Here's a basic chiffon cake with a twist-- a full vanilla flavor and a thin, flexible shape, ideal for rolling around the chocolate-laced walnut mousse. If you want, caramelize a few walnut halves to perch on the roll and mark off the portions.
- The Cake:
- 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 large eggs, separated
- 1/2 cup vegetable or safflower oil
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 large egg whites
- The Mousse
- 1 2/3 cups walnuts, lightly toasted
- 2 tablespoons walnut or safflower oil
- 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- To finish the cake:
- Confectioner's sugar
- Unsweetened cocoa powder
- Caramelized Walnuts (optional)
- Sprigs of fresh mint (optional)
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 17 1/2 x 12 1/2-inch jelly roll pan with vegetable oil spray, line with parchment or waxed paper and spray the paper lightly all over.
2. Sift together 1 cup of the sugar, the flour, baking powder and baking soda onto a sheet of parchment or waxed paper; add the salt.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the yolks, oil, water and vanilla until blended. Add the dry ingredients gradually to the yolk mixture, whisking all the while; set aside.
4. Beat the 6 egg whites in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or work with a hand-held mixer. At low speed, beat the whites until they're foamy and form very soft peaks. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, beating until the whites are thick and shiny and hold peaks. (If you run a finger through the whites, it should leave a smooth, even path).
5. Fold about one third of the whipped egg whites into the yolk mixture to lighten it, then turn the yolk mixture into the whites and fold it in gently but thoroughly.
Baking the Cake:
Pour and scrape the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly with an offset spatula. Bake the cake for 10-12 minutes, until the edges of the cake just start to pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer the pan to a rack and allow the cake to cool to room temperature.
1. Put the walnuts and walnut oil in a food processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse, then process, scraping the bowl as needed, until the mixture forms a paste. Add the melted chocolate and process until thoroughly mixed. Set aside.
2. Put the yolks in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer and whisk them lightly by hand; set the bowl aside close at hand. Bring an inch or two of water to the boil in a saucepan that can be used as a double boiler in conjuncion with the bowl holding the yolks; reduce the heat and keep the water at the simmer while you proceed.
3. In a small saucepan, stir together the sugar and water and bring to the boil. Remove the pan from the heat and very gradually add the boiling syrup to the egg yolks, whisking the yolks steadily and without stop. Fit the bowl into the saucepan with the simmering water-- your makeshift double boiler, or bainmarie-- and continue to whisk until the mixture is foamy and hot to the touch.
4. Remove the bowl from the heat and fit it into the mixer. Working with the whisk attachment, beat the mixture on high speed until it is pale, holds a soft ribbon, and is cool to the touch. (If you have a water jacket for your mixer, you can speed the cooling process by filling it with ice cubes and cold water and beating the mixer over it). Using a rubber spatula, fold in the reserved walnut paste.
5. Whip the heavy cream until it holds soft peaks. Fold in delicately but thoroughly into the walnut mixture. Refrigerate the mousse, tightly covered with plastic wrap, until needed. You can make the mousse up to a day ahead and keep it well covered in the refrigerator; stir before using.
To Finish the Cake:
1. When you're ready to unmold the cake, sprinkle the top with a little confectioner's sugar and cover the cake with a piece of parchment or waxed paper. Place an inverted jelly-roll pan over the cake and turn the cake over, inverted pan and all. Remove the baking pan, peel off the paper the cake baked on, turn the paper over and reposition it over the cake. Invert the baking pan, press it against the cake and invert again so that the cake is right-side up and resting on the inverted jelly-roll pan. With the cake on top of the pan, trim the edges of the cake with a long thin knife.
2. Keeping a 17 inch side of the cake in front of you, spread the chilled mousse evenly over the cake, leaving an inch of cake bare along the side closest to you. Starting at the side closest to you, roll the cake up into an even roll, using the paper to help you move it along. When you come to the end of the roll (it will have only rolled over on itself about one and a half times), the edges of the paper should meet. Grab the edges and use the paper to scoot the cake into the center of the jelly-roll pan.
Chilling the Cake:
1. Use a fork to tuck the ends of the paper under the cake and chill the cake, on the baking pan, for at least 2 hours. Wrapped well, the cake can stay in the refrigerator overnight.
2. At serving time, cut 5 strips of waxed paper and lay them across the cake at evenly spaced intervals. Dust the cake with cocoa powder and just a hint of confectioner's sugar; lift off the paper. If you've caramelized walnuts, place 1 walnut on each of the undusted areas. Using 2 spatulas, lift the cake onto a serving platter and, if desired, garnish with sprigs of fresh mint.
The mousse-filled cake can be kept in the refrigerator overnight or wrapped airtight and frozen for 2 weeks. Thaw it in its wrapper in the refrigerator. It's best not to freeze the cake with the cocoa and walnut decorations-- they'll become soggy.
Recipe reprinted by permission of William Morrow & Company, Inc.&reg;. All rights reserved.
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