Chinese Bakery Rainbow Cake

Many people found it amusing when I said I was going to make my own birthday cake this year. It’s rather unusual isn’t it? My hubby gave me a slight wince when I told him, and asked if I was being serious. But if you know what you want and you know how to make it happen, I figure, why not right? With a cheerful and colorful vision of a Chinese style bakery cake in mind, I got to work creating the fluffy, fruity, and distinctively childlike cake of my dreams.

So what exactly is a Chinese-style cake? For those of you who might not know, Chinese style bakery cakes are sponge cake based and typically have a light, airy texture. The cakes are adorned with fresh or canned fruits and finished wish a simple whipped cream frosting. The cake gets it’s almost bouncy texture from a frothy and light meringue-based batter.

As I tend to like twists on the usual, I decided to create my birthday cake based on a cake called Happy Rainbow from a bakery in Hong Kong called Maxim’s Cake Shop. The cake is made from the traditional and favorite Chinese combination of sponge cake, fruit, and whipped cream, but with the aesthetic appeal bumped up a few notches (and minus the marshmallows).

The key to a pretty rainbow chiffon cake is 1.) to create a stiff meringue, and 2.) to be gingerly in handling the batter, and 3.) to measure the batter out accurately. As long as you have a stand mixer, there’s nothing to making a stiff meringue. Other than observing a peak on a properly stiffened meringue, you should also be able to turn the entire bowl of whipped meringue over you head without it falling down…if you are feeling adventurous, try it!

Since a small dab of gel food coloring is added to each 1/5 portion of this cake’s batter, it’s very important that the cake maker be gentle in folding in the gel coloring, as more remaining air bubbles in the batter equals a fluffier cake. Measuring out the cake batter into 5 exactly equal amounts not only helps the cake layers look more beautiful, but also helps the cakes to cook evenly so that some layers don’t end up dryer than others. A common kitchen scale and several pushes on the “tare” button is the best way to make this happen.

It’s also important to paper towel-blot any of the sliced fruit you use in this recipe to remove any excess moisture off the fruit’s surface. If the fruit isn’t dried well, the colored fruit juices will leave an unpleasant, streaky appearance against the whipped cream frosting. For best results, place sheets of paper towel above and below the sliced fruits the night before you plan on putting the cake together. For the same reason, it’s also a good idea to use fruits that are relatively firm, not overly ripe or mushy.

I enjoyed my pretty slice of Chinese Bakery Rainbow Cake with some of Harney & Sons’ Birthday Tea this year. The experience made me feel like a happy little 5-year-old again, just as I had wanted it to. Another wonderful tea to serve with this light and lovely cake is some flowery Jasmine Tea, which will bring out the cake’s gentle vanilla, almond, and lemon flavors. And with that, I’d like to extend a sincere thank you to my followers and readers, especially those who took time out to wish me Happy Birthday this year! Wish you were here to share a slice of cake and cup of tea with me!

Chinese Bakery Rainbow Cake

Makes 1-6″ cake. You can easily make an 8″, 9″, or 10″ cake by doubling the ingredients and adding to the baking time. 

Ingredients:

{Cake}

1 cup sifted cake flour

1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp sugar

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil

4 eggs

1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp cold water

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp almond extract

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

5 colors of gel food coloring-pink, orange, yellow, green, and purple

{Whipped Cream Frosting}

2 1/2 cups heavy cream

2 packets whip cream stabilizer

3 Tbsp powdered sugar

1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice powder (optional)

{Garnishes}

fruits of your choice, sliced 1/4″ thick (I used organic strawberries, mango, canned pineapple slices-cut in half, and kiwi), blotted well with paper towels

1 tsp apple jelly

Equipment:

5- 6″ round aluminum cake pans

stand mixer

hand-held mixer with whisk attachment or large wire whisk

medium mixing bowl

5 medium bowls

scale

large rubber spatula

small rubber spatula or spoon

large cooling rack

toothpicks

cake spatula

paper towels

cake comb (optional)

pastry brush

6″ round cake board

Directions:

1.)  Make the Cake. Place egg whites in mixing bowl of the stand mixer. Set egg yolks aside in a medium bowl, then and add water, oil, and extracts. Place flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into another medium mixing bowl. Mix the dry ingredients with a wire whisk until evenly incorporated.

2.)  Add the cream of tartar to the egg whites, then turn the stand mixer on to medium speed and whip the egg whites to stiff peaks. This will take about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, add the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix together thoroughly with the hand-held mixer (or large whisk) until the batter is completely homogenous, smooth, and light.

3.)  Add half of the batter mixture to the stiff egg whites, being careful not to deflate them. Use a large spatula to fold the batter in with the egg whites until the mixture is just homogenous. Again, be careful in trying not to deflate the egg whites.

