Last year, I made a Rainbow Chiffon Cake for my birthday. The cake had 5 pastel layers and was stuffed with juicy slices of fruit and whipped cream in between each layer. Because I spent so much effort on it, that cake definitely goes down in history as one of my favorites.This year, I decided to make a simpler cake for by birthday, but stayed with the chiffon theme. There are no multiple cake layers or gobs of frosting to be found in this recipe. Considerate this grown up version of my cake from last year–sophisticated yet no-fuss, with a light texture and taste.This time, Earl Grey tea gives this cake its distinctive and elegant taste. The cake is infused with this citrusy tea in both its liquid and leaf forms so that it’s floral flavor infuses thoroughly into each fluffy bite. I used one tea bag in its steeped form, and 3 other tea bags for their dry leaves.
For convenience, I actually prefer to use common Earl Grey tea bags in this recipe. You can use a better quality loose leaf Earl Grey instead, but if you do, you’ll need to make sure to use a spice grinder to pulverize the leaves into little bits.
When it comes to making the cake batter, the most important step is making sure to get a stiff peak on your egg white meringue. A pointy, firm peak ensures that you get the lightest, airiest texture possible in the finished cake.You’ll also want to use a natural aluminum cake mold here, not a non-stick or coated one. The less-smooth surface will help the batter climb up the sides, which again helps in creating a spongy, light texture to the cake.
A final tip that’s really helpful in creating a beautifully tall cake is to invert the cake upside down over a wine bottle while it’s cooling. The downward gravity action will allow the cake to retain a maximum fullness once the cake is removed from the mold for serving.Earl Grey Chiffon Cake is ideal for a light afternoon tea or as an easy finish to a heavier meal. I like to serve slices of it with a light dollop of hand-whipped cream or lemon curd and any fruit that’s in season, like blueberries, pears, or even poached pears in the fall. My favorite tea to enjoy with this cake is Sloane Tea Company’s Perfectly Pear white tea, a tea that’s both elegant and rustic just like this cake is.
Earl Grey Chiffon Cake
Makes 1-8″ bundt cake.
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp hot water (will be used to steep 1 tea bag)
1 cup sifted cake flour
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 Earl Grey tea bags (with finely ground tea, I used Republic of Tea’s Downton Estate Blend)
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
4 eggs, separated
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
liquid measuring cup
stand mixer and bowl, fitted with large whisk attachment
2 medium mixing bowls
large rubber spatula
8″ aluminum bundt or Kuglehopf, not non-stick or coated (you can also use an angel food cake pan)
large cooling rack
1. In a liquid measuring cup, steep 1 tea bag in the hot water for 5 minutes, then drain and remove the tea bag. Let the tea come back to room temperature before proceeding with recipe.
2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Place egg whites in mixing bowl of the stand mixer. Set egg yolks aside in a medium bowl, then add the steeped (liquid) tea, oil, and extract. Place flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and dry tea into another medium mixing bowl. Mix the dry ingredients with a wire whisk until evenly incorporated, then mix the liquid ingredients until evenly incorporated.
3. Add the cream of tartar to the egg whites, then turn the stand mixer on to medium speed and whip the egg whites to stiff peaks. This will take about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, add the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix together thoroughly with a whisk until the batter is completely homogenous, smooth, and light.
4. Add half of the batter mixture to the stiff egg whites, being careful not to deflate them. Use a large spatula to fold the batter in with the egg whites until the mixture is just homogenous. Again, be careful in trying not to deflate the egg whites.
5. Pour the batter into the ungreased aluminum bundt. Bake for 25-27 minutes, or until the top is lightly golden and puffed and a toothpick comes out clean. Place the pan on a cooling rack to cool for a few minutes, then carefully invert it over the wine bottle to cool completely. When the pan has come to room temperature, take it off the wine bottle and gently ease the cake out of the pan with your fingers. Serve cake slices with fresh whipped cream or lemon curd and fruit to finish.