Oolong Tea Chiffon Cake
By Sarah Marx Feldner, A Cook’s Journey to Japan: Fish Tales and Rice Paddies, 100 Homestyle Recipes from Japanese Kitchens
This is Hitomi’s cake. For any celebration that arises, she’s called on to make it. Her aunt, Hiromi, has employed her to keep the restaurant well stocked with its various flavors and one day, Hitomi hopes to make her own business out of it.
Like most Japanese desserts, it’s still fairly good for you—or not that bad for you, depending on how you look at your glass. But the thing I like most about this chiffon cake is that it’s simple. When making the cake, you can use whatever type of tea you prefer. I like the flavor of Oolong, while Hitomi favors Earl Grey. Or, if she has any on-hand, her favorite is to use a black tea–blue cornflower tea blend.
This cake tastes very nice on its own. It’s great for snacking or slicing a piece for your lunchbox. But for an extra-special touch—like when celebrating her father-in-law’s birthday—Hitomi will frost the cake, as well (as shown in this recipe).
3 tablespoons loose leaf oolong tea, or 4 tea bags, divided
2/3 cup (160 ml) water
4 egg yolks
3/4 cup (150 g) sugar, divided
¼ cup (65 ml) vegetable oil
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (140 g) cake flour (not self-rising), sifted
6 egg whites, room temperature
Pinch of salt
1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
Special equipment – 10-inch (25cm) tube pan with removable bottom.
Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C) with the rack in the middle position.
Using a mortar and pestle or an electric coffee grinder, grind 1 tablespoon of the loose leaf tea until fine. Set aside. If you’re using tea bags, skip this step.
Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of loose leaf tea or, if using, the 4 tea bags. Cover and let steep according to packaged instructions, about 5 minutes. Strain if using loose leaf tea. Let cool to room temperature. If necessary, add additional water to measure 2/3 cup (160 ml).
Whisk together the egg yolks, ½ cup (100 g) of the sugar, oil, salt, ground tea leaves and steeped tea in a large bowl. Add the flour and gently whisk just until smooth. Set aside.
Beat the egg whites in another large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed. When the whites become frothy, add the salt. When the whites begin to increase in volume and lose their opaqueness, gradually add the remaining ¼ cup (50 g) sugar. Beat until whites are stiff and glossy, but not dry.
Fold ¼ of the whites into the egg yolk-tea mixture to loosen the batter, then gently fold in the remaining whites just until fully incorporated, being careful not to deflate.
Pour batter into an ungreased 10-inch (25-cm) tube pan with removable bottom. Gently run a knife or spatula through the batter to break up any large air pockets – be sure to reach the bottom.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool upside down – suspended over the neck of a wine bottle works best.
Once the cake is completely cooked, remove it from the pan by running a knife around the sides and carefully pushing the bottom out. To release the tube portion from the cake, carefully run a knife between the cake and bottom of the pan.
To make the optional frosting, beat together the cream and sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until soft peaks form.
The outside of the cake can be quite crumbly. To keep the frosting crumb-free, spread a thin layer of the whipped cream over the cooled cake. Refrigerate the cake (and remaining whipped cream) until set – 5 to 10 minutes. Then frost the cake with the remaining whipped cream. The cake should be frosted just before serving.
- For an extra light and airy chiffon cake, Hitomi sifts the flour 6 to 7 times after measuring – a technique I have since adopted myself.
- The cake is best prepared with loose leaf tea. But if using tea bags, steep the tea while it’s still in the bags – if you cut them open, the ground leaves will soak up too much of the water.
- As noted in The Baker’s Dozen Cookbook, edited by Rick Rodgers, when preparing a chiffon cake, do not grease the pan. For maximum volume, the batter needs traction to climb up the sides of the pan. For this same reason, do not use a pan with a nonstick surface.
- So as not to smoosh the delicate texture of the cake, slice with a serrated or electric knife.
Reprinted with the express permission of Tuttle Publishing, a member of the Periplus Publishing Group.