I know I said I would be reviewing a picnic post I did a while back but I have to tell you, after visiting the gals who are participating in this month’s Bake Along, I just couldn’t help myself, I had to bake a cake. Oh no, not any ol’ cake, this week’s theme is none other than Chiffon Cake!
It isn’t as if I haven’t shared a Chiffon Cake with you before. However, this is the first time I’m baking one “dressed” with my very own homemade yogurt frosting!
You must know by now that I can’t share such a classic recipe without giving you the lo-down on its history. Don’t worry, I won’t go into a whole lotta detail. If you’re interested in knowing more, I’ll leave you a link below from a previous post titled “Oil is the Key.”
The notion of combining beaten egg whites into a batter prepared with egg yolks and oil belongs to creator and professional baker, Harry Baker. Baker owned a Hollywood pastry shop in Los Angeles, California.
Baker converted a spare room into his top-secret bakery, with 12 tin hot-plate ovens. There, using his "mystery key ingredient" he baked more than 40 cakes a day which he sold for $2 each to the Brown Derby Restaurant. The eatery later placed Baker’s cake on the menu. (Larchmont Chronicle)
FYI: During the Golden Age of Hollywood, the Brown Derby was "thee" place to be seen. Not only was The Brown Derby the first restaurant to serve Chiffon Cake, it is also the birthplace of that infamous salad known as Cobb Salad.
For years he had made cakes for Hollywood celebrities, who raved so about the excellence of his cakes that Harry concluded his recipe should be worth money. Many cooks have had similar dreams, only to be shocked by the discovery their recipes might bring them $10, seldom more. Harry Baker was luckier; he sold his recipe for thousands of dollars to General Mills. It's valuable secret: the shortening used was salad oil.(Cooks, Gluttons & Gourmets p. 321)
It seems, Harry was a fan of General Mills spokeswoman Betty Crocker. Supposedly, he wanted Betty to spread the word to all American housewives about his delicious new creation. After keeping the "key" ingredient secret for more than 20 years, Harry revealed his recipe to the folks at General Mills. Company home economists honed it a bit and finally in 1948, introduced it as "the best cake in a century.” It was described as "light as angel food, rich as butter cake."
During its "heyday" Chiffon Cake was "thee" cake of the 50s. Its glamorous appeal and sheer simplicity was garnered by housewives throughout America as their "go to cake" when company was expected. It was advertised as being "fool proof." In fact, rumor has it that once General Mills began its media blitz of Chiffon Cake mixes, grocery stores couldn't keep up with the demand for oil!
In May 1948, Better Homes and Gardens Magazine proclaimed Chiffon Cake the "first really new cake in 100 years."
Chiffon Cake is a newcomer on the cake scene. It is best described as an Angel Food Cake, spongy and light, with a rich buttery type flavor. (although there is no butter in it:) It's versatile too! Chiffon Cake makes a great “base” for Strawberry Shortcake! It can be baked in an Angel Food Cake pan or in layers filled with luscious butter cream.
Chiffon Cakes and Angle Food Cakes are both very tall, and have a light airy texture. Both Chiffon Cakes and Angel Food Cakes obtain their large volume and light airy texture from whipped egg white. However, Angel Food Cakes contain no fat, egg yolk or leavening agent. Since Chiffon contain oil and egg yolks they tend to be more tender, rich and moister. They also usually contain baking powder for increased leavening. The oil is beaten with the egg yolk and the flour, which allows the fat to coat the flour particles reducing the flours ability to form gluten and thereby creating a moist, tender cake.
As for me, I decided to bake up some Chiffon Cupcakes using a recipe from Better Homes & Gardens Test Kitchen Favorites published in 2003.
Mine, however doesn’t look nearly as enticing as theirs. Did you know that utensil used in the picture to cut the cake is called a Combed Cake Divider? I’ve seen so many of them through the years but I never knew what they were used for!
I baked mine in various cupcake sizes and even a few in miniature bundt pans. I couldn’t get the cakes out of the bundt pans in one piece so I froze the cubes I could salvage for a future trifle! Marion was so funny because she was trying to pry the cupcakes out of the bundts saying “come on you spongy thing get out of there” with butter knife in hand. Yes, Marion LOVED the cupcakes. She kept saying “Oh they’re so spongy”, as she bit away!
I followed the recipe below except for a few minor changes. Instead of using 3/4 cup of pineapple juice, I used 1/2 cup of the whey I had left after I drained the yogurt and 1/4 cup of unsweetened pineapple juice combined. I always have vanilla sugar in the pantry. I use it a lot when baking but this time I wanted a bit more vanilla essence so I split up a vanilla bean and added it to the sugar. That’s the black specks you see in the cupcakes.
Although I was really tempted to frost with the Pineapple-Buttercream Frosting, I wanted to experiment with the fresh batch of yogurt I made earlier in the day. Yes, I had a cooking marathon going on in the kitchen yesterday:) According to a recipe booklet I have titled Cooking With Yogurt, “any yogurt, plain or flavored when drained for 30 to 60 minutes will make a delicious frosting and fillings for cakes.” Did it? Yes, indeed it did! The only minor addition I would make the next time would be to add a bit of sweetener. Since the crushed pineapple and juice were unsweetened, perhaps a bit of honey or brown sugar may have added a bit more color and sweetness. Otherwise, the yogurt as a frosting worked out just great! After it had been drained for a couple of hours in a cheesecloth, it was thick and creamy much like sour cream approaching cream cheese consistency. It didn’t have that yogurt tang that fresh yogurt sometimes has and I happen to like:) It whipped up quite nicely with the 6 tablespoons of drained crushed pineapple. However, I didn’t add any additional liquid.
As I said earlier, I’m going to send these Vanilla Pineapple Chiffon Cupcakes on over to Joyce, Zoe’s and Lena’s Bake Along. If you have never baked a Chiffon Cake, you really should at least once! Louise