Cakes to me, have always been an intricate and time consuming labor of love: first you make the cake, then you make the layers, the frosting, and then decorate. It’s no wonder they are so often associated with special occasions: birthday cakes, wedding cakes, etc.! In fact, one day I’m going to make one of those cakes I love and post it here (a lovely cardamom chiffon cake with rosewater frosting).
You see, those cakes are wonderful and inspiring to eat, but not so accessible. But then one day someone got me a bundt/flower cake pan and voila!: I discovered the “easy quick cakes.” These, I define as cakes that can be made out of one pan, in one layer, without so much as a lick of frosting. If you have a pretty pan, it’s even easier to make sure these cakes are attractive as well as tasty.
Today was an easy quickie cake day: I had to take refreshments to class–I realized this with only a couple hours to spare. Of course I had the option to go to the store and buy something, but oddly enough, baking something at home would be more convenient for me in this case. I had some work to do and if I timed it all correctly, I could get that work done while the item baked in the oven.
So I had to pick an item that would have very little prep before and afterwards. Cookies, though usually ideal, were out of the question: too much hurrying back and forth from the oven, at well-timed 10-15 minute intervals. It would not give me time to get that chunk of work done.
What else was left? A cake! I pulled out my flower shaped “bundt pan” (it’s not really a bundt pan because it doesn’t have that hole in the middle) and browsed for recipes. A quick search on epicurious brought me to the recipe for a citrus chiffon cake with citrus syrup.
The cake was a dream to make, very simple…and the whipped egg whites truly looked like a dream:
The zest is a must, even though it’s the most time consuming step (not so time consuming if you have a microplane zester). What you end up with is a light cake–it is a bit dry on its own though, so you want to boil some of that citrus syrup up while the cake is in the oven (or in my case, while the cake cooled). (I’m wondering right now what would happen if I were to add some sour cream to this cake to “moisten” it up). Last steps? Sprinkle some powdered sugar on top and serve with the syrup! I let the students pour the syrup on themselves (but insisted on it, obsessively, knowing how dry the cake could be). The syrup made the thing perfect.
Easy cake! Recipe follows after the jump…
CITRUS CHIFFON CAKE
Gourmet Magazine, Feb 1999
It’s unusual to butter and flour the pan when making a chiffon cake, but we liked the delicate crust that resulted. Because we did it this way, the cake must be cooled, inverted, on a rack, not on a bottle (the usual procedure for chiffons), or it will fall right out of the pan!
Don’t be tempted to substitute lemon juice for orange juice in the recipe, as the cake will not be as tender.
1 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
5 tablespoons canola oil
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh orange zest
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar (I didn’t have any on hand, but the cake turned out just fine without it) confectioners’ sugar for sprinkling
Special equipment: a 1 1/2-quart (about 8-inch) Kugelhupf or bundt pan
Accompaniment: Citrus Syrup
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour pan, knocking out excess flour.
Into a large bowl sift together flour, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt. Separate eggs. In a small bowl whisk together yolks, oil, orange juice, zests, and vanilla and whisk mixture into flour mixture until batter is smooth.
In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat whites with cream of tartar until they just hold soft peaks. With mixer on low speed gradually add remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar and beat until whites hold stiff, glossy peaks. Stir about one third whites into batter to lighten and fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly. Spoon batter into pan (batter will reach top of pan).
Bake cake in middle of oven until golden and a tester comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Immediately invert pan onto a rack and cool cake completely in pan upside down on rack. Run a thin knife around outer edge of pan and turn cake out of pan onto a serving plate. Cake may be made 2 days ahead and kept in an airtight container at cool room temperature.
Sprinkle cake with confectioners’ sugar and serve, sliced, with syrup.