I had some gorgeous fresh, farm eggs and some whipping cream in the fridge. I haven't baked a cake in a while, but since I had these wonderful ingredients on hand, it would be a shame not to make a Chinese-style cake! While the kiddies were (quietly!) playing puzzles, I took the opportunity to whip this up in my KitchenAid mixer.
A classic Chinese-style bakery cake is a sponge cake that has a fruit or mousse-like filling, real whipped cream and fresh fruit decorations. This was the kind of cake my mom made for our birthdays when we were growing up.
I remember helping my mother decorate our birthday cakes. She would bake the sponge, whip the cream and I would help decorate. At the age of 10, my mother let me pipe luscious swirls of whipped cream and artistically place sliced fresh or canned fruit on top. As the years passed, the cakes became an elaborate affair of fruit and whipped cream! I can't believe that in a few years, I will be repeating this tradition with my little ones.
Mom's sponge cake was always heavenly. Although it tasted good, it would collapse after she pulled it out of the oven and we would simply hide the imperfections with whipped cream and fruit. Because her recipe used 9 eggs per cake, I needed something lighter. I have been searching for a recipe like the commercial Chinese bakeries, but I had found out that many of the popular bakeries use a sponge cake mix, filled with emulsifiers and preservatives.
Little did I know that my Betty Crocker cookbook (that I had for almost 20 years) had the sponge cake recipe that I was looking for! It was a relatively straight forward recipe, considering that I had made so many different kinds of cakes to re-create those of the Chinese bakeries and my childhood.
This is my go-to recipe! The hardest part is separating the egg whites and yolks. I only use cake flour to get the tight sponge crumb texture like that of the bakeries. All-purpose flour is OK, but since I was trying to re-capture my fond foodie memories, only cake flour will do. Due to the baking powder, I didn't have to worry about deflating the egg whites while folding. The baking powder is there as a fail-safe measure, so I know that it will rise!
The original recipe says to use 1 angel food cake pan. I prefer to split it up in two tube pans for two reasons: 1) you get 2 cakes; and 2) it bakes in about half the time. Today, I used two 10" round pans and one 10" springform pan, all lined with parchment paper. I had to adjust the time considerably, about 15 minutes, but it depends on the oven and pans used. I usually freeze the extra cake for another occasion.
Vanilla Chiffon Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour, or 2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 cup granulated sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk or water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
7 egg yolks (or 5 if using cake flour)
1 cup egg whites (8 eggs)
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Move oven rack to lowest position. Heat oven to 325°F. In large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Beat in cold water or milk, oil, vanilla and egg yolks until smooth.
In large bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar with electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form. Gradually pour egg yolk mixture over beaten egg whites, folding with rubber spatula just until blended. Pour into 2 ungreased 10-inch angel food (tube) cake pans.
Bake about 25-30 minutes or until top springs back when touched lightly. Immediately turn pans upside down onto heatproof funnel or bottle. Let hang until completely cool, about 1-2 hours. Loosen side of cake with knife or long, metal spatula; remove from pans.
Adapted from: Betty Crocker's Lemon Chiffon Cake
Vanilla Whipped Cream
Vanilla Whipped Cream
Beat 1 cup whipping (heavy) cream, 3 tablespoons powdered/ icing sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla in chilled medium bowl with electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form.
Betty's Tip: Well-chilled cream will whip the best, so keep it refrigerated until ready to use. It also helps to chill the bowl and beaters before you begin. When the cream begins to thicken as you beat it, reduce the mixer speed so you can watch carefully and beat just until soft peaks form. Overbeaten cream will look curdled.
- Adapted from Betty Crocker's Sweetened Whipped Cream
Be careful not to over beat the whipped cream, as it will turn into butter! I like using icing sugar because it has cornstarch in it. The cornstarch helps stabilize the whipped cream so it can retain its shape when piped.
This basic sponge cake and whipped cream is very versatile. Today, I filled my cake with vanilla whipped cream and placed canned fruit cocktail (drained and blotted dry) in the middle layer on top of the cream.
For a 2-layer 10" cake, I used 1 1/2 cups whipping cream, 4 1/2 Tbsp icing sugar and 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract. This amount makes enough to frost, fill and pipe some swirls on top of the cake. I used a Wilton 1M star tip for cupcakes for piping.
[Edited to Add: Last year's picture of my middle child's birthday cake decorated with lots of fresh fruit, canned fruit cocktail filling. I used two 9"x13" pans to make a 2 layer cake.]