Chiffon: a breezy fabric perfect for the Indian summer; lemons: refreshing, and in plenty from my parents’ trees; a birthday in the family. The perfect situation for a Lemon Chiffon Cake, just not the perfect weather to be in the kitchen. Far from it. Delhi has been an oven this past week with temperatures in the mid-40s. But already there are signs of some relief with cooler easterlies blowing our way.
But that was not the case when I was baking this cake. I made the cake a day earlier so that it would be ready for the frosting on the day of the big dinner. I wanted to incorporate some of the lemon bounty and decided to make this cake which is halfway between a true sponge cake and the heavier, more buttery, regular cakes. Using a little fat, and a lot of air from well beaten egg whites you get a sponge that is light but not dry.
As I was separating the eggs a little speck of the yolk fell into the whites, but I tried to pretend I didn’t see it. That was the last egg, and I was not stepping out of the house for more in the sweltering afternoon.
Beating the egg whites with an electrical beater was a breeze, and despite the speck of yolk, it was all fine and dandy. The last time I attempted this (a very long time ago) it had been an utter disaster, with the whites getting flatter and flatter, till there was not the tiniest of air bubbles. This time I made sure I started with a completely dry mixing bowl.
The cake stuck to the dish a little bit, but nothing that could not be fixed. Maybe I should have greased the pan after all, or maybe taken the cake out sooner. I had a light cake but a small problem. The son, whose birthday cake it was, didn’t seem so enamoured about the lemony bit. To accommodate his love of chocolate I decided to cover the cake with chocolate fudge frosting, and all was well. Served with scoops of his favourite coffee flavoured ice cream, it was a perfect antidote to the hot summer evening.
Lemon Chiffon Cake
(adapted from Nic’s Baking Bites recipe for Lime Chiffon Cake)
2 ¼ C sifted all purpose flour
1 ¼ C sugar, powdered
1 T baking powder
½ t salt
½ C milk (I used 3%)
5 T refined peanut oil
zest and juice of 2 lemons
1 ½ t vanilla essence
6 eggs, separated
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F or gas mark 6. In a large mixing bowl combine all the dry ingredients (measuring the flour after sifting), reserving 2 tablespoons of the sugar. In another bowl mix the yolks, oil, vanilla essence, lemon juice and zest, and milk. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix till smooth.
In another completely dry bowl beat the egg whites till very foamy. Add the reserved 2 tablespoons of sugar and beat till stiff peaks form. Using a metal spoon, gently fold half of the egg whites into the cake batter, till it is evenly mixed. Fold in the remaining egg whites. Pour into a prepared 9-inch by 9-inch pan, and bake for 45-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
After it has cooled run a knife around the edges to loosen it from the sides and turn onto a platter. Serve drizzled with a lemon-sugar glaze or the following Chocolate Fudge Frosting over a hot cuppa. Combine with vanilla or coffee flavoured ice cream for a truly decadent dessert.
Chocolate Fudge Frosting
(adapted from Nicole’s recipe)
(covers one 9-inch by 9-inch cake)
1 C granulated sugar
¼ C Cocoa powder
2/3 C milk (I used 3%)
¼ C salted butter
1 t glycerin
1 t vanilla essence
1 ½ – 2 C icing sugar
In a pan gently heat the first three ingredients whisking till the sugar dissolves. Add the butter and cook over medium heat till the mixture comes to a boil. Boil gently for 5 minutes. Cool to room temperature (which was 35 degrees that day!), about 20 minutes. Beat in the icing sugar, glycerin, and vanilla essence, and pour over the cake. Use a knife, if needed, to help spread the frosting to the ends. Let it overflow on to the sides and allow to set (few minutes).