coffee chiffon cake

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This is NOT a coffee cake, an American cake made with nuts, sugar, and sometimes chocolate, that’s an accompaniment for coffee and tea. This is not that kind of coffee cake. This is a cake that’s flavored with espresso coffee, and because it’s a chiffon, it is spongy and light. This cake is my mother-in-law’s recipe. If she wanted to make this cake fancy, she would frost it with a butter frosting that has just three ingredients:  a stick of butter whipped until light, a teaspoon of strong coffee, and enough condensed milk to taste. So simple and sinfully delicious. Speaking of simple, from Better Homes and Gardens, I discovered a chocolate ganache that has just two ingredients: cream and enough sweet chocolate to send you hurrying to confession.  This ganache, I confess, makes me want to lick the bowl, the spoon, and the pot.

Mama’s Coffee Chiffon Cake

Prep time: 30 minutes
Baking time: 55 minutes
Cooling time: 1 1/2 hours (necessary before frosting or glazing)

7 egg whites (210g)
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 cups (250g) all purpose flour
1 1/2 (225g + 113g) cups superfine sugar, divided
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
7 egg yolks (175g)
3/4 cup cold water
2 tablespoons instant espresso coffee powder, dissolved in 2 tablespoons warm water
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 325˚F/175˚C.

Whip egg whites. Put egg whites in a large mixing bowl. Beat at medium speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue beating at high speed until blended. Gradually add 1/2 cup (113g) sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue beating until whites turn smooth and silky. There’s no need to clean the beaters for the next step.

Make the batter. Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and 1 cup sugar in another large bowl. Make well in center of the dry ingredients and add oil, egg yolks, water, dissolved coffee, and vanilla. Beat at medium speed until all ingredients are moistened.

Combine the batter and whipped whites. Scrape the batter into the whipped egg whites. By hand gently fold egg yolk mixture into beaten egg whites. Cut the center of the batter with a spatula and drag it along the bottom to the side of the bowl then turn the spatula over. Rotate the bowl one quarter turn and repeat the process until there are just streaks of white remaining. Pour into an ungreased tube cake pan. Cut the batter with a sharp thin blade to eliminate air pockets.

Bake and unmold the cake. Bake 55-60 minutes. If the pan has no “feet” invert the cake pan over a funnel to cool. Cool thoroughly before unmolding and frosting, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. To unmold, use a sharp thin blade to loosen the sides. Push straight down and forward, away from the side. Remove the knife and repeat. To loosen the center, use a skewer, applying the same motion. Gently remove the sides of the pan. Then holding the centerpiece upright, insert the blade between the bottom of the pan and the cake, applying the same motion. Remove the center-piece.

Decorate. Frost cooled cake with a chocolate ganache, if desired. A ganache (pronounced gah-NASH) is a pourable French frosting. To make this, put a half cup of whipping cream or heavy cream in a saucepan. Scald the milk. This means to cook it over medium heat until there are tiny bubbles all around the edges of the pot. In Jamaica we say “watch pot never boil” but you really have to watch this one or the bottom will burn. Once tiny bubbles appear, remove pot from heat. Add 11 1/2 oz dessert chocolate or milk chocolate or a combination of both milk chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate. Do NOT stir. Let sit 5 minutes. After 5 minutes stir until blended. Let sit to thicken slightly. Pour slowly in a back and forth motion over cooled cake and let it drizzle down the sides. Or just frost the top as I did. This ganache is rich and smooth and not very sweet. It complements the espresso coffee flavor of Mama’s chiffon cake.

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