There are many wonderful chocolate cake recipes out there but if you want a really light, fluffy and moist chocolate cake this recipe must be for you. Chiffon cakes sound a bit daunting to make but trust me, they are not hard to make. I saw a chiffon cake recipe in a magazine years ago when I was a teenager and I had to try it. The recipe worked so beautifully that I was hooked. Over the years I’ve given that basic recipe many twists to create my own flavour combinations including this chocolate orange espresso chiffon cake. It has worked beautifully every single time.
A chiffon cake is basically one made by folding a cake batter made with egg yolks and vegetable oil into stiffly beaten egg whites. It has an interesting story too. The cake was invented in 1920 by an American salesman turned caterer. He kept his recipe secret for twenty years before finally selling it to a food company for a hefty sum I suppose.
Now a few technical tricks to make your chiffon cakes perfect: First of all, like in making meringue you must make sure the bowl and beaters and your hands are completely grease-free and dry before you start beating your egg whites. Egg whites don’t beat well if these conditions are not met.
Secondly, you must remember never to oil your chiffon cake tin. I’ll explain that when we come to our next point which is using the right kind of tin. There are special aluminium chiffon cake tins with detachable bottoms for easy removal of the cake. My bundt tin does the job but the proper one I used to own gave better results as it made the unmolding of the cake much easier.
In case of chiffon cakes it’s best not to use non-stick coated tins. You want your batter to cling to the tin and pull itself up. If it’s a bundt tin you are using (like the one I use) you will need to use a wooden skewer and some careful gentle pulling and tugging with your fingers to release the cake from the sides of the tin. A bit fiddly but works for me every time. It just needs a bit of patience and I’d rather be patient than buy a special tin that I have no room to store in my almost exploding kitchen!
The last thing you need to know and do is cooling the cake in the tin upside down! You need to invert the cake in its tin (because it’s clinging to the sides it won’t fall out) and place it on a short-necked bottle or inverted funnel on the counter so that the neck of the bottle or funnel holds the tin (and the cake obviously) in mid-air.
If you are using a non-stick coated tin it’s a good idea to check the cake to make sure it’s clinging to the pan properly. This step will ensure that your cake is very fluffy and of proper hight. The world won’t come to an end if you don’t though so you can skip this stage if you are not feeling very confident.
In the pictures below you can see how the whites and the batter are mixed together, lightly, gently, lovingly… And for those of you who may want to ask if candied peel works for decoration my answer is yes, absolutely! But making the orange slices won’t take more than a few minutes and is totally worth going the extra length if you ask me. I prefer to use clementine juice for the cake because it’s sweeter and more intense in flavour than orange juice and oranges for decoration because orange slices look prettier but use whichever you like better.
There are endless flavour combinations you can use with this recipe as a guide. You can replace the cocoa powder with an equal amount of flour and make an orange chiffon cake or use lemon juice and zest for a lemon one. I’ve even done marbled chiffon cake with very good results. Give your imagination free reign, I’m sure you’ll come up with your very own favourite flavour combos!
So here’s the recipe for one large cake:
For the cake:
- 220g cake flour, sifted
- 60g cocoa powder
- 2 tsp instant espresso powder
- 300g caster sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp salt
- 180ml freshly squeezed orange juice
- 125ml oil (sunflower, rapeseed or olive oil)
- zest of two medium oranges
- 7 medium eggs, separated and allowed to reach room temperature
- 1/2 tsp cream of tartar (or a pinch of salt)
For the drizzle:
- 60g cocoa powder
- 60g icing sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp oil
- Boiling water
For candied orange slices:
- 125ml water
- 100g caster sugar
- 4-5 slices of orange (about 2 mm thick)
- Preheat the oven to 170.
- Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, espresso powder and cocoa powder in a bowl and mix well with a whisk. Set aside.
- Put the egg yolks, juice and oil in a small jug and set aside.
- Put the egg whites in a clean, dry, grease-free bowl and add the cream of tartar (or salt) and beat on low for two minutes or until frothy. Increase speed to high and beat until very stiff peaks form. Don’t overbeat.
- Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the yolks mixture and add the zest. Beat on low for 1 minute, then on medium for three minutes or until the batter is smooth.
- Add one third of the egg whites to the batter and fold in with gentle circular movement (from bottom to top, in one direction only) with a rubber spatula. Repeat with the remaining whites in two more batches. Pour the batter into ungreased tin. Bake for 50-55 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR for the first 40 minutes or your cake may deflate.
- While you are waiting for the cake to bake make the candied orange slices and the drizzle: Put the sugar and water in a medium sized saucepan and bring to the boil. Cook until syrup is thick and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Arrange the orange slices in one layer in the syrup and cook on medium heat for three minute. Oranges will release juice and dilute the syrup so stir very gently to mix the syrup with the juice. Now cook on low for a few minutes or until the syrup is thick again, turning the orange slices once or twice halfway through to cook them evenly. Let the orange slices cool in the syrup. For the drizzle sift the icing sugar and cocoa and put in a small bowl. Add the vanilla and a tablespoon of boiling water (or more if the icing is too thick). Mix well until smooth and set aside.
- Once the cake is done take it out of the oven and check to make sure it’s properly sticking to the sides of the tin. If it doesn’t it’s best not to bother with the upside-down cooling process. If it does properly cling to the tin stick the neck of a bottle or funnel in the hole in the middle of the tin and invert on a board and let cool completely.
- If you are using a proper chiffon tin run a palette knife around the cake and the middle hole. Put a plate on top of the tin and invert, then give a gentle push to the bottom of the tin (now facing upward) to release the base. Remove the tin and lift the bottom piece using the palette knife.
- Put the cake on a serving dish and drizzle with the chocolate icing. Arrange the orange slices on top and drizzle with a little syrup from cooking the orange slices. Let stand for a couple of hours at least for flavours to develop. Enjoy!