Chocolate Chiffon Sponge Cake

This feather-light, very moist and decadently fudgey cake is an easy and quick-to-make go-to chiffon sponge. It’s gluten-free, dairy-free (without the whipped cream topping; see 1st footnote), and low in sugar.

Flavour options are in the footnotes. For a non-chocolate version, try my Chiffon Sponge Cake.

Makes: 24 small traybake portions, or 12-16 large wedge portions (depending on tin)

Ingredients
For the cake:

  • 220g gluten-free flour
  • 70g cocoa powder
  • 130g caster sugar (white or golden)
  • 2 tsp gluten-free baking powder (only required if your GF flour is plain, not self-raising)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 orange, 2 tsp finely grated zest only (rest of zest and all of juice saved for the topping)
  • 6 large eggs, separated (they should total 360g-380g when weighed in their shells)
  • 135ml (130g if weighing) vegetable oil
  • 170ml / 170g water
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Butter, to grease tin (or margarine / veg oil to keep it dairy-free)

For the topping:

  • 300ml double cream (for dairy-free, see the first footnote)
  • 50g icing sugar
  • Orange zest and juice (see Cake Ingredients);
    or, 2 tablespoons cocoa powder

Kit

  • A standard traybake pan 9x12″ / 23x30cm (24 portions)
    or, a round cake tin 9-10″ / 24-26cm diameter (12-16 larger portions)
  • Baking/parchment paper to line tin
  • 3 large mixing bowls
  • Electric mixer (hand-held or stand)
  • Spatula or large metal spoon for folding
  • Piping bag and nozzle (optional)

Steps
Cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 C (160 C fan-assisted). Grease your tin and line the bottom and sides with baking paper. Get 3 mixing bowls ready.
  2. In the first bowl, mix the flour, cocoa, caster sugar, baking powder (if using), spices, and orange zest together with a fork.
  3. In the second bowl, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks, starting at low speed and gradually increasing to high speed as the colour and texture change.
  4. In the third bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the oil, water, and vanilla until doubled in volume and fluffy; again, start at low speed and gradually increase to high speed (no need to clean the beaters from the whites).
  5. Add the yolk mixture to the dry ingredients and fold together until fully combined and smooth.
  6. Add one-third of the egg whites, folding briskly, to loosen the mixture. Then add the rest of the whites and fold carefully until no white lumps or streaks remain.
  7. Pour the batter into your prepared tin and smooth the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes, turning the tin halfway through for even baking, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool the cake in the tin (GF cakes can be too delicate to turn out of the tin while still hot).

Topping:

  1. When the cake has fully cooled, whip the double cream at low speed to soft peaks. Gradually add the icing sugar, orange juice and remaining orange zest (or cocoa powder), and continue whipping at medium-low speed until it comes up to stiff peaks. Spread the topping on the cake using a spatula, or, use a piping bag with the decorative nozzle of your choice.

Dairy-Free
If you require dairy-free, skip the whipped cream topping, and instead dust the cooled cake with some icing sugar.
Or, you could mix the orange juice and remaining zest with 50g caster (instead of icing) sugar, and heat/reduce on the hob until you have a syrup. Use as with a lemon drizzle, i.e., poke the just-baked cake deeply all over with a skewer and pour the syrup over.

Flavouring Alternatives
For interesting alternate flavours, you can use 2 tsp instant coffee or 2 tsp almond extract, instead of – or in addition to – the orange zest in the cake. (A touch of coffee simply enhances the chocolate; use 4 tsp instant coffee if you want to taste it in the final cake.) Whisk with the egg yolks in Cake Step 4.

With these options, I might sprinkle flaked almonds, white chocolate chips, honeycomb chips, or butterscotch chips over the top; or use the cocoa version of the topping instead of orange.

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