This site will be migrating to a new address.
Please visit me at @Køkken and change your subscription to this blog to my RSS Feed

You Will Be Redirected!

Please do not leave any more messages on this blog. I will not be publishing or responding to any more comments left here. You will be automatically redirected to All posts have been migrated. You will be able to locate any posts by performing a quick search at my new site. Thank you.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Blueberry Chiffon Cake : Analysing The Science Behind Baking With Egg White

The chiffon cake is one of my favourite cake simply because the texture is so light and divine. In addition, if one were to scrutinise the recipe, you will find that it is primarily made up of egg whites, very little flour, very little oil(not butter) and very little sugar. Overall, a healthier cake that can be enjoyed with less guilt.

However, any recipe that hinges heavily on the way egg white behaves usually appears to be shrouded in a cloak of mystery. Examples include Souffles and Macarons. To get successful results in making these dishes, the right Meringue stability is imperative.

When baking the Chiffon Cake, I insist on being a purist. I refuse to use baking powder to inflate the cake- I stubbornly feel that that is cheating. I am fine with using natural ingredients to stabilise the egg white and there are a couple of ways to do so.

The egg white is comprised of protein chains and water. It's behaviour is very similar to a soap solution - which is made up of organic chains and water.
Whipping the egg white introduces air into the system. The foam that forms is similar the foam one gets from agitating soap with water. What is happening at the molecular level is that the protein chain in the egg white will form a 'membrane' that traps air. Part of the protein chain bonds with water and part of it repels water. Hence the 'membrane' is essentially the water-air border in the system. The stability of the foam depends on how resilient this 'membrane' is. Smaller bubbles form more stable foam. However, if the membrane is disturbed, small bubbles will merge to form big bubbles and this eventually will lead to bubbles bursting.

When Are Egg Whites Whipped Enough?
For chiffon cake, I like to whip the egg whites to firm but not spiky stiff peaks. When I overturn my bubble whip, the tail of the meringue will still droop a little. However, the meringue should be firm enough to support the weight of the whip. I check by sinking my whip into the bed of meringue, it should stand firm on its own without falling over. Whipping it to short stiff spikes may also work but you will find that the texture of the cake to be drier. What About Salt or Acid? Adding a little salt (added with sugar during whipping process) or adding a little acid helps to stabilise the egg white foam. The positive ions ( hydrogen ions in acid) prevent the protein molecules from folding up. When the protein molecules folds up into a ball, it will not be able to spread out and stabilise the 'membrane'. Most people like to use cream of tartar, I prefer to use a little lemon juice. But overall, the value of adding these are not that great. It is more crucial to whip the egg white correctly.
Moisture In The Egg White
Too much moisture in the egg white can also destablise the foam. Water has a high density and will have the natural tendency to drain down the air-water border. As water begins to drain way, the 'membrane' will start to thin leading to the merging of bubbles or bubbles bursting. When making macarons, there are some recipes that calls for leaving the egg white to stand overnight in order to 'dry' the egg white. For chiffon cake, moisture from the egg white may not be that critical but some recipes do add a dash of corn-flour to help absorb the moisture.
Baking Temperature

The Chiffon Cake rises because the air bubbles swell under the action of heating.(air expands) In addition, as water content in the cake evaporates, the vapour also enlarges the bubbles. If the bubbles are not stable at this stage, they will break resulting in deflation. Hence the right baking temperature is vital. Heating the cake too fast will generate a rush of vapour that may stress out the air-water border.

Enough said - this is beginning to sound like a Science Lesson - but then, Baking Is Science.

Below is the recipe for the Blueberry Chiffon Cake. Overall a good recipe. Just watch out for the moisture content in the blueberries.
10. After baking, remove pan from oven, invert and cool completely. (preferably for 12 hours) before demolding.

