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A fluffy chiffon sponge cake, with a light and subtle Gula Melaka aftertaste, moist enough to be eaten on its own. This cake is slightly sweeter, great for everyday treat – have it together with a cup of hot tea or coffee!
Recently I have been spending time thinking about baking techniques which I find most challenging for me.
I guess you wouldn’t be surprised to know that most of us find whipping up meringue challenging right? 🙂
Meringue-based desserts indeed test the very basics of our baking techniques, and it really take a lot of practice to get it right. So in this post, you can find some tips and tricks that I have learnt along the way in making chiffon sponge cakes.
What Is A Sponge Cake?
There are different types of sponge cakes, such as the genoise, angel food cake, chiffon etc.
Sponge cakes belong to the “foam” cake family, as these cakes get their structure and texture from whipped eggs (either whole or separated egg whites). You will be able to tell it is a sponge cake from its signature spongy and light texture, thanks to the aerated eggs.
While the ingredients used for the various sponge cakes can vary, they have one common thing- the hand folding method in the mixing process.
What Method Does This Gula Melaka Sponge Cake Use?
Do note that this recipe can be a little challenging for beginners.
We will be using the chiffon method – egg separation.
We will first separate the eggs into yolks and whites, placed into different mixing bowls. Into the bowl of egg yolks, we will add oil, gula melaka milk mixture and flour, to whisk into a thick batter. The egg whites will be whisked, in another separate bowl, into meringue with firm peaks.
What Ingredients Do I Need?
Chiffon sponge cakes usually require very basic and little ingredients! For this Gula Melaka sponge cake recipe, we need:
- Eggs – Medium sized eggs, about 55g each
- Top or cake flour – This low protein flour gives the cake a light and fluffy texture!
- Gula Melaka – We melt the Gula Melaka together with milk, to be mixed into egg yolk batter.
- Milk – Use whole milk, not the low fat ones.
- Oil – Any type of neutral tasting oil will do! I like to use rice bran oil.
Gula Melaka, which is the coconut palm sugar, is commonly used in desserts in Singapore. I’m sure most of us love its unique smoky caramel flavor! We will be melting the Gula Melaka in milk over low heat to be used in the egg yolk batter.
Do take note to not let the milk boil, so that it will not evaporate and thicken up too much.
How Does This Sponge Cake Taste Like?
This is a slightly sweeter sponge cake that I’ve made. So do not cut the salt amount, it helps to balance out a little of the sweetness.
The taste of the Gula Melaka is quite light and subtle here. I also find the texture of this Gula Melaka cake to be quite fluffy. Definitely great when I have some sweet craving!
>> OTHER DELICIOUS CAKE IDEAS
Ensuring Chiffon Sponge Success
- Egg Yolk Batter – As we add flour to be mixed with the wet ingredients, do take note to not overmix the batter. Add in the flour in 2 batches, and simply mix till no lumps of flour can be seen.
- Meringue – Start with medium speed, beating the egg whites. Add in sugar in 3 batches. As we add in the last batch of sugar, the egg whites should be looking like a thick white foamy mixture. Increase the speed to high, and as the egg whites whip till you can see lines, check for firm peaks. Just before the meringue reaches firm or stiff peak, beat at medium speed to stabilize the air bubbles.
- Folding – Use gentle folding into the batter when we add in the meringue. Do not overmix, otherwise the meringue will get deflated and you will get a shorter sponge.
- Oven Temperature – Temperature is important here, so I will recommend you to get an oven thermometer to monitor the temperature through the baking process. As we are baking on the last rack in the oven, temperature may tend to fluctuate to lower than 140C or 160C as required.
Sponge Cake Tip #1: Stabilizing Meringue
There are a few ways in which we can stabilize meringue. Using cream of tartar is one of the most effective and easiest way, but I usually avoid chemical leaveners whenever possible.
Some bakers would also add in lemon juice or vinegar to try to stabilise the meringue. I find this method does help a little, but not as effective as adding cream of tartar. So if you are new in whipping meringue, you can always try adding cream of tartar to give you the confidence in baking chiffon sponges : )
For me, I like to chill the egg whites before whipping them, as I find that it can achieve similar results like I have added cream of tartar to the egg whites. Also, whipping egg whites in a cool environment (eg. aircon environment) helps to have a more stable meringue. So do try to beat up your meringue in an airy and cool kitchen; avoid hot and humid kitchen.
Do note for this recipe, the caster sugar to be used in the meringue is quite little, which may make the meringue less stable. So please feel free to choose your preferred way for stabilizing the meringue, for a more successful bake.
Sponge Cake Tip #2: Baking Pan
For this sponge cake, I am using a 6″ removable base (aluminum) cake pans for best result.
If you do not have removable base pans, you can still line the bottom of your regular pan with baking paper. However, just note that this is likely to cause the cake to shrink while cooling down.
Also, do not use non-stick pans, as the sponge cake need to cling to the sides of the pan, to “climb” and rise properly.
Sponge Cake Tip #3: I Always Have Cracked Tops!
Okay, to be honest, cracked tops are okay (and probably quite normal for chiffons)!
However, I do also understand that most of us seek perfection in baking, and love to see smooth tops on our cakes!
In this recipe, the meringue is whipped to firm peaks, or to almost stiff peaks. If you over-whip the meringue, it will tend to cause the top to crack.
Another reason for cracked top is when we use an incorrect cake pan (size). As we fill the pan with batter to bake, check that it fills the pan for about 80% only. The top of the cake will also tend to crack if you fill the pan with too much batter.
If your cake pan is slightly shorter, you can fill the pan up till 75-80% full, and pour remaining batter into cupcake cup(s) to bake by the side.
Lastly, oven temperature is important too. Too high a temperature will tend to make the batter rise rapidly before it can be stable. This will make the top crack due to the rapid rise. So I am baking this cake at initial 140C for 30 mins, and then raising the temperature to 160C for another 34-38 mins.
Sponge Cake Tip #4: My Cake Always Shrink!
There can be several factors contributing to a cake that shrinks in size after it’s being baked.
That can include under-whipping the meringue, not tapping or cooling the cake upside down after baking, or simply that the oven temperature is too high.
You may need to do a trial and error to find out the exact cause for shrinking.
Sponge Cake Tip #5: For Beginners
- Try out a tube pan recipe: I find that baking with a tube pan for chiffon cakes have a higher success rate. If you are a super beginner in sponge cakes, try baking tube pan chiffon cakes first. (See this orange chiffon cake recipe)
- Use cream of tartar: Use cream of tartar to stabilize the meringue, and increase sugar to 35g for the meringue portion. Do note that the cake will be sweeter.
- Avoid hot kitchens: You can try to make the cake batter in an aircon environment, so that the meringue can be more stable.
How Do I Know When Is the Cake Fully Baked?
If you observe the cake in the baking process, you will notice that as the cake rises, it will reach the highest point, and the top of the cake should have browned beautifully. After which, it will gradually settle down and reduce in height slightly.
When this happens, allow to bake for further 5 mins before checking for doneness, by inserting a skewer in the middle of the cake. It should come out clean.
Otherwise, you can follow the timing here as a guide and check for doneness.
Try not to keep opening the oven door to check on the cakes, as the cool air circulating from outside will make the sponge cake deflate as you put them back to continue baking.