As a wee lass, anytime I got the chance to eat anything other than Chinese food was a special treat. Even more special was when my mom made it herself. As my mom is definitively NOT the domestic homemaker, this happened only on certain holidays through the year, namely Christmas and my birthday. It started on my 6th birthday when I was surprised with a mammoth of a cake after dinner. My mom had gotten the recipe from a coworker. It was an orange chiffon cake, each mouthful tasting of rich egginess and tart citrus. More than anything, I loved the spongy soft texture that melted on my tongue. In my young formative mind, I decided that this was the best American food I’d ever had. It was what I looked forward to every year until my early teens when I started to bake for everything else. Even now, when I think comfort food, I crave a slice of this delicious moist sponge cake drizzled with light orange icing.
I made my own version the other day with some beautiful Spanish blood oranges, which turned the frosting a delectable shade of pale coral.
In the end, my cake was well worth the wait, and even my red-stained fingers and my sore arms of beating the many yolks and whites. I sat back with a big piece, savoring each bite, warm and satisfied at the thought of memories of birthdays past.
BLOOD ORANGE CHIFFON CAKE
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/3 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
7 large eggs, 5 separated, 2 left whole
2 blood oranges, zested to yield 2 tbsp zest and 3/4 cup juice
1/2 cup veg oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cream of tarter
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
4 tbsp blood orange juice
2 cups sifted confectioners sugar
1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Whisk sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt together in large bowl (at least 4-quart size). Whisk in two whole eggs, five egg yolks (reserve whites), orange juice and zest, oil, and vanilla extract until batter is just smooth.
2. Pour reserved egg whites into large bowl; beat at medium speed with electric mixer until foamy, about 1 minute. Add cream of tartar, increase speed to medium-high, then beat whites until very thick and stiff, just short of dry, 9 to 10 minutes. Fold whites into batter.
3. Pour batter into large tube pan (9-inch diameter). Tap pan against countertop to release any large air pockets.
4. Bake cake until wire cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, 55 to 65 minutes. Immediately turn cake upside down to cool. If pan does not have prongs around rim for elevating cake, invert pan over bottle or funnel, inserted through tube. Let cake hang until completely cold, about 2 hours.
5. To unmold, turn pan upright and loosen cake from pan with a frosting spatula or thin knife around pan’s circumference. If glazing the cake, use a fork or a paring knife to gently scrape all the crust off the cake. Loosen cake from pan bottom with spatula or knife, then invert cake onto plate.
6. For the glaze, beat butter, 4 tablespoons of the liquid, and sugar in medium bowl until smooth. Let glaze stand 1 minute, then try spreading a little on cake. A little at a time, spread glaze over cake top, letting excess dribble down sides. Let cake stand until glaze dries, about 30 minutes.