RED VELVET ZEBRA CHIFFON CAKE
By Lily Thoo
The basic chiffon cake steals the limelight with attractive “zebra” stripes crowned with spider-web markings. It is baked in a pan-in-a-pan method, a foolproof technique that ensures a moist cake with a tender crumb. This light chiffon is low in sugar and calories – very kind to the waistline!
Total Time: 3 hours
Yields: 10-12 servings
A: Food Colouring
Chocolate paste: 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon hot boiling water
Red paste: 2 teaspoons red yeast rice powder*
1 tablespoon hot boiling water
B: Liquid Ingredients
80ml corn oil
90ml cold milk
25g castor sugar
C: Egg Yolk Mixture
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
5 egg yolks
D: Dry Ingredients
100g cake flour, sifted
20g cornflour, sifted
¼ teaspoon salt
E: Whipped Egg Whites
5 egg whites
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
70g castor sugar
1. Preheat oven to 160C for 10 minutes. Prepare 18cm cake pan with a removable base – do not grease it.
2. In a small mixing bowl, combine A ingredients. Stir with a spoon until smooth, working quickly to ensure there are no lumps. Cover and set aside.
3. Combine oil and milk in a medium mixing bowl. Using a whisk, beat until combined. Add in sugar in one go while beating continually.
4. Using the same whisk, add in egg yolk one by one. Beat until well incorporated. Whisk in D ingredients in 2 batches until combined.
5. Divide cake batter into 3 equal portions: Mix one portion with chocolate paste, the second with red paste while the 3rd porton remains as plain batter. Cover and set aside.
6. Using an electric beater, beat egg whites, adding in cream of tartar followed by sugar in 3 batches. Beat until firm peaks form.
7. Divide egg white mixture into 3 equal portions. Gently fold each portion into the respective bowls of red, chocolate and plain batter at 2 intervals. Mix until whippped egg whites it is fully incorporated in each bowl.
8. To create zebra stripes, start and end with red batter. Spoon 2 tablespoons red batter in centre of cake pan. Next, spoon 2 tablespoons of plain batter on top of red batter, then followed by 2 tablespoons of chocolate batter on top of plain batter. Repeat steps until the last 2 tablespoons of red batter. Spoon it gently onto cake centre.
Do not tilt pan to spread batter. As you continue spooning, outer layers will gradually spread to fill up the entire pan.
9. To create spider web markings on cake top, using a toothpick, slowly ‘draw’ lines from cake centre towards edges of pan. Repeat this several times. Similarly, starting from edges of pan, ‘draw’ towards cake centre. Repeat it a few times – eventually, you will see a spider web design forming.
10. Finally, gently tap pan on kitchen counter – this action causes red batter to sink slightly into cake centre.
11. Bake cake using bain-marie method: Literally translated as hot water bath, this is a French baking technique for cooking delicate foods like crème brûlée. The cake pan is placed inside a water bath where it is gently steam-baked simultaneously.
Pan-in-a-pan method: Prepare 2 cake pans: 25 cm and 28 cm. Place 1st cake pan (filled with batter) inside a 2nd pan (25 cm). Next, place 2nd pan inside the 3rd pan (28cm). See photo below.
12. Pour hot boiling water inside 3rd pan, filling 2cm up its sides. NOTE: this pan-in-a-pan method insulates the cake, keeping it moist throughout the baking process. It also prevents the cake base from getting wet.
13. After 25 minutes, remove cake pan from oven. Using a sharp knife, work very quickly to make 4-6 radial slits on cake surface (see photo). As the cake is half-baked, its structure is extremely fragile. Handle gently.
Return the pan to the oven as soon as possible to continue baking until fully cooked. To test, gently insert skewer into cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is done. Baking time can vary between 85 minutes and 105 minutes depending on the oven. If the cake top browns too fast, cover the cake with aluminium foil.
14. Invert the cake pan immediately onto a chiffon cake cooling rack. Alternatively, prop edges of the cake pan on 3-4 glasses to support it while it cools down.
Unmould the cake. Allow it to cool down for at least 2 hours, then remove loose cake base (see below).
15. Using a sharp knife, cut cake into serving pieces.
Perfect for tea and coffee time! It is best enjoyed oven fresh. It can be refrigerated but consume the cake within 5 days.
Photos: Lily Thoo
*NOTE: Red yeast rice powder made from red rice is often employed as a food colouring agent in Chinese cooking. It is used to marinate Peking duck and in making fermented tofu.
You can also substitute it with 2 teaspoons plum powder mixed 1 tablespoon room temperature water. Cake below is made using plum powder.
TIP: Buy large eggs each weighing between 65g-66g.
TECHNIQUE: The idea of making slits in cake batter mid-way during baking is to achieve a neat crack pattern vs a craggy surface often found on a chiffon cake.
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