Ever since I started baking, chiffon has been my favorite cake to make, eat, and, especially, say. Light like an angel food cake but enriched with egg yolks and fat added, this moist dessert is delicate and light but with a little more substance and less sweetness. And while adding solid ingredients to chiffon would weigh it down, the cake is very receptive to alcohol. It’s the perfect vessel to impart a spirit’s more subtle flavors without the usual alcoholic wallop. I fell in love with the idea after tasting Alice Medrich’s chiffon cake imbued with vin santo, but recently I’ve been favoring the smoky touch of mezcal, my favorite tipple.
Pomelo is in season now, just in time to brighten up the chilly winter days. If you like grapefruit’s tang but not its bitterness, this is the fruit for you, and its fragrant zest makes it an ideal citrus fruit for baking. It’s also ideal for pairing with mezcal; the spirit’s smoke plays well off the pomelo’s perfumed zest in this cake, almost like a sophisticated paloma cocktail you can eat with whipped cream.
4 large eggs, separated
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
7 tbsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup mezcal
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Confectioners’ sugar, to garnish
Whipped cream, for serving
Heat the oven to 350° and spray an 8-inch round or fluted cake pan with nonstick baking spray. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. While whisking, slowly pour in 3 tablespoons granulated sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the beaten whites into a large bowl.
Add the egg yolks, the remaining 4 tablespoons granulated sugar, and the salt to the bowl of the stand mixer and whisk on medium-high speed until it triples in volume, turns pale yellow, and falls in a thick ribbon when lifted from the whisk attachment. While the yolks beat, remove the zest of the pomelo with a Mircoplane zester. Add the pomelo zest to the beaten egg yolks along with the mescal and oil and whisk until smooth. Pour over the beaten egg whites, sprinkle in the flour, and fold until evenly combined.
Scrape the cake batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the cake to a rack and let cool completely in the pan. Unmold the cake onto a cake stand and dust with confectioners’ sugar.
While the cake bakes and cools, use a paring knife to cut away the white pith of the pomelo, then cut between the membranes to release its segments into a bowl. When ready to serve the cake, cut it into wedges and serve with a dollop of whipped cream and pomelo segments.
This recipe was originally featured on our sister site, Saveur, on February 26, 2016