Recipe :
MeringueEgg White 110g
Sugar 55g
Corn Starch 5g
Egg Yolk BaseEgg Yolk 40g
Water 12g
Grapeseed Oil 36g (or any other neutral oil e.g. canola oil)
Blueberry puree 50g
Lemon juice 6g
All purpose flour55g
Sugar 10g
Blueberry 30g (blueberry should be cut into very small pieces and dried with a kitchen towel. Best option would be dried Blueberry)
Method :
1. Heat oven using convection mode to 160C.
2. In a mixing bowl place egg yolk, blueberry puree, water, oil, lemon juice and sugar. Beat the mixture under well mixed and sugar is completely dissolved. (I do this by using a hand whip)
3. Sift flour into egg yolk mixture and mix well.
4. In a separate clean dry mixing bowl, whip egg white until foamy. Add sugar/corn starch mixture in 3 additions during whipping. Whip egg white until meringue is firm peaks.
5. Add 1/3 portion of the meringue into the egg yolk base. Use a spatula to blend egg white with egg yolk.
6.Add another 1/3 portion of the remaining meringue and blueberries into (5). Use spatula to fold egg white evenly with (5).
7. Add the remaining meringue into (6). Fold the egg white evenly with (6).
8. Pour (7) into a 17cm chiffon pan (do not oil the pan otherwise the batter will not rise).
9. Bake the cake at 160C for 30mins.


WendyinKK said...

I tot u're going to help iron out HHB's problem of sinking blueberries. They still sank in urs huh.

I don't think fresh fruits will ever float around in a chiffon, as they are too heavy compared to the batter.

Taking pictures for a blog is not easy .. as good pics will bring out the saliva.. *drool*
But, sometimes, a good blog may not need very pretty pics to bring in the traffic, take for instance Aunty Yochana and Baking Mum. Popular sites, but just regular pictures. Just that they update regularly and the "real food" looks good itself. So relax a bit about the pics.. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Hi
I was reading your theory on chiffon cakes...oh..a very good writeup.

Your recipe mentioned let the cake cool down completely for 12 hours. That long? Just want to be sure...I usually let it rest for an hour.

I have baked chiffon a few times, each time is successful except that I don't have that nice brown crust. The skin tends to stick to the pan. Is it due to the pan not seasoned enough (I have used the pan which is 27 cm for at least 4 times) or the oven temperature? If I bake it longer, the top will erode and burnt a bit. I usally baked at 165 deg for 6o mins since the chiffon tin I am using is the biggest.

Would like to hear from you.

Thanks for sharing the theory behind...will study it.

: )

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Hi Wendy. The Blueberries did not sink, they were quite well dispersed - probably the slice I photographed only had one berry visible.:-D I agree with you, working with fresh fruits,especially the juicy ones are tricky. Banana is ok... Thanks for your encouragement. I just hope I will get to be more regular. I need to travel for work like 50% of my time... :-(

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Hi Anonymous, thanks for dropping by my blog. I am relieved the write up did not bore you. I am a chemist by training and hence I have a tendency to analyse my failures from that perspective. Molecular Gastronomy is really quite interesting...but I don't know if all my postulations are accurate, though. There are many experienced bakers out there who may know better.

About leaving the cake to cool, this is a trick I read from a Japanese cookbook dedicated to chiffon. By taking time to cool the cake in the mold helps to retain the moisture better and possibly allow the vaporised moisture to have a chance to condense back - resulting in a texture that is more moist. I suppose if you were to unmould the cake when it is still warm, the exposed surface area will drive out the moisture more. But I do get impatient and try to demould earlier...

About the brown crust... it's funny - there is a school of thought who believes that the finish should be soft and not crusty,(they will use a knife to scrape away the crust) whereas there are others who prefers to have a crust. I do believe whether the side browns is directly related to heat transfer. It could be your pan that is not conducting heat well. I get my pans when I go to Japan for business. I really like them - they are heavier than what we can find here in Singapore and the shape is tall and regal.. Alternatively, you may want to experiment with turning up the heat by 10C during the 5-10mins- not sure if that will work but it's an approach I will experiment with if I have a similar problem. ... Gosh, this is becoming too wordy... hope you are not falling asleep. ;-)

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Anonymous, I meant the temperature to be tuned up during the last 5-10mins.

