We've been trying to get a recipe for Lemon Chiffon Cake for Nancy Huggins that she remembered being on the back of an angel food cake mix box.
It took awhile, but after hearing from a couple of readers, I realized this wasn't going to work out for Nancy. I'll explain that later, but there was a silver lining.
Frustration isn't necessarily a bad thing. Without it, we probably wouldn't change course or direction as often and gain new insights in the process.
Take the Lemon Chiffon Cake. Two readers, Louise Dangerfield of Hanahan and Connie Richardson of North Charleston, shared the same recipe. The directions referred to a Duncan Hines cake mix and packet "A" and packet "B" in the box.
So I checked the back of Duncan Hines boxes at a couple stores. No mention of two packets. I took down the 800 number on the box and called, and the woman told me the cake had been reformulated a few years ago into one mix.
That left me with no recipe for Nancy. But when I began searching for other chiffon cake recipes, I learned interesting stuff about chiffon cakes, mostly from the "Joy of Cooking."
Sponge, angel food and chiffon cakes are three peas in a pod, all being "foam" cakes. That means their egg proportion is high and they rely mostly on egg whites beaten to a foam for leavening. Air trapped in the foam heats and expands during bak- ing, which gives them their trademark light and fluffy texture. Rising also may be aided by baking powder.
Critical point: Mixing and folding must be done with care to preserve as much of the air in the foam as possible.
Anyway, a chiffon cake differs from the others because its fat is liquid (oil), not solid. The oil makes chiffon cakes very moist.
The chiffon cake was created in 1927 by Harry Baker, a Hollywood insurance salesman whose side work was catering. He kept the secret ingredient — oil — under wraps for 20 years. He finally sold the recipe to General Mills.
Afterward, chiffon cake was heralded as "the cake discovery of the century."
Chiffon cakes are classy by themselves: They don't need elaborate frosting, just a dusting of powdered sugar or perhaps a simple glaze. Or serve it with fresh berries and whipped cream or ice cream. Sounds like a perfect cake for summer.
Adapted from "Joy of Cooking," this basic chiffon cake is tall and light, moist and lemony. Have all ingredients at room temperature, 68-70 degrees. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Have ready 1 ungreased 10-inch tube pan with a removable bottom.
Basic Chiffon Cake
2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking power
1 teaspoon salt
5 large egg yolks
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup sugar
Sift together twice in a large bowl: the cake flour, 1 1/4 cups sugar, baking powder and salt.
In another bowl, beat on high speed until smooth: the egg yolks, water, vegetable oil, lemon zest and vanilla. Stir into the flour mixture until smooth.
In another large bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add the 1/4 cup sugar, beating on high speed. Beat until the peaks are stiff but not dry.
Use a rubber spatula to fold 1/4 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, 55-65 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, slide a thin knife around the cake to detach it from the pan, pressing the knife against the pan to avoid tearing the cake. Using the same procedure, detach the cake from the tube. If the pan has a removable bottom, pull the tube upward, to lift the cake from the pan side. Slide the knife under the cake, to detach it from the bottom. If the pan does not have a removable bottom, invert and tap the pan against the counter to loosen the cake. Allow the cake to drop onto your hand, a rack or a serving platter.
Translucent Sugar Glaze
Makes about 1/2 cup
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted if lumpy
2-3 tablespoons water, liquor or fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon grated orange or lemon zest (optional)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
Stir together briskly until thoroughly combined. Brush or use a spoon to drizzle over the cake. Do not store.
Sharon Cook of Summerville sent a couple of recipes. This one also calls for a box cake mix:
Lemon Chiffon Layer Cake
1 package white angel food cake mix (16-ounce)
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
For lemon cream filling and topping:
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
1 can (19-ounce) prepared lemon pie filling
Lemon twists, optional
For the cake: Add lemon zest to cake mix and prepare, bake and cool according to package directions. With electric knife or long sharp serrated knife, cut cake horizontally into 3 layers.
For the filling/topping: In a large mixer bowl, beat cream and confectioners' sugar to stiff peaks. Fold in pie filling, gently but thoroughly. Place cake layer, cut side up, on serving plate. Spread 1 cup of filling/topping on cake. Repeat with remaining cake layers and filling, ending with cake layer, cut side down. Spread remaining filling/topping on sides and top of cake. Chill at least 4 hours before serving. Garnish with lemon twist, if desired. Store leftover cake in refrigerator.
While we're on the subject, I came across another recipe in a new cookbook, "Betty Crocker Country Cooking" ($25.95) that sounds delectable:
Burnt-Sugar Chiffon Cake
3 cups sugar
3/4 cup boiling water
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
7 egg yolks
1/4 cup cold water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
7-8 egg whites (1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Burnt Sugar Frosting (recipe follows)
Heat 1 1/2 cups of the sugar in 10-inch heavy skillet over medium-low heat until sugar begins to melt. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until completely melted and medium brown; remove from heat. Slowly stir in boiling water until smooth. (If any lumps remain, return to heat and melt.) Cool; reserve for cake and frosting.
Move oven rack to lowest position. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Mix flour, remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar, the baking powder and salt in medium bowl.
Beat in oil, egg yolks, 1/2 cup of the burnt sugar mixture, the cold water and vanilla until smooth. Beat eggs whites and cream of tartar in large bowl until stiff peaks form. Gradually pour egg yolk mixture over beaten whites, gently folding just until blended. Pour into ungreased tube pan, 10x4 inches.
Bake 60-65 minutes or until top springs back when touched lightly. Immediately invert pan onto heatproof funnel; let hang until cake is completely cool. Remove from pan.
Prepare Burnt Sugar Frosting and frost cake.
Burnt Sugar Frosting
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup margarine or butter
Reserved burnt sugar mixture
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 tablespoons whipping cream
Mix powdered sugar and margarine. Stir in reserved burnt sugar mixture (from step 1 above) and the vanilla. Stir in whipping cream, 1 tablespoon at a time, until of spreading consistency.
Also thanks to Alma Collier of Harleyville and Marie-Louise Ramsdale of Sullivan's Island.
Who's got the recipe?
--Ann T. Ronayne writes, "It seems like all the local grocery stores (Publix, Bi-Lo and Harris Teeter) carry bourbon marinated salmon filets. These are so yummy but terribly expensive! I've tried other bourbon salmon recipes, but none seem to quite capture the taste of what the grocery stores offer. Might any of your readers know this secret?"
--Harriet Little of Summerville asks if readers will suggest uses for leftover egg yolks. "I frequently make meringue cookies and several other items that require egg whites and at the time seem not to need sauces and custard filling.
--Pam Hays writes, "A dear friend of mine would love to have the now closed, Mimi's Creekside Cafe's Fried Shrimp recipe. Actually, any Mimi's recipes would be greatly appreciated ... We miss it!"
--A James Island reader would like recipes from any readers who make their own vegetarian burgers.