Light and airy, chiffon cakes rely on whipped egg whites to help them rise. Unlike angel food cake, however, chiffon also contains fat in the form of egg yolks and oil to keep it moist. Orange zest adds the perfume of citrus, and sweet-tart candied blood oranges make a dramatic finishing touch. Make the vanilla buttercream frosting in two batches, as instructed below. Making a single large batch could cause the frosting to curdle and turn grainy.
Blood Orange Chiffon Cake
For the candied blood oranges:
- 3 blood oranges, unpeeled, sliced into 1/8-inch (3-mm) rounds
- 2 cups (1 lb./500 g) sugar
- 2 Tbs. fresh orange juice
For the cake:
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) canola oil, plus more for greasing
- 2 cups (10 oz./315 g) all-purpose flour, sifted, plus more for dusting
- 1 1/2 cups (12 oz./375 g) sugar
- 2 Tbs. grated orange zest
- 1 Tbs. baking powder
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 6 eggs, separated
- 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
- 3/4 cup (180 ml) whole milk
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 Tbs. orange blossom water (optional)
For the vanilla buttercream:
- 6 egg whites
- 2 cups (1 lb./500 g) sugar
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 cups (1 lb./500 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped, seeds reserved
1. To make the candied blood oranges, fill a bowl half full with ice and water. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the orange slices and boil until softened, about 1 minute. Immediately transfer the slices to the ice bath and let cool completely, then drain.
2. In a fry pan over medium heat, combine the sugar, orange juice and 2 cups (500 ml) water and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the orange slices in a single layer (you may have to do this in batches). Simmer until the rinds are slightly translucent, 45 to 60 minutes, turning the slices over every 15 minutes. Transfer the slices to a wire rack and let cool completely, at least 1 hour. The candied blood orange slices can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
3. To make the cake, preheat the oven to 325°F (165°C). Grease two 9-inch (23-cm) round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper, then grease the parchment. Dust with flour, then tap out any excess.
4. Place 1 cup (8 oz./250 g) of the sugar in a bowl. Using your fingers, rub the orange zest into the sugar to release the oils. Whisk in the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy, about 30 seconds. Add the cream of tartar and the remaining 1/2 cup (4 oz./125 g) sugar, raise the speed to medium-high and beat until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes. Set aside.
5. In the clean bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the clean whisk attachment, beat together the egg yolks, oil, milk, vanilla and orange blossom water on medium speed until pale yellow, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer, add the flour mixture, and beat on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat on high speed for 30 seconds. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the egg whites until just combined, taking care not to deflate the peaks.
6. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pans on wire racks for 10 minutes, then invert the cakes onto the racks and let cool completely.
7. To make the vanilla buttercream, combine 3 of the egg whites and 1 cup (8 oz./250 g) of the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and set over but not touching barely simmering water in a saucepan. Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is hot to the touch, about 160°F (71°C).
8. Attach the bowl to the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add 1 tsp. of the vanilla and half of the vanilla bean seeds, and beat on medium-high speed until the mixture reaches room temperature, about 15 minutes. Switch to the paddle attachment, add 1 cup (8 oz./250 g) of the butter a few tablespoons at a time, and beat on low speed until incorporated. If the buttercream becomes grainy, raise the speed to high and beat until smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer the frosting to another bowl.
9. Wash the bowl of the stand mixer and the whisk and paddle attachments. Repeat with the remaining 3 egg whites, 1 cup (8 oz./250 g) of the sugar, 1 tsp. of the vanilla, the remaining vanilla bean seeds and 1 cup (250 g) of the butter to make a second batch of icing.
10. To assemble the cake, place 1 cake layer on a serving plate. Spread an even layer of buttercream over the cake, then top with the other cake layer. Refrigerate until set, about 10 minutes. Frost the outside of the cake as desired with the remaining buttercream. Arrange the candied blood orange slices on top of the cake and around the base and serve. Serves 12.
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