Mother’s Day is coming up soon and I can’t think of a nicer treat to bake and decorate for your mamma (or for yourself) than this fluffy orange chiffon cake. This cake makes me think of my own mother, who used to bake angel food and chiffon cakes when I was a little girl (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth). By the way, if you’re wondering if a chiffon cake is the same as a sponge cake, it’s related, but not the same. Sponge cakes have lots of separated and beaten eggs, as do chiffon cakes, but no added fat or baking powder, while chiffon cakes do contain both oil and a leavening agent. I haven’t made a chiffon cake in decades, but I pulled out my ancient tube pan for this and it was well worth it. The cake was light and with a soft texture that provides a perfect foil for the glaze and pressed flower decoration. You can choose to simply dust the cake with powdered sugar, but the orange glaze really adds a pretty finishing touch. I picked edible flowers and leaves for the decoration – pansies, lemon balm leaves and the flowers of wild winter cress — and pressed them for a couple of days until they were dried and flattened. You could use fresh flowers or omit them entirely. If you do use fresh flowers, do an internet search to make sure they’re edible, since so many have toxic qualities (like buttercups).
The preparation takes a bit of time, but if you follow the directions carefully, you’ll have no trouble. I found a lot of recipes for chiffon cakes online, and ultimately culled what I thought to be the best of a few recipes, cutting out some of the excess sugar and adding a bit of orange blossom water I had bought in Italy a few years ago to give it a little extra orange umph.
Make sure you DO NOT grease the pan. This is to allow the cake batter to grip the sides of the pan and allow for a higher rise. I did place a piece of parchment paper on the bottom portion of the cake and it allowed for an easy release.
This is how it looked as it came from the oven.
You need to immediately flip it over onto something like an inverted funnel to let it cool upside down. Otherwise, the cake might sink in the center.
After it is completely cooled, run a long knife around the sides and along the inner tube of the cake, then flip it onto a rack, releasing the metal piece and removing the parchment paper from the base.
I poured the glaze over the top and spread it on the sides. As you can see, the sides are quite bumpy, but if you let the glaze dry slightly (an hour or two should do it), you can spread another layer of glaze on the sides to get a smoother look. Or you could just pour the glaze on the top and let it fall down in large “drips” on the side, another way to get a decorative look.
But since I wanted to use the dried flowers on the sides, I added the second layer of glaze. It’s not as smooth as glass, but much smoother than just leaving the one layer of glaze (and it sure tastes good.)
Decorate with the pressed, dried flowers.
You don’t even have to use pressed flowers. You could just choose freshly picked, unpressed flowers instead.
The cake serves a lot of people, so if you’re not having a crowd anytime soon (and who is, in this Covid-19 environment?),spread a bit of good cheer and leave some at your neighbors’ or friends’ front porch. Happy Mother’s Day!
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- FOR THE CAKE:
- 2¼ cups cake flour
- 1¼ cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 7 large egg yolks
- ¾ cup fresh orange juice
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated orange zest
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- ¼ teaspoon orange flower water
- 8 large egg whites
- FOR THE GLAZE:
- 3 cups confectioner's sugar
- 4 tablespoons orange juice (or more as needed)
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- edible flowers
- FOR THE CAKE:
- Sift together the flour, ¾ cup of the sugar, the baking powder, and the salt.
- In the large bowl of an electric mixer beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they are foamy, then add the cream of tartar and beat the whites until they hold stiff peaks.
- Add the remaining ½ cup sugar, a little at a time, and beat the whites until they hold stiff glossy peaks.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, the egg yolks, the orange juice, the zest, the orange blossom water and the vanilla.
- Whisk the mixture into the flour mixture, mixing until the batter is smooth.
- Stir one third of the whites into the batter to lighten it and fold in the remaining whites gently but thoroughly.
- Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of an ungreased 10-inch angel food pan, with a removable bottom.
- Spoon the batter into the pan and bake the cake in the middle of a preheated 325°F. oven for 1 hour, and five to ten minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Invert the pan immediately onto a funnel and let it cool completely.
- Run a long thin knife around the outer and inner tube edges of the pan and turn the cake out of the pan onto a cake rack.
- Remove the parchment paper.
- FOR THE GLAZE:
- Mix the confectioner's sugar with the orange juice until smooth, glossy and thick.
- Pour the glaze over the top of cake and spread over the sides as a first layer.
- Let the glaze dry, at least an hour or two, and spread a second layer of glaze over the sides to smooth out the first layer.
- Decorate with pressed, dried edible flowers.