A few weeks ago, a reader inquired if she could use my chiffon cake as the base for the ever-popular Chinese bakery birthday cake, one that is typically filled with fresh or canned fruits and whipped cream. My initial thought had been that it should be possible but if we bake the cake in a regular pan instead of a tube pan, we would lose the ability to cool it upside down, causing the cake to collapse as it cools. Alternatively, she asked if I have a reliable sponge cake recipe she could use. I replied and told her that I have a couple in mind (that I have seen from other bloggers) but let me test them out first before I get back to her.
Since then, I have researched quite a bit and experimented with a couple of recipes and different ways I could produce the “sponge cake” that Chinese bakeries make. In the end, I came back to using my vanilla chiffon cake recipe and reducing the amount to fit it in a regular cake pan. Even so, I purposely bought a deeper/taller cake pan, specifically a 9 by 3 inch to allow the batter more room to rise. Next, I had to figure out how to cool it upside down since a regular pan does not have a hallowed tube or metal legs like a chiffon cake pan to aid this process. I finally decided to prop it upside down on the edge of three mugs (see photo below) – the bottom of the pan is lined with parchment (without any greasing) but the sides are left plain (no parchment and no greasing) so the batter would have something to grab hold of to climb when baking and after it is baked, the cake would have something to cling on to when inverted so it would not fall out of the pan when it is cooling upside down.
While my frosting skill leaves much to be desired (I cannot remember the last time I frosted something bigger than a cupcake), the cake turned out absolutely delicious! The texture is light and airy and the cake has just the right amount of sweetness and tastes phenomenal with the fruits and freshly whipped cream. Keith had three slices while I had two, holy moly! Now, is it exactly like the Chinese bakery cake? Nope.* Is it an acceptable substitute? I certainly think so and I hope you will too. :) Enjoy!
*I am not sure if it is possible to obtain the exact cake texture like the ones that can be found in a Chinese bakery without using some form of emulsifier but I could be wrong since I have never worked in a Chinese bakery before. If you know the secret, please leave me a note in the comment section. :)
Vanilla chiffon cake
2/3 cup plus 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup plus 1/2 cup sugar, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 large eggs, separated
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk (I use vanilla soy milk)
1-1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Note: Eggs are easier to separate when cold. Once separated, let them sit for a bit to bring them to room temperature (about 30 minutes) or at the minimum, to ensure that they are not fridge cold, which would make them easier to whip up and help maximize the volume.
1. Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 350ºF.
2. Whisk flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk egg yolks, oil, milk, and vanilla extract together.
4. With an electric mixer, whip egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-low speed until foamy. Then increase mixer speed to medium-high and whip the whites until soft mounds form. Gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and continue to whip until stiff peaks form.
5. Whisk egg yolk mixture into flour mixture until smooth. Fold 1/3 of the whipped egg whites into the batter with a large rubber spatula until combined. Then carefully fold in the remaining egg whites.
6. Pour batter into a 9” x 3” round cake pan (bottom is lined with parchment) and bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick/skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Invert cake pan, using three mugs to suspend the pan above the table surface (see photo) and let cake cool completely. To remove the cake, run a small, thin-blade knife around the edge, turn it out onto a plate, remove parchment from the bottom, and turn it right side up onto the cake stand or platter that you are using.
Stabilized whipped cream frosting
3 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons Knox unflavored gelatin
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Place water in a small prep bowl. Sprinkle gelatin evenly onto the water, and set aside for a few minutes until all the water is absorbed. Microwave the gelatin mixture on high until melted, about 10 to 15 seconds. Stir and set aside for a moment (if it sets, just microwave the mixture again). Meanwhile, mix and whisk the heavy cream, sugar, vanilla, and salt together (I use a stand mixer with the whisk attachment) until soft peak. Slowly pour in the gelatin mixture and continue to whisk until stiff peak. Refrigerate if not using immediately.
Fresh and canned fruits
5 kiwis, sliced
1 can sliced peaches, drained
About 1/2 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed
Chop some of the smaller kiwi slices and the less good-looking peaches to get 1/2 cup of fruit EACH. Remove 1 cup of the whipped cream and fold in the chopped fruits – this will be the filling.
Putting the cake together
Cut the cake in half horizontally. Remove the top layer. Spread the top of the bottom layer with the fruit-cream mixture and then, cover it with the second cake layer. Spread sides and top of cake with the remaining whipped cream and decorate the top with the fruit slices and blueberries. Refrigerate until serving time.