Chiffon Cake with a Tuscan Twist!

Chiffon Cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

What an exciting year 2009 was. Towards the end it got a little too exciting and I was forced to take a break from posting. Now that the schedule of promoting Healthy Bread in Five has slowed down and the fevered pitch of the holidays has subsided I can get back to what I love. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, but when it all comes at once it can feel like too much of a good thing. Baking cake is a pure comfort. It is how I got started in this career in the first place — I needed a way to calm down after work, so I baked. After a particularly stressful day at work I whipped up a pile of cakes and my husband suggested I go to culinary school. I think I quit my job the next day and enrolled in the culinary program at the local technical college. It didn’t take long to figure out that I LOVED the study, but not the school. After much consideration I packed my bags, left my husband and dog behind (just for a while) and headed off to the CIA in NY. I was in heaven. Even after serving my time in restaurant kitchens, delivering wedding cakes to psycho brides and having to make 3000 spun sugar curls for a benefit dinner in the sweaty month of August, I love my job. So, despite being exhausted at the end of 2009 and needing a rest, I head into 2010 with a whole lot of gratitude and excitement about what this year brings.

As some of you may know from my facebook page my husband/web designer/IT guru is in the processes of revamping ZoëBakes, so stay tuned for those changes soon. I am also working on a 3rd book with Jeff, about Pizzas and Flatbreads from around the world. The project has me obsessed with Italy and other points on the map where these breads are eaten. This summer my family will embark on a journey to find, taste and bake some of them. We’ll start in Italy, so I’ve been gearing up, which in my world means cooking Italian foods. Hence the Tuscan Twist on chiffon cake. Traditionally it is like a super luscious angel food cake that is made with oil and egg yolks in addition to lots and lots of whites whipped and folded in. Instead of using a neutral flavored oil, which only adds to the texture, but not much in the way of flavor, I used a fruity olive oil. Bellissimo!

Months ago the makers of Zoe Extra Virgin Olive Oil got in touch with me to see if I wanted to sample their product. Of course, given the name, I was well aware of their oil and had been using it for years, but I wasn’t about to refuse their offer. It was the perfect match for this cake — enough flavor to have a presence, but not so strong as to be overly assertive. It is wonderful with a dusting of powdered sugar and a spoon of marmalade or with a drizzle of ganache. I served the version with ganache at my brother’s engagement party and it was a huge hit! (Yes, there is a very exciting wedding cake in my future! But, that is a story for another day.)

Olive Oil Chiffon Cake, inspired by James Peterson’s Baking

Makes one 10-inch Tube Cake

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups sugar

5 extra large egg yolks

1/2 cup orange juice (my MIL sent me a case from a grower near her house in FL so I squeezed them fresh, Oh the joy!)

Zest of one orange

1/4 cup fruity olive oil

1/4 cup neutral-flavored vegetable oil or if you want a stronger olive oil flavor go for it!

8 extra large egg whites

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

powdered sugar for dusting on top

Prepare a tube pan with a piece of parchment cut to fit the bottom, not essential, but makes it much easier to remove.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in center.

Whisking ingredients for chiffon cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and 1 cup of the sugar together in a bowl, set aside. In another bowl stir together the egg yolks, juice, zest, and oils, set aside.

Chiffon cake batter | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Add the dry ingredients to the yolk mixture and whisk together until smooth, set aside.

In a stand mixer beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on high speed until medium peaks, about 2 minutes. Turn down the speed to medium-low and slowly sprinkle the sugar over the whites. Don’t dump it all at once or you will deflate the whites. Return to high speed and beat for 1 to 2 more minutes until stiff glossy peaks.

Folding egg whites into chiffon cake batter | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Add about a cup of the whites to the egg yolk/flour mixture and

Whisking egg whites and chiffon cake batter | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

whisk it in to lighten up the yolk mixture.

Pouring chiffon cake batter into egg whites | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Dump the lightened yolk mixture over the top of the remaining whites and

gently fold them in using a rubber spatula.

Chiffon cake batter | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Quickly pour the batter into the prepared pan and run a knife around the batter several times to pop any large air bubbles.

Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the cake bounces back to the touch.

Chiffon cake cooling on empty wine bottle | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Remove it from the oven and immediately set it upside down over a bottle to cool. This takes about 45 minutes. If you rush it the cake will collapse.

Chiffon cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Usually the cake will fall out of the pan when you give it a few gentle shakes, but sometimes you need to run a thin blade around the edge. I used a knife, but it is safer to do this with a spatula, so you won’t cut into the cake by accident.

Chiffon Cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

I set the cake on the table to grab my camera and came back to find that my husband had taken a slice. Once I finished taking these photos he promptly finished half of the cake, only stopping when I reminded him that his kids would be mighty peeved if they didn’t get a slice.

Chiffon cake with a bowl of marmalade | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

I dusted the rest of it with powdered sugar and slathered my slice with marmalade.

This cake is now one of my family’s all time favorites and has the particularly sweet association with Heather and Carey’s engagement party! I’m thrilled for them as they embark on life’s wild journey together, not to mention what a gorgeous couple they are. (Proud sister moment!)