Anonymous said...

Hi Hi

Your reply is interesting.
Just curious, which Japanese Cookbook you are referring to? Is it by 福田淳子 ?

You mentioned about getting pans from Japan? From Kappabashi? Wow...must be expensive, aren't they?

I haven't been to Kappabashi...but will definitely go there anda source for baking stuff on next trip. Will go crazy right, with all the varieties of baking things available there.

Great to have a chemist to share with us the molecular theory....real interesting in relation to baking.

: )

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Hi Anonymous. I have a link to the cookbook in my Murasaki Imo Chiffon post.You can check it out.
Yes, I got my pan at Kappabashi. How did you know about Kappabashi? :-) If I remember correctly, it is about $20+. Yes, it is more expensive than the Phoon Huat Duck brand...haha..but I don't like the shape of the Duck brand pan. Phoon Huat used to have some straight pans but quality is obviously different from the Japanese pans. The last time I went to Kappabashi, I came back with an overloaded luggage... Actually, you will be suprised, most of the stuff there are not so expensive especially considering that we don't get some of the items here..

Oh, one more thing, the molecular theory... most of them are my own postulation,it is interesting to use them for reference but like I said, there are some very experienced bakers out there who can advice better... :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Hi

Oh...I saw the book 超Q潤戚風 ..may consider ordering it then. Did you order from online or from kino? I have quite a number of books on yet really to try all. I attended the Bake 101 by Orange Chiffon is my fave. Going to try pandan chiffon next.

I feel chiffon is best eaten without any frostig or icing...I love the fluffiness of the cakes..Wonder of egg whites!

Haha..I know of this place Kappabashi though I have not been there. I am a fan of Japan..often like to travel there at least once a year (if possible). Baking and zakka stuff are my fave. Oh...could you take pictures of the pans...would like to kpo a bit?
My email at

Will consider buying the pans...must wait for the yen to weaken further :P

Nice blogging with you...


Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Hi Anonymous. Sure I will send you a picture of the pan. For the book, I remember seeing the Chinese translation at Kinokuniya. You can try to find it there. So you attended Christopher's Chiffon Class, how was it? Have you ever attended Keiko's? I actually learnt about Kappabashi from Keiko and have been there twice already this year. You have to go...

Anonymous said...

Hi Hi

Ok..will check out the book at Kino.

Ya..Bake 101 is a good course. You will learn some tips from Christopher and really it works. I tried his orange chiffon and Japanese Chiffon Cheesecake. Both are successful at first attempts. : )

I learnt that Keiko has returned to no chance liao unless she comes again.

Oh..Kappabashi is a bakers' haven. Another place to shop for baking stuff is Taipei..yet to go too. Lots of baking stuff and the famous 24 hours bookstores with lots of baking/cooking books.

We will go crazy.... he he : P

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Anonymous, my pan looks like this... but at Kappabashi, they are cheaper.

Just make sure you choose a pan with a chimney that is much taller than the pan.
Taiwn: 成品书店,I like that too. But where do you get baking stuff in Taipei? I go there quite often, almost once every month.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link re the chiffon tin. This one doesn't has the standing legs. Thot that will be better. Is it aluminum? From the pic, seems like.

I have a few taiwan baking books and at the back of the book, there is a whole list of taiwan baking suppliers store. Also got to learn from some of the blogs...some of the bakers also go there and buy. Some are directly imported from Japan.

Wow so good...every month goes you buy books from is much cheaper. you read Japanese?
: )

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Hi.Yes, I do read Japanese. You are right, the books in Taiwan are very cheap.

The chiffon pans I bought don't feel like Aluminum, they are denser. When you get to Kappabashi, you will be spoilt for choice.


Related Posts with Thumbnails