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From the Chronicle Kitchen
Chocolate Cakes

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Chinese Five-Spice Chocolate Chiffon Cake

Cinnamon, aniseed, cloves, ginger, and fennel seed may sound like an odd combination. Not so. These spices are ground together to make Chinese five-spice powder. The blend adds a mysterious, subtle, and appealing flavor to chocolate and to this moist, light chiffon cake. The seasoning is also sprinkled lightly over the glaze. Look for jars of the powder in the spice section of supermarkets.

Chiffon cakes bake in a large ungreased tube pan. This allows the cake to climb up the pan and remain there while it cools. I once greased a pan by mistake. The cake rose extremely high, then slid down the pan and collapsed as soon as it came out of the oven. Chiffon cakes cool in the pan upside down so they do not collapse under their own weight. This tall cake is delicate when warm, but quite sturdy once it cools.

Makes 12 servings

Mixing time 15 minutes for cake and glaze
Baking 325°F (165°C/gas mark 3) for about 1 hour and 10 minutes

1 3/4 cups (205 g) cake (soft-wheat) flour
1/2 cup (45 g) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups (300 g) sugar
2 1/2 tsp five-spice powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (120 ml) canola or corn oil
7 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup (180 ml) water
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (essence)
1 tsp cream of tartar
6 oz (170 g) milk chocolate, finely chopped

1/3 cup (75 ml) heavy (double) cream
1 tsp corn syrup
6 oz (170 g) milk chocolate, chopped
1 tsp vanilla extract (essence)

3/4 tsp five-spice powder for dusting
12 dark chocolate strips, each about 2 by 3/8 in (5 by 1 cm)

Preheat the oven to 325°F (165°C/gas mark 3). Have ready a 9 1/2- or 10-in (24- or 25-cm) fixed-bottom tube pan with sides at least 3 3/4 in (9.5 cm) high. Do not use a nonstick pan. Line the bottom with parchment (baking) paper.

To make the cake: Sift the flour, the cocoa powder, 1 cup (200 g) of the sugar, the five-spice powder, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Use a large spoon to make an indentation in the center of the flour mixture and add the oil, egg yolks, water, and vanilla. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the mixture until smooth and thick, about 3 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed. Set aside.

In a clean large bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on low speed until the whites are foamy and the cream of tartar dissolves. On medium speed, beat the egg whites until they look shiny and smooth and the movement of the beaters forms lines in the mixture. When you stop the mixer and lift the beaters, the beaten whites should cling to them. On high speed, slowly beat in the remaining 1/2 cup (100 g) sugar, 1 tbsp at a time, then beat for 1 minute until the whites form firm glossy peaks. Use a rubber spatula to fold the milk chocolate into the reserved egg yolk mixture. Stir about one-third of the beaten whites into the yolk mixture, then fold in the remaining whites until no white streaks remain. Scrape the batter into the tube pan and gently smooth the top.

Bake until the top feels firm when lightly touched and any small cracks look dry, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Invert the pan onto a narrow-necked bottle (a full wine bottle is stable and works well) and let cool for 1 hour. Run a thin knife around the sides and center tube to loosen the cake. Invert the cake onto a wire rack so it is bottom up. Cool the cake thoroughly on the wire rack.

To make the glaze: In a medium saucepan, heat the cream and corn (golden) syrup over low heat until the cream is hot. Do not let the mixture boil. Remove the pan from the heat, add the milk chocolate, and let it sit in the hot cream mixture for about 30 seconds to soften. Whisk the glaze until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Stir in the vanilla. Use a thin metal spatula to spread the glaze over the top of the cake, letting it drip down the sides. Let the glaze firm for about 1 hour.

Put the five-spice powder in a small strainer and dust it lightly and evenly over the glaze. Use a spoon to lay one chocolate strip on the glaze, then lay another strip across it. Arrange five more pairs of strips over the top of the cake. Slip a large metal spatula under the cake and slide it onto a serving plate. The cooled cake is sturdy and easy to move. Use a serrated knife to cut the cake into slices.

The cake can be covered and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Purchase Chocolate Cakes.

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Peter Perez
Senior Marketing Manager



  • Melissa February 10, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    Looks delicious! will definitely be trying this!


  • brianna February 10, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    This recipe definitely makes me want to try it, but I love chocolate in all its forms.


  • Erica February 10, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    I love Chinese five spice powder, but I’d never think of putting it in a cake. Sounds strangely delicious!


  • Jeanne Duperreault February 10, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    I absolutely would try this. Sounds divine.I bake a lot and have tried another 5-spice cake–a mocha loaf from Anna Olson, which is quite wonderful.The chocolate and 5-spice combo work well together. Maybe I’ll try this one on the weekend!


  • Amy February 10, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    This sounds delicious! I love spicy chocolate and definitely want to try this recipe.


  • Jennifer Orr February 10, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    I would hate to stumble on this cake without warning (I sort of like my chocolate cake to be chocolate cake) but I’d definitely try baking it. The spices would bring out the wonderful bitterness…


  • Rachel February 10, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Oh, this sounds heavenly. Well-written recipe and lovely photo!


  • Jessica February 10, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    I’d like to try this one. It sounds more exciting than a plain old chocolate cake, but not so complicated and unusual as to be difficult. I love having the metric conversions in recipes.


  • lisa February 10, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    Sounds interesting. I like spicy food, so I’m thinking I’d like it.


  • jen February 10, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    I can’t wait to try baking this for my next work event. I love making something a little out of the ordinary and this looks fantastic.


  • Cody February 10, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    I actually hadn’t heard of five-spice powder until now… after looking it up, it does sound intriguing. Mixing that with chocolate sounds awesome as well.


  • Kerri February 11, 2010 at 10:02 am

    What a great recipe…and just in time for Lunar New Year this Sunday! I’ll definitely be trying this out at my friend’s bakery.


  • tracey February 11, 2010 at 10:15 am

    I dunno–I printed it out, *maybe* I’ll make it for the Chinese New Year dinner we’re having with the family this Sat., but I’m not sure I have the time. I feel like I ought to give this combination 5-spice/chocolate a try, though.


  • Judy February 11, 2010 at 10:41 am

    This will be perfect for Chinese New Year’s dessert this weekend. I’d love to win a copy of this book (anything chocolate!!)


  • Alex February 11, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    Sounds interesting, but I have to admit that in a book full of chocolate cakes, this angel-food-type cake would be low on my list of ‘must bakes.’ However, if I wanted a light, low-fat recipe (without glaze), I would consider.

    That being said, the recipe is well written, and the photo is attractive. Finally, I am thrilled to see measurements given in US and metric measurements! Bravo Chronicle- any good baker knows metric is the “weigh” to go!


  • Marc February 11, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    oh, I like the 5-spice with chocolate. I have to make a choco cake this weekend too, but I am making Reine de Saba. I might through in some 5-spice to tweak it a bit.


  • Peter February 12, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    Alex, we appreciate the call out re: metric along with imperial measurements for ingredients in our cookbooks – we agree!


  • Peter February 18, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Thanks for posting Cody–and glad that so many posters for this recipe were intrigued by how great five spice flavoring can be for chocolate. Cody, look for a copy of the book in your mailbox shortly. And as always thanks to all for posting!


  • Jeanne Duperreault February 19, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    Just thought I would let everyone know that I tried this recipe tonight, serving it with vanilla ice cream, after a Thai meal at a restaurant. It was fantastic and my friends loved it. Great recipe.


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