To say that the Japanese are voracious adopters of new trends is an understatement. Certainly, a lot of things fall out of favour almost as rapidly but for the time when something is ‘uber hot’ the entire nation seems to run with it.
While I was living in Japan about fifteen years ago, you couldn’t walk into a convenience store without some form of Baumkuchen (those round, layer cakes) ending up in your shopping basket. The same was the case around this time for nata de coco (coconut juice jellies) which I didn’t really get.
The Baumkuchen (while still around I’m sure) has long since been shoved off the popularity perch by various other patisserie heavyweights and it would seem chiffon cakes are gracing most coffee tables around Japan. I’ve since read that this type of cake is pretty widespread and adored throughout Asia.
On my recent trip to Sydney, I finally got around to visiting Azuma Patisserie in Regency Place, George Street. I was mainly interested in seeing what sort of Japanese-style cakes this lovely little patisserie cafe made but was stunned by the dazzling array of chiffon cakes lining their display case shelves. I bought a slice of earl grey scented chiffon cake for my journey back home to Perth.
I could certainly understand the appeal of chiffon cakes. They are light as air but surprisingly substantial to eat. It was quite spongy in texture but moist and at times a little chewy (but in a good way). I simply had to get myself a tin and make my own. I also visited Kinokuniya and got myself a Japanese cookbook dedicated to chiffon cakes.
Chiffon cake tins (aka Baba or angel cake tins) are not hard to find with a lot of Asian grocers keeping them in stock but otherwise eBay had quite a few overseas sellers listing tins of various sizes. In my case I was able to find one readily at Kitchen Warehouse.
I was probably a little too ambitious and rushed with my first attempt using a Japanese recipe. I wanted to make a banana and walnut chiffon cake whereas I really should have started with a basic vanilla cake. The biggest problem was my calamitous oversight of a very simple fact: Japanese cake tins are small. I bought a 22cm tin when the Japanese recipe was ideally for tins less than 18cm. Fail! The cake wasn’t particularly tall (I also didn’t hang it upside down) but it was still a treat to eat.
Today, I decided to keep things simple and refer to an Australian recipe: Poh’s recipe for orange chiffon cake. I noticed immediately that the amount of ingredients was pretty much double what was listed in my Japanese cookbook. Duh! I pared down Poh’s recipe which had a lovely chocolate and nut icing, and chose to flavour my cake with brown sugar (replace the amount of caster sugar to be mixed with yolk) and cinnamon (half teaspoon or to liking) instead of orange. I also omitted the coconut milk.
Although I was doing my typical thing of trying to achieve many things at once, I managed to get the chiffon cake mix together and into the oven. Once it was ready I inverted the tin (that’s what the little feet-like things on the edge are for!) and left it alone for about two hours.
Outcome? A pretty good chiffon cake. Nice and soft but it certainly gives you something to chew on. I think a taller cake is probably going to call for doubling the ingredients (or using a smaller tin) so I am not going to be too hard on myself for not achieving more height like Azuma Patisserie’s cakes.
A dab of double cream and I think you could indeed call this afternoon tea!