Let me tell you of my new new obsession. The one that sits alongside coconut. It's chiffon cake. I know. You've no idea what I'm talking about, do you? (UK readers that is.) Well, let me enlighten you.
My beloved Rose tells me that chiffon cake is an All-American creation, invented by a caterer called Harry Baker in Los Angeles in 1927. His recipe was allegedly a closely guarded secret until he sold it to Betty Crocker (who isn't even real btw - still not over that) in the late forties, and I read somewhere (and now can't find the web page) that it was so popular among Hollywood stars of the time, who ordered it for parties, that he'd often make up to 48 chiffon cakes in a single day, and make the equivalent of $900 doing it.
I haven't quite got that far yet.
Betty Fake Crocker heralded the chiffon as the first new type of cake in more than a century, and that may well have been true. I certainly had never made a cake with this method before now. It's like making a genoise but with separated eggs and added baking powder.
I have no idea why it has never really caught on in the UK. I've eaten chiffon cakes in Japan, Malaysia and Hong Kong, so am guessing that it's well known all over Asia, and maybe us Europeans have just been missing out. I think this situation needs to change, and that's why I'm posting this recipe. My Coconut and Vanilla Bean Chiffon Cake has a texture like clouds, and the flavour of the tropics. If you don't like it, well, you probably don't like anything.
Not even lying. Look at the flecks of vanilla!
A real chiffon needs a real chiffon cake tin, the likes of which are unavailable in Europe. I know this for a fact, because I've searched EVERYWHERE for one. I think this may be the real reason the cake never caught on in Britain; people grew tired of looking for the correct bakeware. I can't blame them. But Rose, in her fabulous book, has a method for baking chiffon as a layer cake, in a regular cake tin.
I could tell you all about the foam structure of chiffon cake, and why this has proven to be such a difficult dessert to bake in a flat layer cake pan, but frankly, you can just go and buy the book for that. I am more interested in getting you to bake the cake itself, using my re-vamped and coconutted recipe and a method which I have simplified even further from Rose's original. (Which involved insulating the pan with strips of silicone and suspending flower nails in the batter. I tried it, and it worked, but my way works too, thanks to the coconut. No need to get busy here, readers.)
This is the lovely Mr. Other P's current favourite cake. I think it's the name. What's not to like?
Coconut and Vanilla Bean Chiffon Cake
You will need:
115g plain flour
150g caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
60ml vegetable oil (I use rapeseed)
5 egg whites
4 egg yolks
90ml coconut milk
40g dessicated coconut
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp cream of tartar
- Heat the oven to 160°C. Have ready a deep 23cm springform cake tin. Do not grease or line it. If you have a 'not nonstick' (for want of a better description) one, so much the better.
- In a large bowl, mix everything except for the eggs whites and cream of tartar together using a wire whisk, or wooden spoon. Beat everything well until you have a thick, smooth mixture.
- Beat the egg whites until foamy, then add the cream of tartar and beat until stiff peaks are formed. Fold this meringue into the coconut and flour mixture, and transfer to the cake tin.
- Bake for 35 minutes, until the cake is well risen and a cocktail stick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
- Immediately invert the cake, till in its tin, on a wire rack and leave to cool. When it has completely cooled (give it a good hour or so), run a knife round the edge of the pan and un-clip the tin. Remove the base (you'll need to use your knife here too - chiffon cake sticks to the pan!), turn the cake the right way up and serve in thick slices with whipped cream and berries.