French Toast or Orange Chiffon Cake?

On Monday, my grandmother, Evelyn Johnson Miller would have celebrated her 100th birthday. Her great grandchildren in Florida referred to her as French Toast Grandma since they remember her making them French Toast every morning during her visit one Thanksgiving. It’s not French Toast, but Orange Chiffon cake that comes to mind when I think of Grandma.

She always baked an orange chiffon cake when we returned to Indiana for a visit. She even baked one of these cakes for my dad to bring home on a plane after a trip “back home”. I can only imagine what the other passengers and airline staff thought of him sitting on the plane holding a cake on a flight from Louisville to Ft. Lauderdale. I’m sure this would not be possible today. TSA would no longer allow such a dangerous item to pass through security.

IMG_0615I’m sure every family member associates a different recipe with Mom or Grandma or Great Grandma, but her baking skills not only impressed family members, they earned her numerous ribbons, mostly blue or red, for her entries at the Kentucky State Fair from 1954 through 1984. In addition, she won two sweepstakes trophies for her efforts.

In recognition of Grandma’s 100th birthday, I’ve been trying to master her Orange Chiffon cake. And while she included the recipe in the family cookbook written in 1994, there is a major error in the list of ingredients. Instead of 2 1/4 cup of cake flour, the recipe reads 1 1/4 cup…no wonder the first attempt was a disaster.

I referred to my Betty Crocker cookbook, one of her favorites, and found a similar recipe and corrected the mistake in ingredients, but I made another blunder. I used the directions in the cookbook instead of her very specific directions about sifting twice, making a well in the dry ingredients, using a rubber spatula, and not allowing the spatula to leave the bowl. Another failed attempt.

I finally decided to check YouTube. Certainly someone posted an orange chiffon cake video. I was in luck!

In the first video I watched, Kevin, from Cavalcade of Food, demonstrated each step in detail. He sifted twice. He explained the necessity of placing each ingredient in a specific order in the well he made in the dry ingredients. He stressed the importance of gently stirring ingredients. Finally, he instructed viewers to beat the egg whites at the highest speed of the mixer (one I’d never used) to form the stiff peaks called for in the recipe. When I saw what he called stiff peaks, I knew I hadn’t come close in my previous attempts.

Armed with the ingredients listed in the cookbook and the video on the iPad, I was ready to try again.

Orange Chiffon Cake Ingredients

Dry ingredients:

2 ¼ cups cake flour or 2 cups of all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1-teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients (will put in well in dry ingredients)

½ cup vegetable oil

5 eggs yolks (with cake flour) or 7 egg yolks with all-purpose flour

¾ cup orange juice

1-teaspoon orange extract (optional)

2 tablespoons grated orange peel (one orange)

Ingredients to be mixed in stand up mixer:

6 egg whites

½ teaspoon cream of tartar

The third try came close. I still have some work to do. More patience when beating those egg whites. Keeping that spatula in the batter. Gently mixing batter into the beaten egg whites. I like to do things quickly so this is a challenge.IMG_0619

But since Grandma had been baking for nearly 30 years by the time she first entered her cakes in the Kentucky State Fair, I shouldn’t expect miracles. She baked daily both at home and at work. I bake about once a month and for less than five years. It’s going to take some practice!

And by the way, don’t bother baking this cake without the proper baking tools!

Must have equipment:

Stand up mixer

Tube pan (angel food cake pan) NOT coated with non-stick surface

Rubber spatula

Sifter

Grater