Many years ago, my father was a member of Alberta’s farm organization Unifarm and my mother belonged to separate, but affiliated organization called Women of Unifarm. Farm women across Alberta united as early as 1914 in an effort to provide opportunities to meet socially and discuss issues of importance to women and the rural community.
The organization Unifarm has evolved over the last century to become the Wild Rose Agricultural Producers and onto its current form in 2013 as the Alberta Federation of Agriculture. The mandate I don’t think has really changed over the many years, which is to give a voice to the public and government regarding farming and ranching issues.
The Women of Unifarm organization disbanded in 2000 after 85 years of service to the rural communities. My mother is featured on the front cover of their very popular cookbook that the group developed, along with a number of neighbor ladies. The cover photo dates back to 1989, when they did a reprint of the original version. It is a cookbook that I often used when I was learning to cook and bake and is filled with over 1250 tried and true recipes.
The dedication of the book reads:
To our pioneer farm women
For preserving their favorite recipes
So that we can share them
With our families today
And with all the generations of the future
I love how this statement still applies today and how the modern age of social media can spread the love of timeless recipes.
I adapted this Poppyseed Chiffon recipe and is one of my favorite cake recipes. Chiffon cakes differ from angel food cake recipes, in that they utilize both the egg whites and egg yolks. The egg yolks lend a richness to the cake, while the beaten egg whites provide the lightness and volume to the batter. Here are a few tips for creating light and fluffy egg whites/meringue:
- Take the eggs out of the fridge for at least an hour and bring up to room temperature. This will help increase the volume of the beaten egg whites.
- Make sure that absolutely no egg yolks get into the egg whites
- Keep your beaters are completely clean and free of any oils.
You can use the egg shell to egg shell method of separating the egg yolks or using your hand to strain out the egg whites, but I prefer to use my simple, cheap egg yolk separator. It is a lot more fail-proof and I don’t get icky hands.
I actually measured my 7 egg whites and found that they equalled exactly one cup. I did use my farm fresh large eggs, which you can find in your local grocery store.
I use a footed pan with a removable bottom. Never grease the inside of the pan when making a chiffon or angel food cake. The pan needs to be dry to help the batter rise and not collapse, As soon as the cake is baked (use a long skewer to test for doneness), remove from oven and invert and let cool completely. Use a knife and run along the inside of the pan onto a plate and then frost with either the lemon icing or buttercream or whipped icing.
This lovely cake was then boxed and up and delivered to my sister-in-law, who has three teenage sons and doesn’t often have anyone to make HER a cake. She, in turn, gifted me with my favorite lemon squares.
LEMON POPPYSEED CHIFFON CAKE
½ cup poppy seeds
¾ cup cold water
2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 ½ cups sugar
1 tsp. salt
Zest from one lemon
½ cup cooking oil (I use canola oil)
2 tsp. vanilla
7 egg yolks, unbeaten
1 cup egg whites
½ tsp. cream of tartar
1 cup icing sugar
Zest from 1 lemon
3-4 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
For Cake: Soak poppy seeds in cold water. Sift dry ingredients into large bowl. Make a well and add oil, vanilla, egg yolks, poppy seeds and water. Beat until very smooth. Mix egg whites and cream of tartar together and beat until they form very stiff peaks. Gently fold into egg yolk batter. Bake in ungreased 10-inch tube pan at 350oF for 50-70 minutes. Invert pan when cake is done and let cool. Drizzle with lemon icing.
For Icing: Mix together ingredients, adding more icing sugar or lemon juice to get to a consistency which is easy to drizzle. Spread the icing over the top of the cake, allowing it to drizzle over the sides. For a little added decoration you can add candied lemon slices or some extra grated lemon zest.
Recipe adapted from: Canadian Farm Women’s Country Classics (Women of Unifarm, Second Edition)