What is a Chiffon Cake?
Chiffon cake is my favorite cake of all time. It is incredibly light and tender while still being moist. This has to do with the makeup of the batter.
A chiffon cake is a light and fluffy cake that is made with oil, or other melted fats, instead of solid fat. Chiffon cake is considered a foam cake in that an egg white foam (aka meringue) is folded into the batter to do a majority of the leavening. However, chemical leavening is also used in chiffon cakes.
Because chiffon cake has a higher fat content compared to other foam cakes, the mixing method is a bit different than the egg foam method or the angel food method. This results in a very fluffy cake that is still rich and moist.
What Kind of Pan is a Chiffon Cake Baked In?
It is traditional for a chiffon cake to be baked in a tube pan. However, it can also be baked as layers and in fact is my favorite cake to use as a layer cake. This batter is enough to make into two 9-inch round layers or three 8-inch round layers.
Chiffon Mixing Method Overview
- Skill Level: Intermediate
- Techniques Used: French Meringue, Folding
Chiffon cake contains oil or other liquid fats. Because oil does not solidify at room temperature it creates a cake that remains very moist, even when cold.
With the creaming method for making cakes, air is beaten into the solid fat and sugar. This process helps to leaven the cake. Because air cannot be beaten into liquid fat, a simple meringue is created and folded into the batter. The web of air that the meringue holds serves the same function in a chiffon cake that creamed butter and sugar serves in pound cake.
How to Make Chiffon Cake
The chiffon mixing method is the process used to make chiffon cakes very light and fluffy. Chiffon cake recipes are broken down into three main parts: dry ingredients, wet ingredients, and the meringue. These three parts are then combined and baked.
Step 1: Combine the Dry Ingredients
A basic chiffon cake combines cake flour with baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Cake flour is used to keep the cake light and tender, however all-purpose flour can be substituted.
For the fluffiest chiffon cake, sift the dry ingredients to aerate them and remove any possible lumps. Then whisk the ingredients together to combine them well.
Note: To flavor your chiffon cake, spices or fresh herbs could also be added into the dry ingredient mixture.
Step 2: Combine the Wet Ingredients
The wet ingredient lineup for chiffon cakes can vary a little but it always includes egg yolks and oil or other liquid fat. I like to use a combination of oil and melted butter. The oil keeps the cake very moist and the butter adds some flavor.
I also use buttermilk to add a slight tanginess and to activate the baking soda. A variety of extracts could also be added into the wet ingredient lineup to further flavor the cake.
Whisk the wet ingredients together and set them aside until you are ready to combine all of the components.
Step 3: Make the Meringue
A simple meringue made of egg whites and sugar, also known as French meringue, is made to be folded into the batter. The egg white foam leavens the cake and creates a very light and fluffy texture.
Whip the egg whites to medium peaks and then slowly start streaming in the sugar and whip until you reach stiff peaks.
Step 4: Combine the 3 Components Together
Using a rubber spatula, stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined. You don’t want to over-mix the batter.
Add about 1/2 cup of the egg whites and stir them completely into the batter. This will lighten the batter and make it easier to fold the rest of the egg whites in. Add about half of the rest of the egg whites and gently fold it into the batter being careful not the deflate the whites. Add the rest of the whites into the batter and continue folding in until combined.
Step 5: Bake
Chiffon cakes are typically baked in tube pans which produces the lightest texture because the cake can climb up the center tube when baking. However, chiffon cakes can also be baked in regular cake pans.
Grease the bottom of the pan but not the sides of the pan. If the pan is greased the cake will not be able to cling to the pan to rise.
Tips, Tricks, & Techniques
- This chiffon cake is perfect served as is, though powdered sugar or vanilla whipped cream are beautiful accompaniments. It can also easily be flavored with various spices, citrus zests, and extracts. This is also a perfect canvas for a simple powdered sugar glaze.
- When folding in the egg whites, take extra care not to deflate the air out of them. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold them in so you can keep as much air in the batter as possible.
- While chiffon cake is traditionally baked in a tube pan, this cake can also be split between two 9″ (22 cm) round cake pans and baked into two layers.
