Courage, humility, some cake flour dust, and a whole lot of love. As cheesy as it sounds, these are the main ingredients when baking a cake for your loved ones because a--they really could turn out to be a flop in which case a lot of unconditional love is required from said loved one, and b--either way you have to get over your fears of baking cake. I know that was me prior to singing happy birthday to Selah with our church family, hah! I was so terrified they would hate it, I even contemplated to eat it all by my lonesome self to avoid any criticism. So sad, I know.
If you've ever tried to make chiffon cake from scratch, then you probably know what a bear it can be since it's sensitive in the strangest ways, but if you follow the rule of thumb of separating the eggs, keeping them at room temperature prior to using them, sifting your cake flour, baking the batter in an aluminum pan and not greasing the sides of the pan, then making chiffon cake couldn't get any simpler. That's right! Chiffon cake only responds to non-slippery surfaces and the only way to get a tall, moist, and extremely spongy crumb with the tiniest little holes so perfectly spaced out as shown in the picture below, is to use an aluminum pan. Surprisingly so, the slippery quality of non-stick pans or greased pans will prevent the cake from "riding" up the sides, if you will, keeping it from reaching its full height and consequently making it tough and chewy like rice cake.
As with many of my recipes, you can totally make some things ahead of time like the meringue layers and taro mousse. Make sure to keep the meringue layers in a dry place and that moisture doesn't build up from sealing them too tight. In fact, I even like to keep them uncovered and stored up somewhere like my oven (when it's not hot/warm!) because it's consistent in temperature, fairly clean, and keeps the critters away.
This variant of the regular sponge cake is one of my favorites! It always tastes gourmet and makes any celebratory cake a little more luxurious. Now, please keep in mind that the photos show the meringue layers combined with whipped cream, which was a huge mistake of my part. I suggest keeping the meringue away from liquid ingredients as they will soften up from moisture. I've also read far too many complaints of cakes collapsing when a tube pan isn't used, but here I show you how it's more than possible to get the same perfect results in a regular 8 inch cake pan. What works for me is to include butter instead of oil, and to immediately flip the pan onto a ventilated surface to ensure the springy quality stays intact. Not letting it cool completely and turning the pan right side up too early will undoubtedly cause your cake to collapse. Now let's get on this and make sure to watch the video for further details!
Chiffon and Meringue Layer Cake with Taro Mousse and Whipped Cream
Makes one tall 8-inch round cake || With help from Just One Cookbook
Time: About 1.5 hours, including baking time.
Equipment: Standmixer or electric beater, aluminum pan, parchment paper for bottom of pan
Ingredients for chiffon cake
3 large egg yolks, room temperature
1/4 cup white sugar
4 tbsp melted unsalted butter
5 tbsp room temperature milk
3 drops red+3 drops blue food coloring
3 large egg whites, room temperature
3 tbsp white sugar
1 cup sifted cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Directions for chiffon cake
Keep eggs at room temperature ahead of time. If you're in a pinch, dunk them in hot water until the water becomes lukewarm (about 5-10 minutes).
Preheat oven to 350F (177C degrees) and make sure to use the rack at the lowest level or height in the oven. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, butter, milk, and food coloring. Set aside. In the bowl of your stand mixer with a whisk attachment, or an electric beater if you don't have a stand mixer, mix the egg whites on medium speed, raising it to the highest speed so foam starts to form. When you see bubbles, slowly pour in the sugar and keep mixing on high speed until you see stiff peaks.
In a separate large mixing bowl, sift the cake flour and baking powder in the mesh at the same time. This will help even incorporation of baking powder. Sprinkle salt. Add these dry ingredients into the wet ingredients with purple coloring and gently mix together until big clumps disappear. Fold in the egg whites into the mixture and until well incorporated, but without over mixing because that will cause the leavening to "die out". Cut parchment paper into a circle to cover the bottom of your pan, pour the batter in and bake for approximately 34 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean, top is golden, and the cake springs back up when you press it gently.
Immediately place a strip of plastic wrap across the top of the pan and make it cling to the outside. Flip the pan onto a ventilated surface as shown in the video, and let it cool for at least 25 minutes. It should be completely cool and when inverted to the right position, it shouldn't show the smallest sign of collapsing or shrinking. Unstick the side of the pan with a dull knife and invert cake onto a flat, clean surface. Slice into two equal layers with a serrated knife, brushing off messy crumbs.
Ingredients for meringue layers
|| Tools: Parchment paper ||
2 large egg whites, room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Prior to making these meringues, make sure you thoroughly wash and dry the stand mixer bowl, or else the oils will affect the result. Turn down your oven to 300F (149C degrees). Mix the egg whites on high speed and when it starts to produce foam, slowly add the sugar and keep mixing until stiff peaks start to form. Scrape sides as needed, add salt, vanilla, and mix on high for a few seconds.
Draw two circles on parchment paper using the bottom of the cake pan as a mold (the top part might be too big because of edges). Spoon the meringue mixture on both circles and smooth out, making sure all sides are roughly even. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until lightly golden and meringues are hard. Cool on parchment until ready to use.
Ingredients for taro mousse
4 small taro, washed and peeled***
water for boiling
1/4 cup white sugar
1-2 tbsp milk or cream
1 drop red+1 drop blue food coloring
Directions for taro mousse
Boil taro until soft and mashable. Transfer to a processor or blender and puree with the rest of the ingredients.
Ingredients for whipped cream
4 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Directions for whipped cream
In a clean, large bowl and a beater with whisk attachment, mix the whipping cream, sugar, vanilla, and cream of tartar in that order. Beat until it becomes creamy and thick, and a bit higher in volume. Keep refrigerated until ready to frost.
You should now have two layers of chiffon cake. Lay one layer on a flat surface with the top crust facing up. Spread with taro mousse until fully covered, leaving about 1/2 inch space near the edge. Spread some whipped cream on the mousse in the same manner, making the cream about 1/4 inch tall.