Want something a little different for Christmas Day? You might like to try this White Christmas Eggnog Chiffon Cake.
A chiffon cake, for those unfamiliar with it, is one made without the usual butter, instead using vegetable oil, eggs, sugar, flour and baking powder. The characteristic light texture is created by beating the egg whites separately and then folding them into the cake batter. The result is a particularly light and fluffy cake. And, the bonus is that with its high oil content, it doesn’t harden or dry out in the fridge like butter-based cakes can.
This particular version is a layer cake, filled with an unusual eggnog inspired cream and topped with lashings of Italian meringue. It’s decadence personified and a delectable alternative to the usual Christmas dessert. I discovered the recipe in New Zealand’s Mindfood magazine (December 2019) and decided instead to use it as a cake for my brother’s 60th birthday.
The cake was as delicious as it looked in the magazine and I was totally in love with its fluffy, soft texture. But, there were a couple of issues (quite apart from the fact that it said the cake would serve 8 – actually, it was more like 10-12!) Firstly, for the Italian meringue, the recipe said to boil the sugar syrup for four minutes rather than provide a cooking temperature. Long story short, the sugar cooked for too long and the meringue turned into nougat! Lesson learned. Unless you’re a gun with gauging doneness by way of the cold water test, you really need a thermometer – I’ve included the temperature you need to aim for in the recipe. The way the meringue was made was also somewhat different to the standard recipe in that it added sugar to the egg-whites prior to adding the sugar syrup. Not sure why it does this; I’d probably just stick with the stock standard method in the future – adding sugar syrup to plain whipped egg whites.
The other issue I had with the cake was the eggnog cream which was used to sandwich the layers. Firstly, I didn’t actually like the taste of it overly much (I found the combination of sour cream with nutmeg a bit odd); secondly, it just didn’t hold up as a stable filling. Once I took the cake out of the fridge and let it warm up to soften, the cream pretty much disappeared into the sponge. My feeling is, that with so much sponge (four layers), it really needs a firm buttercream filling. You could, of course, keep the eggnog flavourings, though personally I’d ditch the eggnog flavour and go with something tangy (either lemon or berry) to counteract the sweetness of the meringue. Obviously, you’d need the change the name of the cake! LOL.
Lest I’ve given you the impression this recipe is more trouble than it’s worth, let me assure you this was an absolute crowd pleaser, and it got hoovered up faster than you can say ‘ho, ho, ho’. It just needs a few tweaks, as far as I’m concerned, and it’ll be perfect. So, that said, whether you decide to keep this as a Christmas dessert recipe, or use it as inspiration for another kind of celebration cake, I’m sure you’ll be more than satisfied. Enjoy!
- 2-1/3 cups (275g) plain flour (I used organic strong)
- 1-1/3 cups (295g) caster (superfine) sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt flakes or 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup sunflower oil
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 5 eggs, separated
- 2 egg whites
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/2 cup thickened cream (or heavy cream)
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 tablespoon brandy
- 1 tablespoon icing sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 1-1/2 cups caster sugar, divided
- 1/3 cup water
- 3 large (4 small) egg whites, preferably fresh eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- Optional: 1/4 cup pearl sugar, or unsprayed fresh or dried flowers
- Lightly grease 2 x 18cm round cake tins, line the base and sides with baking paper - create a collar that sits above the side of the tin by a couple of inches, as the cake may rise higher than the tin.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F) - I decreased this to 170°C (340°F) to suit my oven.
- Sift the plain flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the sunflower oil, coconut milk and egg yolks and whisk until smooth (it will be very thick).
- Meanwhile, place all 7 egg whites and the cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and whisk until stiff peaks form.
- In 3 batches, fold the egg whites into the batter - you'll find the first batch will lighten the mixture, allowing you to easily fold the rest in. Try not to overmix.
- Divide the batter between the 2 tins and bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes (mine took 50), or until the cakes spring back when gently pressed and an inserted skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack lined with baking paper to cool completely.
- Place the thickened cream, sour cream, brandy and icing sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and whisk until stiff peaks form. Add the nutmeg and vanilla and mix to combine. Keep in the fridge until needed.
- Trim the top of each cake so they’re both level, then cut each cake in half horizontally. Put one of the cake halves on a cake stand, and spread 1/3 cup of the chilled cream mixture over top. Top with another cake half and repeat the process until you’ve used up all the cream mixture and cake halves (the top cake half should not have any cream on it). NB: I made sure that the tops of the two cakes were on the bottom and top of the finished cake to ensure the straight edges were in the middle.
- Refrigerate the cake to keep the filling chilled, wrapping the whole cake lightly in plastic wrap.
- Meanwhile, place 1 cup of the sugar in a small saucepan with water. Place over medium heat, stirring well to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil (then start on next step) and cook until the syrup reaches 116°C or 240°F.
- Once the sugar syrup starts boiling, place the egg whites into a clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, and then whisk on high speed until soft peaks form. Add the remaining caster sugar one spoonful at a time and whisk until the sugar is dissolved.
- With the mixer whisking, slowly pour the hot sugar syrup into the meringue, pouring it slowly and steadily down the side of the bowl to avoid hitting the whisk. Keep whisking until the meringue is cool (check by feeling the side of the bowl).
- As soon as the meringue has been made and is cool to the touch, spoon it over the chilled cake and spread to cover, creating swirls with an off-set spatula.
- Optional: Decorate with pearl sugar or fresh or dried flowers.
- Suggestion: To counteract sweetness, serve with fresh berries.
- The cake should be stored in the fridge because of the filling, but bring out around 15 minutes before serving to allow the cake to soften.
Food Photography Info: Canon 550D (EOS Rebel T2i); Sigma 30mm 1.4 DC ‘Art’ lens / Natural lighting