Tomorrow is my birthday, and while I'm not super excited to be inching ever-so-close to an age which shall be unnamed, I have to say I'm really happy the way my little life has unfolded so far. Birthdays are when I sort of take stock of all the big things, like health and hair (awesome), finances (good, but working on it), goals (France before Forty!), and love life (laughable, but not without hope). I've been schmaltzy about gratitude before, and I feel it even more so around this time of year. I really would have nothing without the love of my close-knit family and friends ~ they are my biggest cheerleaders and supporters of all things culinary and beyond.
This past weekend was a whirlwind of activity, with big family dinners and lots of playing outside in the sunshine. Mom had an Easter Sunday feast which again blew us away, with her turkey and famous stuffing, gloriously fluffy potatoes, and gravy. Oh the gravy. For dessert she made an early birthday cake for me. When she asked for input I told her I wanted a tall cake, something glamorous, how about chiffon? She had oranges to use up, so orange chiffon it was. Iced with whipped cream and garnished with fresh raspberries and candied orange slices, it was a tremendous cake. Little pokey fingers were in the cake while "happy birthday" was being sung, and the mouth that belonged to the fingers helped blow out the candles too. Looking around at my beautiful mom, my brother and sisters, the big kids and the little humans with chubby cheeks and toothy grins, I felt like the luckiest girl alive.
Chiffon cake is what angel food cake would like to be when it grows up. Getting its height from whipped egg whites, and richness from egg yolks and vegetable oil, it boasts a richness and unbelievable tenderness. Not too sweet, and adaptable to many flavours (hello, chocolate!), it's one of my favourite cakes. The classic orange chiffon made its debut at the Hollywood parties of the 1940s, and this cake is all kinds of glamour, baking up tall and light and oh so pretty. A perfect birthday cake if there ever was one.
Orange Chiffon Cake
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup canola oil
9 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup orange juice
2 tsp grated orange zest
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
pinch cream of tartar
To prepare the cake:
Preheat oven to 350*F. Have ready a greased 9 1/2 inch or 10 inch tube pan with sides at least 3 3/4 inches high, dusted with flour.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, 1 cup of sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the centre and add the oil, egg yolks, juice, zest and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until smooth and thick, at least 3 minutes. Set aside.
In a large clean bowl, with clean beaters or whisk attachment, whisk the whites and cream of tartar until the cream of tartar is dissolved and whites are foamy. Increase the speed to high and beat whites until movement of the beaters forms lines in the mixture. Slowly pour in the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar, about 2 tbsp at a time, and beat the mixture until soft peaks form.
With a large rubber spatula, stir one third of the whites into the yolk mixture. Gently fold in the remaining whites until no white streaks remain. Pour the batter into the tube pan, spreading the batter evenly. Bake until you can gently press your fingers on top of the cake and it feels firm, about 1 hour and 10 min. Any cracks that form on top should look dry. Invert the pan onto a bottle with a narrow neck and cool thoroughly, about one hour and a half. Use a small sharp knife to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan and the centre of the tube. Remove cake from pan and slide onto serving plate. Spread with sweetened whipped cream, and garnish with fresh berries and candied orange slices. Serves 12.
To make the candied orange slices: Thinly slice one orange. In a large frying pan, bring to a boil 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar. Reduce heat to medium, add the slices in a single layer, and simmer, turning occasionally, for about 50 minutes. Let cool in syrup. Let dry on parchment.