Truthfully, I never really understood yellow cake. I just assumed it was a vanilla cake with a lot of yellow food coloring in it. But turns out, yellow cake is not yellow from food coloring, but from the usage of butter in place of oil, and egg yolks. An abundance of egg yolks results in a naturally more-yellow batter, while also giving the cake a rich flavor. I usually see yellow cake paired with chocolate frosting, and to my understanding, the rationale for this classic combination comes from the yellow cake being rich and custard-like, and the chocolate adding a pleasant contrast to that richness, adding in bitterness and earthiness. That and the visual color contrast of a bright yellow cake with dark chocolate frosting is very nostalgic to so many people. Which is why I had to bastardize it, and go full-yellow. I wanted to just embrace the yellow color of the cake, while also going in with other yellow or gold ingredients to make the cake look like a block of gold. In place of the dark chocolate, I used dulcey/blonde chocolate, which is made by slowly roasting white chocolate until it has a caramel flavor to it. I also used lucuma, which is a fruit dubbed “Peruvian gold” and is like a cousin to the persimmon fruit. It tastes like caramel, and I used it specifically to reinforce the blonde chocolate’s caramel notes. The beautiful thing about caramel is that it has a subtle bitterness from the sugars cooking low and slow, so it does work nicely in place of chocolate! With this cake, it has a celebratory feel, paying homage to a traditional classic, but in a new way.
For this recipe, I went with my standard chiffon cake recipe, but using essentially double the egg yolks that I normally would use to really lock in that yellow color. I also substituted the oil with melted butter, and also used a little bit of Japanese corn powder to REALLY lock in the yellow color in the sponge. The corn does not really add a ton of flavor to the cake, but it does help the final sponge taste that much better with the caramel notes we have from the lucuma and the blonde chocolate. I soaked the cake with a lucuma milk, just to help keep the cake from drying out, and with the buttercream, we have a Swiss buttercream, which is made by whisking egg whites and sugar over a double boiler first, then once the sugar is fully melted, whipping the egg whites in a stand mixer until they reach stiff peaks. From there, you add in your butter and other flavorings. In this case, I melted down blonde chocolate and lucuma, and added that to the buttercream. I sprinkled lucuma powder throughout the cake to give it that lucuma flavor, and garnished the cake with some gold leaf and sprinkles to finish. I really wanted this cake to have a celebratory feel to it, since the only times I would usually ever see a yellow cake is at a birthday party. For me, I try to make every day a celebration, since I am just grateful for how far I have come in life, and how exciting my future will be! I have come a long way, and from a really dark place back in 2016, and for me to be living the life I am now, it brings me a lot of joy, and things to be gracious for!
For the yellow chiffon cake:
3 eggs, separated
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 tbsp Japanese corn powder(can use freeze-dried corn powder too)
1/2 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
In a bowl, whip together the egg whites with the vanilla and half of the sugar to stiff peaks. In another bowl, whisk together the egg yolks with remaining sugar and butter, whipping them together until light and airy. Sift into the egg yolk mixture your flour, corn powder, baking powder, and salt. Then fold into that the whipped egg whites to form your batter. Spread the batter into a lined 1/4-sheet tray and bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes. Allow the cake to cool down before cutting out 3 5-inch disks from it, using cake scraps if necessary.
For the lucuma-blonde chocolate Swiss buttercream:
2 egg whites
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2oz blonde chocolate
a pinch of salt
2 tbsp milk
1/4 cup lucuma powder
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature or softer
Over a double boiler, whisk the egg whites with granulated sugar until the sugar is fully dissolved into the whites. Transfer to a mixer and whisk the eggs until they form into a stiff peak meringue. Whisk into that two sticks of the butter first, until combined to form your Swiss buttercream. Over the same double boiler, melt down the blonde chocolate with salt, milk, and lucuma powder first. Once everything is melted down, take the bowl off heat and whisk in half a stick of your room temperature butter until combined. Then whisk the butter-milk-chocolate mixture into the Swiss buttercream to flavor it.
For the lucuma soak:
1/4 cup milk
1 tbsp lucuma powder
a pinch of salt
Mix together. Keep refrigerated.
Golden pearl sprinkles
Start by brushing the soak onto your three cake layers. Place down a regular disk of cake first, then spread on an even layer of buttercream, using about 1/4 cup of buttercream in that layer, and sprinkle on 1/2 a tsp of lucuma powder. Do the same with the scrap layer, and then finally, the final layer. Spread any remaining buttercream you have around the cake, scraping it with a bench scraper to create an even layer. Freeze the cake for at least 1 hour before attempting to decorate. I used any spare buttercream that I scraped off, plus golden pearl sprinkles and gold leaf, to garnish, along with a dusting of the lucuma powder.