The Search for Showcase Perfect Sides
Jan 08, 2011 | From the kitchen of Rose
Angel food and chiffon cakes have an inherent problem when you want a majestically tall cake, but also want the sides to look showcase smooth worthy of no adornments. A tube pan's sides and center tube are purposely sloped permitting the egg foam based batter to climb up to its billowy height. Then on cooling, a properly baked angel food or chiffon cake's structure will cling onto the sides, center tube, and bottom of the pan, allowing the cake to be cooled as it is suspended upside down. In my books, I have written different instructions on how to release the sides and remove the pan. In The Cake Bible, I write to move the spatula between the sides of the pan and the cake in a sideways manner. In Rose's Heavenly Cakes, I write for angel food cakes to use an up-and-down motion. This change in method, which leaves less of the crust on the sides of the cake is useful because it has less potential for tearing the cake's sides especially when it is to be frosted. But it is well-worth mastering the sideways technique as with care you will have the most attractive smooth sides.
When Woody entered the Minnesota State Fair, he saw several chiffon and angel food cakes with virtually smooth sides. This began a series of tests to see what could be done to produce a tall cake with attractive smooth sides for both angel food and chiffon cakes.
We tried both non-stick and standard finish two-piece tube pans. Along with trying sideways and up-and-down motions for releasing the cake, we experimented with different applications for the sides: a thin coat of batter, greasing and then coating with Wondra flour or sugar, spraying with Baker's Joy (oil spray with flour), and greasing and then attaching parchment paper.
From all the tests, we found the best releasing procedure is to:
1. Use a small metal spatula to loosen the top edge of the cake by using an up-and-down motion going down a half inch in depth while circling the pan's rim.
2. Use a rigid sharp knife or stiff metal spatula preferably with a squared off end, scraping firmly against the pan's sides and slowly and carefully circling the pan. In order to ensure that you are scraping against the sides of the pan and removing the crust from the sides, leaving it on the cake, begin by angling the knife or spatula about 20 degrees away from the cake and toward the pan, pushing the cake inward a bit. It is best to use a knife blade that does not exceed 1-inch in width up to the height of the cake, which is about 3-inches high.
For pans with attached legs, we also recommend working around the legs and carefully sliding a thin spatula down the leg's bracket.
For angel food cakes, our best results for both standard finish and non-stick pans are:
1. Spread a thin coat of batter before filling the pan with the rest of the batter.
2. Use the above releasing procedure.
For chiffon cakes, our best results for both finished and non-stick pans are:
1. Do no preparation of the sides, just pour the batter in
2. Use the above releasing procedure
Wondra flour preparation
The photographs show that lightly greasing the pan's sides with shortening and then flouring the sides with Wondra flour and tapping out the excess flour had its pros and cons. The Wondra gave the sides a smoother, shinier appearance and usually a slightly taller cake. However, the cake can separate at random locations thereby giving the cake's sides some slight indentations and/or a less uniform overall appearance.
By their nature angel food and chiffon cakes, which rely on egg foam bases for expansion during baking, also contract during cooling until set. This is why the cakes need to be suspended to offset the contraction of the cakes with the force of gravity.
A test preparing the pan like the Wondra preparation above, but substituting superfine sugar, failed. The cake almost completely released after baking and had very shiny, off-colored sides.
Baker's Joy and other oil sprays with flour
For most butter and oil cakes, Baker's Joy is our choice for preparing cake pans for easy preparation and clean releasing sides of cakes upon inverting after their initial cooling period. Using Baker's Joy for the chiffon cake resulted in the cake's near complete release from the pan after removing it from the oven, causing the cake to fall out of the pan.
Attaching strips of parchment, to lightly greased with shortening sides, failed as well. Although the cake did not fall out of the pan during cooling, once the pan was removed the angel food cake had non-uniform sides.
For showcase-attractive sides, we find that using a small metal spatula to dislodge the top of the cake at the outside edge, followed by a rigid sharp knife or stiff metal spatula, scraping firmly against the pan's sides and slowly and carefully circling the pan, gives the best result. A too rapid sideways circling of the pan, or allowing the spatula to separate off slightly from the pan's sides, can tear the cake or leave patches of cake on the pan. Using an up-and-down motion with the spatula, especially if you pull the spatula completely out and reinsert it next to the insertion you just made with a slight overlapping, will give you fairly clean sides with virtually no tearing of the cake's sides.
By trying all these different methods, although we knew some would fail, we wanted to save our readers the time and frustration resulting from trying a technique and having less than a desired outcome.