4.)  Divide the Batter. Place the just emptied bowl (that used to have the egg batter in it) on a scale. Tare the scale to zero, then gently pour all the cake batter into it. Weigh the total weight of the batter, then divide this number by 5. (Example: The total weight of my batter was 605 grams. 605 grams divided by 5 is 121 grams. Thus, you will use 121 grams of batter for each cake layer).

5.)  Place one medium bowl on the scale, then tare to zero, and measure out 1/5 of the batter weight. Repeat this step another 4 times.

6.)  Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. You will now have 5 bowls of cake batter. With toothpicks, add a small dab of food coloring into each bowl, one for each color. Using a small rubber spatula, fold the coloring into the batter carefully, again repeating the mixing process for each medium bowl of batter.

7.)  Bake the Cakes. Pour each colored portion of batter into an ungreased cake pan. Place all 5 cake pans in the middle rack of the oven and bake for about 12 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. When cakes are baked, move them to a large cooling rack to cool for 10 minutes.

8.)  Use a knife to loosen the edges of the cake from the pan, then use your hand to peel them out of the pan entirely. Place the cakes on the cooling rack once again, until they completely cool.

9.)  Make the Frosting. Pour whipped cream into a large mixing bowl. Add the whip cream stabilizer, powdered sugar, and lemon powder (if using) then whip with hand-held mixer to stiff peaks.

10.)  Construct the Cake. Place the purple layer down on a cake board first. Apply a thin layer of whipped cream frosting, then place the kiwi slices on top of the whip cream, just shy of the edge. Apply another thin layer of whipped cream to fill in the gaps between the fruit. Repeat this process with the green cake, then the pineapple, the yellow cake, then the mango, the orange cake, then the strawberries, and then finally top with the pink cake layer. Apply a coating of whipped cream frosting over all the sides and top of the cake, then place in fridge to chill.

11.)  Decorate the Cake. After 10 minutes of chilling, apply another thin layer of the whipped cream frosting all around the cake. Use a cake comb to create horizontal lines all around the edges, then decorate the top of the cake with extra fruit. Use a pastry brush to apply some warmed apple jelly on top of the fruits for extra shine. For best results, chill the cake for at least 2 hours before cutting and serving. Enjoy!

Tea of the Week: Harney & Sons’ Birthday Tea

Yesterday was my birthday, which for me meant a new Apple MacBook Pro (from my generous hubby), a colorful slice of Chinese-Style Bakery Cake (which I’ll be posting about tomorrow), and finally, a cheery glass of Harney and Sons’ Birthday Tea (a brew that tastes that much more delicious on your birthday!).

I discovered this blend a few years ago when searching for some kid-friendly, non-caffeinated blends. What makes the tea so appealing is its fantastically brilliant color, the result of blending hibiscus, rose hips, and decaf ceylon tea.

This Birthday Tea blend was created for John Harney’s 80th birthday, just a few years ago. If you didn’t know already, John Harney is the founder of Harney & Sons’ Tea Company, known by many to be a “missionary of tea.” John Harney died at the age of 83 earlier this year, but will be forever be remembered for his passion in helping to revive America’s appreciation for good quality, loose leaf teas.

Unlike most of Harney & Son’s blends, Birthday Tea is actually available in sample packets. The sample is perfect for tucking into a birthday card or gift…a thoughtful little way to make anyone’s birthday that much more festive.

Tasting Notes for Harney & Sons’ Birthday Tea:

BREWING TIPS:  Brew this tea with water at a full boil, and feel free to steep for as long as you want. I let the tea bags steep for a full 10 minutes, which helps the water to cool before pouring the brew over a large glass filled with ice. The tea is also delicious served hot.

THE BLEND:  A blend of hibiscus, rosehips, decaf ceylon, Raspberry flavor, spearmint, peppermint, marigold petals, and cornflowers.

THE SCENT:  Distinctively fruity, with strong raspberry and pomegranate essences.

THE STEEP:  Tart and fruity. Like drinking fruit punch without the added sugar. The tea is the most gorgeous color of ruby red crimson, the shade of a light red wine sangria. In fact, if you throw some berries (organic strawberries, raspberries) and fruit (mango, apples) to soak along with the blend it will be absolutely delicious.

GET IT:  The blend is available at the Harney & Sons’ website, in single serving loose leaf packets or a 20 sachet tin. You can also find the steep at Amazon.

FOOD PAIRING:  The best thing to eat with this blend is a fruit-based birthday cake! It would also be a bright complement to some fresh fruit salad or crisp green veggies, like a Chicken Cobb Salad or Rainbow Spring Rolls.