My dedication to this quest is being tested. When I first envisioned going on this journey, I knew it would be tough. I knew it would mean staying up late or waking up early so I could get it done. When I first thought about trying to do this, I was working and had a pretty weird schedule. I knew it wouldn’t be easy but in my mind, before I really knew what this would involve, I knew I would just make some sacrifices. I’d work for it. I was ready and I figured it might even help to work through the monotony of my usual days. Then I lost my job and suddenly, my schedule was wide open. Not that it was always easy, but when you don’t have to sit at a desk from 9 to 5, you certainly can take some time to go on quests.
Now, here I am on day two of being back in the working world (sort of, kind of), and I am suddenly remembering about all those long nights and sacrifices I knew told myself I would have to make. I got home from work at about 6 PM today. I actually had some lunch today and I was much more balanced when I came home. But as soon as I got home, I knew I had to get my celebration going. This is where the universe is laughing at me because today’s commemoration was Lemon Chiffon Cake. I wasn’t even exactly sure what this was, but it didn’t sound simple. I wasn’t going to be able to buy a box of it at the store. There are no Lemon Chiffon restaurants around here either. As tried to figure out a recipe and game plan that I could get going on, the universe just stood back and laughed at me. Ok holiday boy – let’s see you do this one.
According to What’s Cooking America.net, chiffon cake was invented in 1927 by Harry Baker, a Los Angeles insurance agent. It was a light and airy cake made with egg whites which are beaten separately from the yolks, and it uses vegetable oil instead of butter or conventional shortening. Some considered it to be the first real new type of cake in over 100 years because it used vegetable oil. Harry was quite the innovator. As he cake grew in popularity and after years of people asking him for the recipe, Harry sold his cake to Hollywood stars and made it for the famous Brown Derby Restaurant. In 1947, he sold the recipe to General Mills and that allowed Betty Crocker to get the recipe out to the general public. From there, it kind of just grew to popularity and became a pretty popular cake in the fifties and home cooks began experimenting with flavors. I assume that’s when someone introduced the Lemon Chiffon Cake although I couldn’t find an exact history. I’m not sure if I’ve ever had a chiffon cake. It sounds fancy, doesn’t it? Like we should be having it with tea in the company of the queen.
I have made sponge cakes and angel cakes before, and the recipe is somewhat similar to that, only it uses oil, etc. I found a recipe that seemed easy enough from Betty Crocker. It could be the recipe that Harry Baker sold to them, although there was no indication of that on the website. I got cooking right away, because the cake would need to cook and cool before I could ice it. It uses seven egg yolks and eight egg whites. You mix the yolks with the usual ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, the vegetable oil and of course some lemon zest for the lemon flavor). Then on the side, you beat the egg whites with some Cream of Tartar until you get stiff peaks. Then you fold the batter into the egg whites. It goes into a tube pan and then cooks for an hour and fifteen minutes. That’s how the universe is messing with me. Most cakes take about a half hour or less to cook, this one, which I didn’t start making until 6:30, took 75 minutes. When it comes out, it also needed two hours to cool. I was in for a long night.
Later, I made the icing with some butter, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest. That came together in no time and was sweet and lemony. It’s odd how sweet and lemon go so well together. The lemon is so bright a flavor it just dances with the sweetness of the sugar in your mouth. When that was ready, I poured it over the cake so it would ooze over the sides and cover most of the cake. I probably could have let the cake cool a little more, but I was starting to lose steam. I figured it couldn’t hurt. Lola had gone up to bed so I went to see if she was still awake. She was. So we had a piece of lemon chiffon cake in bed to celebrate the day.
It looked beautiful. Shiny icing across the top. The inside of the cake was yellow and looked moist (although around the edges seemed to be a bit overdone). Lola was excited – it’s not everyday you get fresh made cake in bed. She picked up the fork and gave the cake a good whiff. A small look of concern came over her face. “It smells like balls.” That statement kind of hung out there for a second, so she followed it up with a comforting, “but not your balls.” She was right. Well, I mean she was right the cake did smell, although I may not have been so colorful in my description. I thought it might have been a residual smell from the cake pan which was a silicone pan and those are always a bit different. So it was this weird smell which was mixed with the odor of lemon which was also very present that was our first introduction to the cake. We took a few bites (apparently cakes smelling like stank body parts doesn’t stop us) and it was actually pretty good. The center of the cake was moist and the sweet, fresh icing picked up the flavors in every bite. The outside rim of the cake was a bit dry and that’s where you really needed to have the icing. I guess the icing was kind of saving the whole thing because we were soaking up each piece in every spot of icing we could find on our plates. The texture had a sponge-like look to it, and I think that added to Lola’s concerns because you can’t have something that looks like a sponge and smells bad. She said it looked like a cheap Dollar Store sponge. So no, Lola was not a fan. I don’t think it was all that bad. I will give it another taste after it completely cools. I stored it in our fridge, so maybe the cold will bring out some more of the lemon fresh flavor.
When I woke up this morning to write this post, I realized what happened. I used baking soda, not baking powder. And it was 3 teaspoons of it too – not just a pinch or a little. That’s a lot of baking soda for a recipe that calls for baking powder. The chemistry of this whole cake was off. That would explain a lot of the issues we had. The smell, the uneven baking, the over-porous texture. It was a rookie mistake, but I’m glad I discovered what happened. It’s good to have answers so I can learn. Once again the universe laughed. Holiday boy thinks he can cook into the night without consequence? We’ll show him.
All in all, I kind of liked this celebration because it ended with cake in bed, albeit lemon testicle cake. Had I made it perfectly, it would have been a deliciously sweet ending to our day. It was even fun to come home and get to cooking. I’m still discovering here. I’m still finding out what my schedule means and what I am going to be able to do with more time restrictions. About 125 days left in my year long quest and the game is changing. The universe is conspiring against me but the holidays keep coming. I’m still in it. I actually kind of like this new challenge. To the universe I say, “Bring it on!” I’ll just make sure I read the recipes more carefully.
Next Up: National Take a Walk in the Park Day