Chiffon Cake Ingredient Functions
- Cake Flour is the main structure for the cake. Cake flour has a lower protein content than all-purpose flour so it makes a more tender cake, however all-purpose flour can be substituted.
- Baking Powder & Baking Soda are chemical leavenings and help the cake to rise.
- Salt rounds out the sweet flavor of the cake.
- Sugar is divided into two parts. The bulk of the sugar does the sweetening of the cake, however part of the sugar is also used to create the meringue that makes the cake super fluffy!
- Oil adds richness and keeps the cake very moist.
- Butter also adds richness and adds a slight buttery flavor.
- Egg Yolks adds some moisture and more richness to the cake.
- Buttermilk is acidic and works to activate the baking soda while adding a slight tanginess and moisture to the cake.
- Egg Whites are beaten to create a meringue which creates an incredibly fluffy and light chiffon cake.
- 2 1/2 cups (280 gr) cake flour (*see substitution)
- 1 tsp (4 gr) baking powder
- 1/4 tsp (2 gr) baking soda
- 3/4 tsp (3.6 gr) Morton kosher salt or table salt (use 1 1/2 tsp if using Diamond kosher)
- 1 1/2 cups (294 gr) granulated sugar
- 5 TBSP (70 gr) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 1/2 cup (118 ml) vegetable, canola, or avocado oil
- 1 cup (237 ml) buttermilk, room temperature (*see note for substitute)
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 6 large egg yolks, room temperature
- 3 large egg whites, room temperature
- 1/4 cup (50 gr) granulated sugar
NOTE: this cake is traditionally baked in a tube pan but also works beautifully baked into layers for a layer cake. This is enough batter for three 8-inch round pans or two 9-inch round pans.
- Prep: Preheat the oven to 350 F (177 C). Prepare your pan(s). If you are using a tube pan grease only the bottom of the pan and not the sides or the tube. If using traditional round tins, line the bottom with parchment and grease the bottom and sides of the pans. Measure out all of your ingredients for each section of the recipe and keep each grouping together to help with the flow of the recipe.
- Mix the Dry Ingredients: Sift the cake flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar into a large bowl and then whisk together to combine. Set aside.
- Mix the Wet Ingredients: In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter, oil, buttermilk, vanilla extract, and egg yolks and set aside.
- Make the Meringue: In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the egg whites on medium/high speed until they start forming medium peaks. With the mixer still running, slowly stream in the sugar and keep beating until you reach stiff peaks.
- Combine the Components: Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredient bowl and stir together with a rubber spatula. Once the dry ingredients are saturated, add about 1/2 cup of the egg whites into the mixture and stir it in completely to lighten the batter. Next add in 1/2 of the rest of the egg whites and gently fold them in being careful not to deflate them. Add in the rest of the egg whites and fold them in gently until completely combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
- Bake at 350 F (177 C) for 38-45 minutes if baking in a tube pan or 20-24 minutes if baking in layers. To check if the cake is done, gently press in on it and if it is firm but springs back it is done.
- Cool & Serve: Set the cake pan on a cooling rack and allow it to cool completely before turning it out of the pan. Serve plain, dusted with powdered sugar, with a powdered sugar glaze, or frosted as a layer cake!
- Store cooled cake covered at room temperature for up to 4 days.
- It is traditional for this cake to be baked in a tube pan because it can climb up the center, resulting in a very spongy texture. However, this cake can also be baked in 2- 8" or 9" round cake pans and be stacked as a layer cake. Adjust baking time to 20-22 minutes when baking it in round cake tins.
- Cake Flour: Cake flour is really the best option for making the most light and airy chiffon cake. However, if you need to make a substitute combine 2 cups plus 2 TBSP of all purpose flour with 6 TBSP of cornstarch. Sift the two together 4 times (yes, 4 times) before adding into the cake.
- Buttermilk: The acidic properties of buttermilk are necessary in this recipe to activate the baking soda. If you do not have buttermilk you can make a substitute by measuring out 1 TBSP of white vinegar or lemon juice and adding enough regular milk to equal 1 cup. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes before using. As another option, combine 3/4 cup of sour cream or plain yogurt with 1/4 cup of water and use in place of the buttermilk.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 311