Saturday, April 19, 2014

Recipe: Perfect chiffon cake

When my family and I first moved to the States, we never really bought cakes unless it was an obligatory one for a birthday. My parents had Chinese taste-buds that completely shriveled up at the thought of those sugar-ladden grocery store cakes of the early 2000's. Of course, we were quite poor back then and that's all we could really afford (even even scraping up enough money for the smallest possible birthday cake was a chore).

The cake process often went like this: candles, pictures, cut, fight over who got the smallest possible piece, take a few bites and complain about how sugary it was, reminisce about the 鲜奶 cakes in China that were covered in fruit, and finally store the cake mostly uneaten cake away in the fridge claiming that it could be eaten for breakfast in the coming week when actuality it would always be thrown away by the week's end.

By the time I got into middle school, a couple of Korean bakeries opened up in our area and the cakes they sold were very much like the Chinese cakes my parents remembered: soft, pillowy, covered in a barely sweet whipped cream frosting, and decorated with fruit. And most importantly, they were not very sweet. The only downfall was the price tag and so still, those cakes were only reserved for special birthdays.

Once I began to bake from scratch, one of the first things I took to perfect was that Asian-bakery style cake, and after much practice, experimentation, and taste-testing, I found the recipe that won not only my family's seal of approval, but also that of family friends, elderly community members, and the general Asian public. 

This recipe is my favorite: light, airy, easy to whip up, and it tastes just like the ones that you can buy from the Korean bakeries. Decorate with your favorite fruit toppings, chocolate, cookies, or just eat it plain, I promise you that it will soon be a favorite. 

Basic Asian Bakery Style Chiffon Cake
Makes a 2 layer, 8 inch cake
Printable recipe

For cake:
  • 5 eggs 
  • 110 g cake flour  
  • 120 g sugar
  • 5 tablespoons milk
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract:  
  • 1 teaspoon cream of Tartar (can substitute with white vinegar)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
For whipped frosting:
  • 3 cups heavy whipping cream
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (substitute with ½ teaspoon clear artificial vanilla extract if you want to keep a pure white color)
  • 3-4 tablespoons sugar (or to taste)
For cake: 
  1. Preheat oven to 330ºF and prepare two 8-inch cake pans by lining the bottoms with parchment paper and not greasing the sides. It is important that the cake sticks to the sides of the pan.
  2. Separate the egg yolks and whites into two clean, dry bowls. 
  3. Add 70 g of sugar to the egg yolks. Mix to combine before mixing in the milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract.
  4. Sift in the flour and baking powder. Mix gently until smooth but be careful not to over mix
  5. In the bowl of egg whites, add in the cream of tartar and start mixing with the electric mixer. Slowly add in 50 g of sugar. Mix until the egg whites reach stiff peaks. 
  6. Scoop out 1/3 of the egg whites and fold into the egg yolk mixture using a wire whisk. Be careful not to over mix. Now that the textures of the two mixtures are closer together, add in the remaining egg whites and fold
  7. Split the mixture the two cake pans. 
  8. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the top is golden brown and when a toothpick is inserted into the middle of the cake, it comes out clean. 
  9. Once the cakes come out, immediately invert the pans on two cooling racks making sure that there is air flow at the bottom of the racks. Allow the cakes to completely cool before taking them out of the pans.
For assembly:
  1. Once the cake has cooled, assemble the frosting by whipping together all the ingredients to a medium to stiff peak
  2. Divide the two layers in half so that there are four layers total
  3. Place one layer onto a serving plate and spread on a thin layer of frosting. I generally like to add in a layer of thinly sliced fruit here before covering the fruit up with another thin layer of frosting. Of course, all the fruit is optional
  4. Place on the second layer and once again top with a layer of frosting, this time a bit thicker. Add in a layer of more chunky cut fruit. Here, I generally add in a layer of strawberries that have simply been sliced in half. Cover up the fruits with more frosting, making sure you fill in all the crevasses in between the fruits
  5. Repeat step 3 with the remaining two layers of cake before frosting the outside with the remaining whipped cream and decorating to your heart's desire.