minutes) I detected a whiff of something burning. The top of the cake was just barely singed, and I then noticed that I had accidentally set the oven temperature at 375 instead of 325 degrees. (This is easier than you would think; the thermostat on our Viking oven has been malfunctioning since the day we moved into our house four years ago. It runs about 50 degrees too cold and I keep a thermometer in the oven to verify the actual temperature.)

I nominate this cake for sainthood, because it was incredibly forgiving. Except for a very small area on the top that was the slightest bit burned, the cake came out totally fine (not even the sides or bottom that were touching the pan were overcooked), despite being baked for nearly an hour in an oven that was 50 degrees too hot.

The following day I made the cake again, being sure to set the oven at the proper temperature. The second time, the cake rose noticeably higher, above the rim of the pan. Both cakes were equally delicious. The orange flavor is lovely and the cake was very tender and moist. Even though I have made hundreds and hundreds of cakes, I have never made one with such an incredibly light gossamer texture. Where angel food cake is spongy but rather sturdy, this cake was spongy and weightless -- when I cut the cake I found myself instinctively cradling each slice like a baby chick because it seemed so delicate (even though the cake is actually quite easy to handle).

I love this cake. I am completely sold on chiffon cake and I don't understand why everyone everywhere isn't eating this stuff -- it is nothing short of miraculous.

Recipe: "Lady Praline Chiffon Cake" from Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented, by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. Recipe available here at Baked Sunday Mornings.


Anonymous said…
I loved your blog - because in a lot of ways I felt the exact same way! I was surprised I had never tried one of these before, and I loved the texture and 'feel' of this cake. It feels light and delicate, yet sturdy enough to hold its own against toppings like chocolate glazes, whipped cream or ice cream, and/or fruit. And I agree about baking it too - I thought mine was burning from the smell halfway through, but it really was just forming a beautiful golden crust on top. Seems like we had similar experiences. Nice to 'meet' you and Happy Baking! ~ Mark
Susan said…
Very nicely done! I'm always impressed when bloggers re-make something because they didn't think it was perfect the first time.

We enjoyed this with fruit.
Chelly said…
You always make things look so delicious! Love your colorful plate too!
Bourbonnatrix said…
Love the look of your cake! It looks delicious :) I skipped it, but I'm glad everyone seems to have enjoyed it! And as if you made it twice! :)
Sheri said…
I've made chiffon cakes before, but I loved this one in particular. And it got me thinking why I don't make them more often!

Loved the Times article, thanks for the link! This is the chiffon cake I've made most in the past:
Louise said…
While chiffon cakes have your attention, I think you should try the Pandan Chiffon Cake with Coconut Glaze or the Hazelnut-Orange one from the LA Times. :-)
@Sheri -- Thanks, I will definitely put that recipe on the baking queue, I love the idea of raspberry whipped cream! @Louise -- I have all of the LA Times chiffon cake recipes printed out and ready to bake! ;)
Katie said…
Great job! I love that you can see the bits of orange zest in the slice of chiffon cake.