Welcome to this week's installment of the Heavenly Cake Bakers! This week's project is the Almond Shamah Chiffon Cake from "Rose's Heavenly Cakes" by Rose Levy Beranbaum. What's a "Shamah," you ask? It's the last name of one of Rose's friends, assistants and advisors, David Shamah. He challenged her to develop an almond chiffon cake recipe that could be baked in a flat pan rather than a tube pan.
I made mine into cake squares so they would be easier to sell at our office bake sale. (We're having an ongoing pre-Christmas bake sale to benefit a local charity.) So, I used two 8x8 inch square pans rather than two 9-inch round pans. And I used up the last of a batch of Orange Mousseline Buttercream (also one of Rose's recipes, but from her earlier book The Cake Bible) rather than using the whipped cream frosting. I'd had the frosting in the freezer for longer than I like to admit, and it was high time to use it up.
Here are the finished cakes:
By the way, I'm developing a theory of "simple cake decorating," which is that almost any pattern, repeated, will make your cake look nice. Even if the pattern isn't really all that regular. Sort of like what Elizabeth Zimmermann said about knitting, that a mistake repeated becomes a pattern.
And here's a picture of the crumb -- isn't it nice and light? I am beginning to think that I really prefer sponge cakes. I love that light, springy texture.
I followed the recipe closely. One change -- as I had some almond flour in the freezer, I decided to try toasting the almond flour rather than toasting and grinding up almonds. I just spread the flour in a skillet over medium heat, then turned the heat down and whisked frequently once the flour heated up. It was hard to tell by color when it was done -- it does turn a bit darker, but your nose is the very best guide. I stopped when it smelled nice and toasty, but not burnt. And I measured it by weight not volume.
Speaking of measuring by weight, this recipe calls for 8 egg yolks. Here are my egg yolks:
Notice there are 9 of them? I cracked open an extra egg just in case. And guess what? These weren't enough! I had to use another egg yolk (10 in all) to get up to the proper weight of egg yolks in the recipe! These were the proper size eggs (large), too. Egg yolks really ARE getting smaller these days.
Here's one of my two 8-inch square cakes just out of the oven. They smelled lovely. After cooling, I wrapped and refrigerated them for a couple of days until I was ready to assemble the cake.
Here is one of the cakes after trimming the top and bottom and edges, and syruping. My "cake board" is just a piece of an old cardboard box, covered with aluminum foil.
Lots of cake crumbs! I toasted them a bit, ground them up in the food processor, and put them into the freezer. There's a Nick Malgieri chocolate torte recipe that calls for cake crumbs...I think I have enough now.
On to the frosting. I had about 3 to 3 1/2 cups of frozen orange-flavored buttercream. Above is what it looked like when thawed, but still cold. Looks ghastly and curdled, right?
But, just put the bowl into a pan of warm water to bring it up to the right temperature, and beat it again, and Voila! It's buttercream again. Yes, this is really the same stuff, just a few minutes later.
So, what's the final review? I loved the texture of this cake -- airy, light, springy, yet tender. The almond flavor was subtle, maybe a bit too subtle to stand up to the orange buttercream (which I'd punched up with Grand Marnier and extra orange zest). I suspect the whipped-cream-and-jam frosting would have been better. Still, no complaints! And I think this is my first chiffon cake ever. It was fun!
And the pan was empty when I brought it home from work. Success!