Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Date-Spice Chiffon Cake

Happy Birthday Auntie Ruth. Ruth is allergic to dairy, so I knew the restaurant we went to would not have a birthday cake for her. I decided to make her a birthday cake. In the gold standard cookbook "Cooks Illustrated's The New Best Recipe" I found several chiffon cake recipes, all dairy free. I went with the date-spice version, but the orange-cranberry chiffon cake was a close runner up. Despite the admonishments to beat the whites until they are very stiff, I still don't think mine were stiff enough. All my date sank to the bottom and therefore ended up on top of the cake. My aunt said they were like frosting. They kind of were. The cake was pretty ugly, but was very moist and had good flavor. IMHO this cake is much better then an angel food cake. However, the texture is still too close to an angel food cake (which I hate) for my taste. But if chiffon cake is your thing, this is a good one, even when made by a cake making novice like me.
When my mom was 2 years old and my Aunt Ruth was 4 they snuck into the car by themselves. Ruth kept pushing the starter button (I don't know what that is either), which sent the car lurching forward six inches each time she pushed it. My mom was jumping up and down in the passenger seat yelling repeatedly "Go Ruthie!!". I agree.
Go Ruthie!!
They made it a whole block.

Date-Spice Chiffon Cake
Do not under beat the egg whites. If the egg whites are not very stiff, the cake will not rise properly, and the bottom will be heavy, dense, wet, and custard-like. Better to overbeat then underbeat. If you overbeat the egg whites and they end up dry and "blocky" you can smudge and smear the recalcitrant (whatever that means) clumps with the flat side of the spatula to break them up.


1 1/2 c packed (10 1/2 oz) dark brown sugar
3/4 c chopped dates
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 1/3 c (5 1/3 oz) plain cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
7 large eggs, 2 whole, 5 separated, at room temperature
3/4 c water
1/2 c vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cream of tartar

4 T butter, melted (or dairy free margarine)
4-5 T coffee
2 C (8 oz) sifted confectioners' sugar

1. FOR THE CAKE: Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Process dates in a food processor until dates are reduced to 1/8-inch bits. Process all dry ingredients (up to salt on the ingredient list) until any lumps of brown sugar are pulverized. Transfer dry ingredients to a bowl and whisk in egg yolks, water, oil, and vanilla until batter is just smooth.

2. Pour the reserved egg whites into the bowl of a standing mixer; beat at low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Add the cream of tartar, gradually increase the speed to medium-high, and beat the whites until very thick and stiff, just short of dry (as little as 7 minutes in a standing mixer and as long as 10 minutes with a handheld mixer.). With a large rubber spatula, fold the whites into the batter, smearing in any blobs of white that resists blending with the flat side of the spatula.

3. Pour the batter into an ungreased large tube (angel food) pan (9-inch diameter, 16-cup capacity). Rap the pan against the counter top 5 times to rupture any large air pockets. If using a pan with a removable bottom grasp both sides with your hands while firmly pressing down on the tube with your thumbs to keep the batter from seeping from the pan during the rapping process. Wipe off any batter that may have dripped of splashed onto the inside walls of the pan with a paper towel.

4. Bake the cake until a toothpick or thin skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 55-65 minutes. Immediately turn the cake upside down to cool. If the pan does not have prongs around the rim for elevating the cake, invert the pan on the the neck of a bottle or funnel. Let the cake cool completely 2 to 3 hours.

5. To unmold, turn the pan upright. Run a thin knife around the pan's circumference between the cake and the pan wall, always pressing against the pan. Use a skewer to loosen the cake from the tube. For a one piece pan, bang it on the counter top several times, then invert it over a serving plate. For a two piece pan, grasp the tube and lift the cake out of the pan. If glazing the cake, use a fork or a pairing knife to gently scrape all the crust off the cake. Loosen the cake from the pan bottom with a spatula or knife, then invert onto a serving plate. (The cake can be wrapped in plastic and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days or refrigerated for up to 4 days.)

6. FOR THE GLAZE: Beat the melted butter, 4 T (1/4 c) coffee,, and the confectioners' sugar in a medium bowl until smooth. Let the glaze stand 1 minute, then try spreading a little on the cake. If the cake starts to tear, thin the glaze with up to 1 T coffee. A little at a time, spread the glaze over the cake top, letting any excess dribble down the sides. Let the cake stand until the glaze dries, about 30 minutes. If you like, spread the dribbles (before they have a chance to harden) to make a thin smooth coat. Serve.


Kristy said...

Happy Birthday, Ruth! Hurray for dairy-free treats, and I'm glad it was tasty. I like the photo, too, especially since it has the birthday girl in the background. :)

Julie said...

I didn't even notice Ruth in the picture until I read Kristy's comment. I have a hard time imagining dairy free desserts--because really, ice cream is the best dessert, followed by brownies, followed by cookies....but if I were alergic to dairy and it was my birthday, I'd be pretty happy to have this cake. Milk chocolate must have dairy in it but does dark chocolate?

Julie said...

Now I want chocolate and I don't have any.....did somebody say chocolate? Oh yeah, it was me.