…or can you?
Do any of you remember those commercials for Chiffon margarine? “If you think it’s butter, but it’s not, it’s Chiffon.”
Chiffon margarine was touted as being so tasty, that even Mother Nature could be fooled by it:
One fine day a few weeks ago, I had a hankering to bake a cake. But baking a cake without sugar — or with very little sugar — can be quite a challenge. You see, while sugar doesn’t provide significantly much in the way of nutrients, it does add to the tenderness and moistness of baked goods…which can make no-sugar or low-sugar baking a challenge.
I got to thinking that my most successful (as in yummy flavor and texture) sugar-free or low-sugar baked goods thus far have been Pumpkin Cake, Carrot Cake, and a brownie recipe I sometimes make that calls for separating the eggs and melting chocolate with (no-sugar-added) apricot preserves. In Pumpkin Cake, the pumpkin helps keep the cake moist and tender. In Carrot Cake, it’s the carrots and applesauce that help keep the cake moist and tender. And for the brownies, it’s separating the eggs and whipping up the whites that help give the brownies volume and tenderness.
Looking for inspiration, I started Googling and looking through my cookbooks, and after some bit of thought, I decided to try making a Lemon Chiffon Cake. A cross between a more traditional batter cake and an angel food cake, as Wikipedia tells us:
The chiffon cake was invented in 1927 by Harry Baker, a California insurance salesman turned caterer. Baker kept the recipe secret for 20 years until he sold it to General Mills. At this point the name was changed to “chiffon cake” and a set of 14 recipes and variations was released to the public in a Betty Crocker pamphlet published in 1948.
The high oil and egg content creates a very moist cake, and as oil is liquid even at cooler temperatures, chiffon cakes do not tend to harden or dry out as traditional butter cakes might. This makes them better-suited than many cakes to filling or frosting with ingredients that need to be refrigerated or frozen, such as pastry cream or ice cream. Chiffon cakes tend to be lower in saturated fat than butter cakes, potentially making them healthier than their butter-heavy counterparts. The lack of butter, however, means that chiffon cakes lack much of the rich flavor of butter cakes, and hence they are typically served accompanied with flavorful sauces or other accompaniments, such as chocolate or fruit fillings. Lemon chiffon cake may included the juice and zest of lemons.
I had some lemons on hand, and so using other recipes for Chiffon cake that I found as inspiration, I decided to see if I couldn’t fashion a Lemon Chiffon Cake that, while not completely sugar free, would be so reduced in sugars that it wouldn’t wreak havoc with my blood sugar levels.
And peoples, let me tell you — it was YUMMY!
A few tips and tools that will make baking this cake much easier:
- Egg Separator: It will make separating eggs be less of a chore. Be sure and separate your eggs in one dish — I hook my egg separator to a mug — and then put the separate yolks and whites into their own bowls as you go. Trust me on this: if you don’t separate your eggs in their own container, you will get down to the last egg or next to the last egg, and then your yolk will break and will contaminate all your egg whites.
- Microplane or Zester Tool: While you can certainly zest a lemon with a knife or fine grater, it’s MUCH easier and faster with a Microplane or similar zesting tool.
- Angel Food Pan: Chiffon cakes bake in an angel food tube pan.
- Working with Egg Whites: To ensure the whites beat up fluffy and firm, you must make sure that absolutely NO oil, grease, or any other kind of fat comes into contact with the whites. Toward this end, make sure that your hands and mixer beaters are scrupulously clean. Use a glass or stainless steel bowl for the egg whites (even a thoroughly cleaned plastic bowl could still contain traces of oils and fats).
Separating the eggs takes some time, but I felt like puttering about in the kitchen that day. I just turned on something fun on TV and went to separating. 🙂 And, the cake tastes SO yummy, I promise you, it’s worth it!
I hope that one fine day, you’ll decide to give my Lemon Chiffon Cake a try. 🙂 I promise you, it smells and tastes so yummy, you’ll be doo-wopping in your kitchen 😉
(Almost Sugar-Free) Lemon Chiffon Cake (Makes 12 to 16 generous servings)
For the Cake:
- 2 cups all purpose flour (or 2 1/4 cups cake flour)
- 1/3 cup granulated white sugar
- 2/3 cup PLUS 1/2 cup Splenda Granular (or other favorite artificial sweetener that measures cup for cup like sugar)
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Juice from one lemon (approximately 2 – 3 tablespoons) PLUS enough cold water to equal 3/4 cup
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used Canola)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- Grated zest (peel) of one medium to large lemon (approximately a tablespoon)
- 7 eggs, separated (suggest extra large or jumbo eggs)
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
For Lemon Glaze:
- 2 cups Splenda Granular (or other favorite artificial sweetener that measures cup for cup like sugar)
- 5 to 6 tablespoons cornstarch
- Zest of one medium to large lemon
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted
- Juice from one lemon
- Additional lemon juice and/or water as needed for desired consistency
- Move oven rack to lowest or next to lowest position (needs to be in the bottom 1/3 of your oven). Preheat oven to 325F.
- Carefully separate eggs, with whites in a medium to large bowl and yolks in a medium to large bowl. NOTE: Eggs will separate easiest when cold, but will whip up with the most volume once they’ve lost the chill from the ‘fridge. Also see tips above about working with egg whites.
- Beat egg yolks at medium to medium high speed of electric mixer until they’re thick and lemon-colored.
4. With mixer on low (below medium) speed, mix in baking powder, salt, vanilla, lemon zest, and oil. Mix in sugar and Splenda. Mix in flour and lemon juice-water mixture.
5. Add cream of tarter to egg whites. With a clean set of beaters, whip egg whites at high speed until fluffy and stiff peaks form.
6. Gradually and carefully fold egg yolk batter mixture into the beaten egg whites. Stir mixture in gently and in only one direction — this helps maintain the airiness of the egg whites.
7. Pour into an ungreased angel food (tube) cake pan.
8. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 mintues, or until top springs back when touched lightly. (I turned my oven off for the last 5 or 10 minutes of baking.) Immediately turn pan upside down on a heatproof funnel or bottle. Let hang until cake is COMPLETELY cool — about two hours.
9. Loosen the side of the cake with a knife or long metal spatula and remove from pan. Invert the cake onto a plate or platter. (As with an angel food cake, the “top” of the cake actually becomes the “bottom” of the cake.)
10. To prepare glaze: In a blender or small food processor, whiz together Splenda and cornstarch until it forms a fine powder. Place in small to medium-sized bowl. Stir in melted butter and lemon zest. Stir in lemon juice from zested lemon. Add in additional water and/or lemon juice, a teaspoon to a tablespoon at a time, until glaze reaches desired consistency. Spread over top of cake, allowing it to drizzle down the sides.
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