Sunday, April 1, 2012

Vanilla Chiffon Sponge Cake

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 creamI 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

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.]

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  1. wow that totally reminds me of the cakes up there growing up! delicious and light!

  2. It's the only kind of cake I grew up eating. Out of nostalgia, I had to figure out how to make this!

  3. I made this cake the other week with my kids, also searching for something like what I've had from the chinese bakery. It was great! Not exactly the same, but very similar and just as delicious. I put up some pictures and notes from our attempt here:

    Thanks for posting!

    1. So glad it worked for you! Your cake looks amazing! Yes, it won't be the same as the Chinese bakeries, but the kiddies enjoyed this more than the boxed cake mixes. Have a great day! :)

  4. When you used the two 9x13 cake pans, did you need to double the cake batter recipe?

  5. YUMMY!!!!! Thanks for sharing your recipe! I’ve heard about your blog a couple of times and will now spend my afternoon reading :) Pickup Lines Google Gravity Tricks I love you quotes Good Night Quotes

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  8. Hi Michelle, I had been searching for a sponge cake recipe to bake a birthday like the ones you buy from Asian bakery. Had tried some recipe but they had so far no good results . They either sink on cooling or does not rise well.
    I had not tried using a chiffon cake recipe to layer with fruits thinking that it is too soft to hold the fruits & cream.
    After reading your success, I will definitely try it out.
    You said that you used 3 x10 inch round cake pans lined. Did you still have to cool the cakes inverted? I tried doing that & the cake had a hollow on the bottom because it’s hanging with the parchment paper away from the bottom of the pan. Would u say using a removable bas round pan without lining it is better?
    Would appreciate your advice, thank you very much for sharing.

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