Strawberry Shortcake Chiffon Sandwiches

I can’t tell if I am late to the whole chiffon cake sandwich craze or not, but I can tell you that I am pretty obsessed with the concept! Aa chiffon cake is traditionally baked in a round cake pan with a little chimney running through it – the chimney allows for even air and heat circulation throughout the batter during the baking process, allowing the inside of the cake to bake as consistently as the exterior of it. This also is why a typical chiffon or angel food cake is baked to resemble a giant wheel. The cool thing about the chiffon cake sandwich is that it takes full advantage of this. By cutting the cake into 8 slices, you have 8 trapezoid-shaped wedges, which when cut into and stuffed, resemble sandwich slices! I only really fell in love with the idea of making these cute little sandwiches when I was watching a video about a bakery in Kyoto called Coconotane, which specializes in gluten-free chiffon cakes and chiffon cake sandwiches! For this recipe, I figured I would have a go at making some chiffon cake sandwiches of my own, but also incorporating one of the very first cupcake flavors that I ever made into them, being strawberry shortcake. More specifically, Chloe Coscarelli’s chocolate strawberry shortcake cupcakes. I figured since the very first three cupcakes I made were three of Chloe’s winning cupcakes on Cupcake Wars, I would bring it back full circle by making those three the first three I am transforming into these little chiffon sandwiches! Hilariously, Chloe’s recipe is vegan(as were my rendition of them back in the day when I first started baking), but for this recipe, I decided to make a traditional chiffon cake, but also offering a gluten-free alternative as well.

For the chiffon cake, I am offering recipes for both a vanilla and a chocolate chiffon, since a Japanese shortcake would usually feature a vanilla cake, but the chocolate option is there as an homage to Chloe’s chocolate strawberry shortcake cupcakes. A traditional chiffon is made with a ton of whipped egg whites and egg yolks, which are lightly folded through flour, oil, and sugar to create an airy, light sponge. Since we are baking these cakes in a traditional 8-inch chimney’d chiffon cake mold, there are a few things that need to be noted. I highly recommend using a fluted or bottom-removable chiffon tin, since that would make unmolding the cake a lot less…dramatic. Additionally, you do not need to use oil in these kinds of pans! Doing so will cause the cake the collapse upon itself when baking, which is obviously not optimal! Another thing is the baking time. Traditional chiffon cakes take close to an hour to bake. If you want to fast-track, that, you can try to use smaller molds(which can cut down the time to anywhere between 30-40 minutes), or if the shape of it is not a priority to you, you can also just bake the batter in a flat sheet(which actually then reduces the time to 18-22 minutes!). However, since we want that pretty wheel shape to make our sandwiches with, we will stick to a baking time of about 50 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Another thing to note about chiffon cake batter, beyond the baking time, is the temperamental nature of the batter. Anything that relies on whipped eggs as a leavening agent(souffles, pate choux, dutch baby pancakes, CHIFFON CAKES), have a tendency to sink or collapse when taken out the oven, or when the oven is opened prematurely. That is because the drastic change in temperature causes the air to escape out of the batter faster. Chiffon cakes baked in the chimney molds are notorious for collapsing. I remember my friend from college baking a chiffon cake, and hers ended up more like a fluffy pancake because it just completely collapsed. In that sense, a chiffon cake can be very unforgiving, because it can collapse from either being under-baked, or from a drastic temperature change. To avoid the former, please stick to the baking times I gave in the previous paragraph. To avoid the latter, after the recommended baking times are up, turn off your oven, crack open the door slightly, and let the cakes sit in the opened oven for at least 5-10 minutes(5 minutes for smaller baking molds, 10 minutes for the 8-inch baking molds, and if you are smart and using the sheet tray method, you won’t even need to rest the cakes in the oven at all after baking).

The last thing about the chiffon cakes is the resting time. Letting the cake rest, upside down, at room temperature after removing them from the oven is crucial. The resting allows the cakes to retain their structure, so the final cooled down cake is still airy and fluffy. By resting the cakes upside down, this also helps prevent the cakes from collapsing into itself, and really optimizes on all of that height you helped build up in the crumb structure by folding in those whipped egg whites. Traditional chiffon cakes require a lot of patience when making, since there is so much baking and resting involved in the process. Although this can be grating, and you might find yourself frustrated at how long this recipe takes, another way to think about it is that you have plenty of time to make the fillings, clean up your kitchen, do simple chores like taking out the trash or mopping up the floor. Heck, you even have enough time in a 50 minute frame to get a quick workout in! This recipe gives you a ton of time to just multi-task and that’s another way of looking at it!

The only really technical aspect of this recipe is the chiffon cake. If you want to make your life easier, you can always just bake the batter in a flat shallow sheet tray and then cut out squares to make a literal chiffon cake sandwich. However, I wanted to try making these the way they are usually done, since I wanted that gorgeous wedge shape, which is perfect for not only showing off how well-baked the cake is, but also the fun fillings inside of it. The fresh cream is super straightforward, being a chantilly cream, while the fresh strawberries are pretty upfront as well, only requiring a little bit of a glaze being brushed on them after slicing them, just so that they do not dry out over time! Overall, these little chiffon cake sandwiches can be a potential test of your patience, but my recommendation is bake multiple chiffons at a time, since then you can sink essentially an hour of baking time into multiple chiffons at once, and then you can create your own plethora or essentially buffet of chiffon cake sandwiches!

Makes 8 sandwiches:
For the chiffon cake:
6 eggs, separated
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup canola oil
a pinch of salt
1/4 cup milk
1 cup all-purpose flour(replace with 2/3 cups mochiko, 1/4 cup tapioca starch, and 1/4 tsp xanthan gum if going gluten-free)
1/4 cup cocoa powder*(only for the chocolate version)
1 tsp baking powder

In a bowl, whip the egg whites with sugar to stiff peaks. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks with vanilla, canola oil, salt, and milk until combined. Into the egg yolk mixture, sift the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder. Fold into that the egg whites to form your batter. Pour the batter into an 8-inch chiffon cake mold. Bake at 350 degrees F for 50 minutes first. Then turn off the oven, and let the cake sit in the oven for 10 minutes, with the oven door slightly opened. Finally, take the cake out, flip upside down, and allow the cake to cool completely, while upside down, at room temperature.

Once the cake is fully cooled, scrape the sides away from the tin using an offset spatula. Then gently remove the cake from the pan. Cut the cake into 8 pieces, cutting each piece halfway down the middle to create slits. Store these cakes in an airtight container.

For the fresh cream:
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
a pinch of salt
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

Whip everything to stiff peaks. Transfer to a piping bag. Keep refrigerated until time to use.

To garnish:
2 tbsp apricot jam
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp water
a pinch of salt
Fresh strawberries
Confectioner’s sugar

In a pot, heat up the apricot jam, sugar, water, and salt. Once the sugar and salt are dissolved into the water, strain out any apricot solids. Allow the liquid to cool down before using. Cut the strawberries in half. Pipe the cream into the little pockets you cut out of the cakes first. Then add in the strawberries. brush on the glaze. Finish with more cream and the confectioner’s sugar.

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