Vintage Cakes (Ten Speed Press, 2013) — Julie Richardson's newest collection of dessert treasures — offers readers enough cupcake, flips, rolls, layers, and chiffon cake recipes to please any crowd. From the chapter “Layer Cakes,” this Chocolate Chiffon Cake Recipe hearkens back to the famous “lovelight” chiffon cakes of the 1950s.
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Chocolate Chiffon Cake Recipe
The adjective “lovelight” was inspired by the comments of homemakers who tested Betty Crocker chiffon recipes in the 1950s, as part of a nationwide home recipe testing program. Many of them shared that their husbands loved the delicate and feathery light chiffon cakes — and so the term “lovelight” was coined. With a chocolate whipping cream filling, this chiffon cake is sublime.
Bake Time: 50-55 minutes
Pan: 10” straight-sided metal tube pan or angel food cake pan with feet, ungreased.
Serving Size: 8-12
Chocolate Whipping Cream:
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped or chips
3 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (2 ounces) lightly packed premium unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa (see Cocoa Confusion below)
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
6 egg yolks, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups (7 ounces) sifted cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/4 cups (9 1/3 ounces) firmly packed brown sugar
7 egg whites, at room temperature (see Whipping Egg Whites below)
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
Begin by making the chocolate whipping cream: place the chocolate in a large heat-resistant bowl. Heat the cream in a saucepan over medium heat until it just comes to a simmer, then quickly remove the pan from the heat and pour the cream over the chocolate. Let the bowl sit for a few minutes so the cream can melt the chocolate, then whisk to blend the cream and chocolate together. Whisk in the vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until well chilled, about 3 hours.
Adjust a rack to the bottom third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F.
In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa and boiling water until smooth. Blend in the oil, buttermilk, and vanilla. Whisk in the egg yolks.
In a large mixing bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Using a whisk, blend in the brown sugar, working out any large lumps. Stir the chocolate mixture into the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula and briskly stir until the mixture is just smooth. Do not overmix.
In the clean metal bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the clean whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on medium speed until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and gradually increase the speed to medium-high until the whites just hold a soft peak. With the mixer on medium speed, add the granulated sugar in a slow steady stream. Kick the mixer up to high speed and whip until the whites just hold firm, shiny peaks. Fold a third of the whites into the chocolate batter using as few strokes as possible. Add the remaining whites, folding only until evenly incorporated.
Transfer the batter into the pan and bake in the bottom third of the oven until the cake springs back when lightly touched, 50 to 55 minutes. Cool the cake on a wire rack to room temperature (don’t invert the cake before it cools, and don’t be surprised if it deflates slightly). To unmold the cooled cake, insert a thin knife or metal spatula around the edge of the pan to free the cake from the sides and then invert the cake onto a plate.
To finish the chocolate whipping cream, place the bowl of a stand mixer and its whisk attachment in the freezer for 5 minutes to chill. Place the chocolate cream in the cold bowl and whip until it is thick and spreadable—but don’t overwhip it! It’s best to err on the underwhipped side, since you can always give it a few strokes with a hand whisk if you need to thicken it up, but if it gets too stiff it can taste grainy.
To assemble the cake, slice the cake horizontally into thirds. Place the bottom third on a serving plate and spread with a third of the cream (about 1 1/2 cups). Place the middle layer of cake on top of the cream and spread the next third of the cream over it. Top with the final layer of cake and the remainder of the cream. Chill the cake in the refrigerator for 1 hour before serving.
Cocoa powder falls into two categories: natural and Dutch-processed. Cocoa is naturally slightly acidic, a characteristic that can make it taste harsh or bitter. Dutch-processed cocoa is treated to remove some of its natural acidity; the result is a darker, mellowed cocoa flavor. Read the label: if it says “treated with alkaline” or “alkalized,” this means it has been Dutch-processed.
Dutch-processed cocoa is commonly used for frostings; natural cocoa is more commonly found in recipes for baked products, since the baking process neutralizes the acids somewhat. The two types of cocoa are not interchangeable. Use the type that is called for in the recipe, lest a substitution alter the results. The cocoa called for in a recipe has been matched with the recipe’s leavening ingredients to balance the recipe’s acidity or alkalinity. If you substitute Dutch-processed for natural cocoa, the batter may lack acidity, in which case it will not set (picture a big flat cookie or a cake that is more akin to pudding). On the other hand, if you use natural cocoa in place of Dutch-processed cocoa, the batter may be too alkaline, in which case the cake may be overleavened and may sink in the middle as it cools.
Just as no two chocolate bars taste quite the same, so too with the different brands of cocoa powder. The chocolaty flavor varies tremendously. When shopping for cocoa powder, stay away from the bulk bins and search out cocoa made by chocolatiers; their cocoa powders will be of higher quality. My favorite retail brands are Valrhona, Green & Black’s, Droste, and Dagoba. Once you find a brand you like (as I have with the Cacao Barry Extra Brute Cocoa we use at the bakery), stick with it.
To add to the complexity, cocoa butter content differs among various cocoa powders, varying from 10 percent to 35 percent. As a result, some cocoa powders are denser and their ratio of weight to volume will vary from other cocoa powders. For example, one ounce of cocoa powder may measure anywhere from 3 tablespoons to over 1/2 cup! The recipes in this book were developed based on ingredient weight, so I recommend that, when in doubt, you use the weight measurement. If you are measuring by volume, sift any lumps out of the cocoa powder before you measure it, and then lightly pack the measuring cup.
Whipping Egg Whites
Properly whipped egg whites are the key to beautiful angel food, chiffon, and sponge cakes, as well as flourless chocolate cakes. Once you get the hang of it, whipping whites becomes second nature. Here’s how:
• Don’t let any fat infect the whites. Always start with an impeccably clean whisk and bowl (avoid using a plastic bowl, which even when washed can trap fats that will thwart your whipping efforts). Be sure no yolk slips into the bowl.
• Know what result you are aiming for:
Soft peaks are what you have when the whites droop from the tip of the whisk and just begin to hold a faint shape. This is the stage to add the sugar to the whites, if any is called for in the recipe.
Medium peaks hold their shape and are firm but not stiff. They are perfect for chiffon and angel food cakes.
Stiff peaks stand at attention. They should not be dry or appear separated (which means they are overwhipped). They are what you want for Marshmallow Frosting (page 155) or the meringue in Lemon Queen Cakes (page 50).
• Room temperature egg whites whip up best, but it is easiest to separate eggs when they are cold. To warm egg whites to room temperature, nest a bowl of whites in a bowl of warm water and give them a gentle stir.
• Never whip your whites ahead of time. They need to be used immediately after you have whipped them. Once you fold whites into the cake batter, move the cake into the oven in short order.
• Watch your whites at all times. If you are using a mixer, turn it off before the desired stage and finish whipping the whites by hand with a whisk. Overwhipped whites cannot be salvaged.
• Always start mixing your egg whites on low speed until they are frothy, then gradually work up to high speed.
• Egg whites whipped without sugar are more fragile than whites whipped with sugar. Whipping whites with sugar will take a bit longer but be more forgiving. You will achieve stiff peaks, and your end result will be creamier and more stable.
• Egg whites whipped with cream of tartar similarly will be more stable.
Reprinted with permission from Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson and published by Ten Speed Press, 2012. Buy this book from our store: Vintage Cakes