People have definite opinions about angel food cake. Chiffon cakes seem to cause less polarization. Angel food has no fat or added baking powder or soda; the air beaten into the egg whites acts as the only leavening. Chiffons have a bit of oil or egg yolks. I love the airy, snowy-white angel food cake but like chiffon cakes, too.
For spring, you may want to try a daffodil cake. Technically a chiffon cake, daffodil cake is really an angel food cake dappled with bursts of egg yolk-enriched batter. Flavored with orange zest, the yellow swirls are meant to look like daffodils against a pale background. Seeing the daffodils in the random cake swirls may require imagination but is worth the effort.
As I write this in February, the days are in the 60s and trees are blossoming early. All the tender greens in the garden had me thinking about adding a touch of green to my daffodil cake, representing stems and leaves. I wanted a natural green food color so came up with matcha powder to make pastel green “foliage.” I love the particular pastel tint of green tea ice cream, naturally colored and flavored with the traditional powdered green tea.
Four or five test cakes later, I backed way off from my original 2 tablespoons of matcha powder. The green parts of the cake tasted, um, like grass? And not in a good way. I finally ended up with one teaspoon matcha powder which made a vibrant green color and had a pleasant, subtle green tea taste. My spring daffodil cake would work beautifully for any spring celebration from Saint Patrick’s Day to Easter to Mother’s Day to a spring birthday to an afternoon tea party.
This pretty pastel cake is baked in a rather old-fashioned pan called a tube pan. Foam cakes, such as angel food and chiffon cake and some sponge cakes, are traditionally baked in an ungreased straight-sided pan with a removeble bottom with a hollow tube in the center. The tube allows heat to flow through the center, helping the cake cook evenly and more quickly, preserving the delicate loft formed by beating the egg whites. Leaving the tube pan ungreased helps the batter cling to the side of the pan. The angel or chiffon cake needs to be turned upside down immediately upon coming out of the oven, again, helping to retain the airy loft of these feather-light cakes. Some old recipes call for cooling the cake upside down on a wine bottle which works very well. However, you’ll notice little legs on the top of some tube pans that are meant for upside down cooling. Please do not try to substitute a bundt pan as you will be scraping out bits of stuck-on cake for days. Your local thrift store is the perfect place to purchase an inexpensive tube pan.
Makes one 10” tube cake
Special equipment: 10” tube cake, ungreased, hand or stand mixer, 2 mixer bowls, 2 or 3 silicone spatulas, fine zester such as Microplane, 2 small mixing bowls (I use a 2-cup and a 4-cup glass measuring cups,) thin-bladed knife
- 9 egg whites (1 ¼ cups)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 ¼ cups sugar, divided
- 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sifted flour
- 4 egg yolks
- Finely grated zest of one orange
- 1 teaspoon matcha powdered tea
- Powdered sugar to sprinkle over top, if desired
- Place egg whites in mixer bowl. Sprinkle salt and vanilla over whites. Beat until the whites hold a soft peak. Slowly beat in 1 cup of the sugar. Beat just until the sugar is blended into the whites.
- Fold in the flour in four parts, gently folding with spatula, until all the flour is incorporated. Carefully scrape batter into clean mixer bowl and set aside.
- Add egg yolks and orange rind to used mixer bowl. Beat in remaining ¼ cup of sugar. Scrape down bowl then beat on high speed until thick and lighter in color, about 4 minutes. Fold in about a third of the egg white batter into the yolks. This is your daffodil batter. Set aside
- To a smaller bowl or meauring cup, add 1 teaspoon matcha powder. Stir in about a quarter of the remaining egg white mixture, blending until the powder is incorporated. This is the foliage batter.
- Scrape about half of the egg white batter into the tube pan. Drop blobs of the matcha batter around the edges of the pan. Drop blobs of yellow batter alternately with the rest of the white batter. Scrape the remainder of the matcha batter over top. Run a knife in a zigzag pattern once around the pan to slightly marblize batter.
- Bake for 35 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the cake. Turn the cake upside down to cool completely.
- To remove from pan, run a thin-bladed knife around outside of cake. Grasp the center tube and gently rock a bit back and forth to make sure the cake sides have released from the pan. Pull straight up, cake and center tube will be released from side of pan. Carefully run the knife around the center tube and the bottom. Turn onto serving platter or cake stand. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired.