Monday, March 3, 2008

A temperamental beast

I'm jonesing for summertime.

Yes, I profess to love rain, and yes, fall is my favourite season, and yes, I did whine all last summer that it was too hot, that it was too humid, that I couldn't wait for it to be over. But now I'm sorry, really I am, and all I can think about is tomato season, and berry season, and the farmer's market, and oh god sunshine. We got a little taste of spring this past week or so - it was beautiful and sunny and I carried my camera everywhere with me and never took any photos - at least not of the great outdoors.

I took photos of cake, though.

If ever my family had a cake recipe, it's this one: Orange Chiffon Cake with Lemon Glaze. My mom taught me how to make it, and my dad rhapsodizes about his mother buying them from the bakery truck when he was a child. It makes for a good transitional recipe, too: flavoured with citrus, which is readily available in the winter, but somehow summery tasting. The cake recipe itself is from the Joy of Cooking, though the glaze varies from season to season and lemon to lemon. And I don't know how chiffon cakes got such a reputation as terrifying and temperamental beasts - be nice to your egg whites and you'll get along fine. (Of course, I can be as smug as I like about that down here at sea level - in New Mexico it was a slightly different story).

Orange Chiffon Cake with Lemon Glaze
from the Joy of Cooking

For the cake:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Have ready 1 ungreased 10-inch tube pan with a removable bottom, and make sure the ingredients are at room temperature, 68-70 degrees.

Sift together twice into a large bowl:
2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour (I used all purpose and it worked out fine)
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

In another bowl, beat on high speed until smooth:
5 large egg yolks
3/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons grated orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla

Stir into the flour mixture until smooth.

In another large bowl, beat on medium speed until soft peaks form:
8 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Gradually add, beating on high speed:
1/4 cup sugar

Beat until peaks are stiff, but not dry. Use a rubber or silicone spatula to fold one-quarter of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remaining whites. Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake until the top springs back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 55 to 65 minutes. Let cool upside down for at least 1 1/2 hours, setting the tube over a bottleneck, or resting the pan on 4 glasses.

To unmold the cake, slide a thin-bladed knife around the cake to detach it from the pan, and lift out of the pan by pulling on the tube (this is why you want the removable bottom!) Then cut around the tube and the base of the cake and invert onto a plate. When you're cutting, be sure to press the blade of the knife against the pan, to avoid tearing the cake.

For the glaze (approximately):

2/3 cup lemon juice (juice of 2-3 lemons)
1/4 cup-ish powdered sugar

Stir powdered sugar to taste into lemon juice to dissolve. I like just enough to take the edge of sour off, but still keep a bit of pucker.

To glaze the cake, brush or spoon the glaze over the top of the cake, being sure to get the corners and let it run down the sides. Allow a couple of hours before serving to let it soak in a bit.

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