Strengthening Chiffon Cake structure
Posted: 18 November 2008 09:21 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Total Posts:  155
Joined  2008-02-28

Hi all (and I’m hoping Rose will read this and be able to offier some insight too) - here’s a challenge for the scientific bakers of this forum!!

I have a favourite deep, dark and moist chiffon cake recipe which is baked in a tube pan and cooled upside down per the practice with chiffon cakes.  I want convert it into a square or rectangular cake, filled and topped with a frosting with a pudding-like consistency.

The problem is, although the texture of the chiffon cake is ideal, without the centre tube of an angel food cake pan to cling to, its structure is not strong enough to cool upright or even upside down in a square pan.  When I tried cooling the cake upside down in its square pan, it sank in the middle.  Also, when filled, the bottom layer of the cake gets compressed from the weight of the frosting which is heavy.

At the moment the recipe is a traditional chiffon recipe - contains oil, some baking powder as well as some baking soda, egg yolks and egg whites, separated with the whites beaten with some of the sugar.  For those who are wondering, here are the proportions:
300 grams   golden caster sugar
140 grams all-purpose flour
80 grams unsweetened cocoa
10 grams baking powder
5 grams baking soda
1/3 tsp salt
112-116 grams yolks    
250 grams whites (both work out to about 7 eggs, separated)
5/8   cup vegetable oil
7/8   cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4   tsp cream of tartar

This recipe originates from Spago and together with the original recipe was indeed an indication of its tendency to sink in the middle although at Spago’s apparently they bake it in a standard round pan and use layers of this cake as components in various other creations.  (And indeed it is a great tasting chiffon!!)  I had tinkered with it quite a bit to obtain a stronger structure and moister texture from the original, which was a bit dry.  But it is only successful in a tube pan, as mentioned.

I’m wondering, to strengthen the structure of the cake so that it can be baked in a square pan, should I increase the amount of yolks and decrease the baking powder?  And/or decrease or omit the baking soda (since always use dutched cocoa)?  I’m seeking to preserve the lovely springy texture of the chiffon - a chocolate SPONGE texture is definitely NOT what I want - too dry.  And this cake does not lend itself to being moistened by syrup, so no genoise-style either.

Ideally the cake should be able to be cooled upright (cooling upside-down in a square or normal round pan, even if loose-bottomed, is a major challenge without the cake falling out) and be able to maintain its shape and not get compressed at the bottom by the filling and frosting.  Since it will be split, filled and frosted, it doesn’t have to be as high as a regular chiffon cake, so the main question is how to improve structure and cool it without it sinking, and allow it to take the weight of the frosting.

Sorry if I’m sounding a bit repetitive!  This has been confounding me.  I know the sensible thing should be to get past it and perhaps find another recipe… but you know what happens when you get something in your head and then lose sleep over it… PLUS this is the family’s favourite bakery cake, I’ve finally got both components (cake and frosting) figured out separately, just need to get them together!!

Posted: 18 November 2008 10:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Total Posts:  130
Joined  2007-11-28

Have you thought about using a heating core in the pan?  The heating core would allow you to invert the pan, and you fill in the hole left in the cake with some batter that’s baked on the inside of the core.  Be sure to fill the core to the halfway mark as instructed by the directions.  After the cake cools, the batter baked in the core shrinks a little so you need to have a slightly wider chunk to fill the hole (found that one out the hard way).

Another suggestion might be to try the Fluffy Yellow Cake from Cook’s Illustrated (Mar/Apr 2008, IIRC).  It’s a “cross” between a reverse creaming method (like Rose’s butter cake recipes) and a chiffon-style cake.  I’ve made this cake (and shared my experience on the forum—search for “Fluffy Yellow Cake”) and it’s moist like a Chiffon cake (the goal of the CI test cooks was to come up with a scratch cake with the consistency of a box mix).

I’ve got the recipes from the magazine scanned if you can’t find them on the Cook’s Illustrated site.  (You can sign up for a 14-day free trial that gives you access to search their recipes.)


It’s all about the food.

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Posted: 18 November 2008 05:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Total Posts:  100
Joined  2007-11-05

i understand your problem as woody and i have tested countless chocolate chiffon cakes to come up with the answer and it required a lot more adjustments than you can imagine. i’m sorry to tell you that i can’t give them out until the book is published as it is probably the most revolutionary cake in the book! i’m not telling you this to torture you but rather to let you know that there is an answer—well at least MY answer—in the not too distant future.

Posted: 19 November 2008 10:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Total Posts:  155
Joined  2008-02-28

Thank you everyone for the input!  I am gratified… it must be something that’s quite of interest to a lot of people!  I’ve been working on this, on and off, for a couple of years now.  I do know the last time I posted something about this, Rose replied she was working on it for her new book.  At least now the wait is shorter.

Rose - THANK YOU for having worked this out… you can’t tell HOW MUCH I am waiting for your new book, honestly!!!  (Or maybe you can tell, :-D Hope the new chocolate chiffon cake hybrid is going to be deep and dark just the way we love.

Actually Freshkid - I use Gold Medal unbleached AP flour because the original recipe called for AP flour.  I will also try the egg suggestion.  I am baking the cake at 350 F till its just about done.  I was in fact wondering if the baking powder should be REDUCED not increased because I read somewhere in TCB that the baking powder weakens the structure?  Is this correct?

Dan - I actually did buy a heating core, thinking to use it for this very purpose… but didn’t get around to it because I really wanted to just make the recipe work!  I think it might help with the cooling but not the strength of the chiffon which this needs for the frosting… as Hector has mentioned, chiffon cakes (as they currently are) don’t seem to want to take anything heavier than whipped cream.

In the meantime, I’m going to try more flour as Freshkid and others have suggested.  I hope it doesn’t make the cake too dry… and shall report back!

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